This is probably the most well-known ‘creative thinking’ activity. You may know it as ‘The Alternative Uses Test’. Show the class a brick and ask them to think of ways in which it can be used. They need to come up with as many ideas as they can in, say, 5 minutes. There are no bad ideas. You could brainstorm in a tradition, whole class way, or use a brainwriting technique (see last blog post).
Language Support: This activity naturally uses modals and adverbs of possibility e.g. It could be a doorstop; Perhaps a weapon. Students may also need passive constructions e.g. It might be used as a weight, and language to make suggestions e.g. What about a stepping stone? How about a weight? However, this exercise is meant to promote creative thinking, not accurate speech. I would save corrections for later.
This is a good creative thinking exercise as it encourages brainstorming without judgement, allowing students to lower their inhibitory filters, because the emphasis is on the number of ideas, not the quality. It also encourages remote association which is an important process in creative thinking. To finish the exercise ask the students to pick the most creative ideas i.e. the most original ideas. Doing this emphasises that your goal is a creative one, not a realistic one.
Obviously, you can repeat this exercise in later classes using any object.