Friday, October 29, 2010

Question Your Assumptions

A while back I read the book Shake That Brain (by Joel Stalzman) and attended a class based on the book. The content focuses on creating solutions, problem-solving, and having fun while being creative.

The number 1 technique - the main thing that Mr. Stalzman says you should do before anything else - is "Question your assumptions." Many times the "things we know" block truly creative and innovative ideas. So often I already have a group of parameters that any solution must fit; and those assumptions block innovative ideas. As a early childhood teacher, I plan activities but with some assumptions: it must be done on a table or it has to be a certain size or it cannot be messy or it must fit in a certain timeframe or.... (Now, I know, sometimes those are true restraints. Dismiss them first and generate great ideas; then put your parameters in place. Don't limit the thinking!)

This has helped me with my thinking in the classroom and in the office. But I began to ponder this further. (You know, I can't help myself.) And I began thinking about the kids I teach. They usually have no assumptions, so their ideas are truly innovative and creative. They have few or no "You must do this" to limit them. Here are some that I've seen in my classroom:

Cardboard and blocks can both be walls of a building.

Tape does not need to stay on the carpet.

You can weigh both fruit and basket in different ways.

The stickers do not need to go around the words.

You can build flat instead of up.

Place mats can be tacos.

You can use the counters to build.

Straws can be used to paint with.

The tape can sit on your head instead of the table.

We can get sticks from another activity to use with play dough.

You can put more than one chip in each square.

You can use different counters on the same card.
I hope I can learn to challenge (or ignore) assumptions as I solve problems, too.

Book cover image from


  1. Excellent post Scott - we do need to let the children lead - who knows what they will teach us!

  2. Great reminder, Scott. It's so easy to get locked into "facts." And it's so amazingly freeing when those facts suddenly disappear! =)

  3. Blogger is giving me a hard time with comments. So, I'll keep it short and sweet. Great post, and great reminder!

  4. What a great take on the world that the children have ..... I agree with Teacher Tom when he says getting locked into the "facts" is sooo easy for us. I learn everyday from the young ones how freeing it is to ignore the "facts". Wonderful post- thanks for the reminder.
    autumn mama

  5. They always think outside the square don't they Scott ... Children truly are the real teachers you know! Nice post Mr. Wiley ;)
    Donna :) :)

  6. a wonderful reminder. i will need this today...i have many creative problem solvers in this class...seeing problems i never did.