Design Thinking Lesson 3 of 7: Ideate

Length of Project:
Project theme:
Suitable for grades:
Tools & Materials
Material List
  • Design Thinking Template and notes from Lessons 1&2
  • Scrap paper for drawing
Tool list
  • Pencil
  • Ruler and/or straightedge
  • Set of twelve to sixteen large blocks or small plain boxes
  • Optional

  • Computer or tablet with word processor and sketching app
  • different 3D objects to sketch, eg, cylinders, rectangular prism, cube, triangular prism, etc.

    Before you begin

  1. Rewrite the following six steps on the board if necessary: Step 1 Empathize, Step 2 Define, Step 3 Ideate, Step 4 Prototype, Step 5 Test, Step 6 Make, Step 7 Share and Reflect.
  2. Part 1: Sketching

  3. Hand each student a few sheets of scrap paper. Explain to them that this lesson will be about learning how to express their design ideas to their peers. Note: If students are not yet familiar with sketching 2D and 3D shapes, consider splitting this lesson into two sessions, one for sketching and one for ideating.
  4. Sketching warm-up

  5. Start by leading students through a basic sketch warmup: show them the GIFs here or try it on the board for them to follow along. Use about half a page for each exercise, and spend about 1 minute or so on each (or longer if necessary). Remind students that this is a warmup, that they’re welcome to make a mess of the paper, and it will be recycled at the end of the exercise.
  6. Loosen up your hand by drawing swirls and curls.
  7. Draw half a page of rounded shapes like circles, ellipses, ovals, etc. Try alternating your technique clockwise and counter-clockwise.
  8. Draw a bunch of lines: vertical, horizontal, diagonal both directions. Try again, seeing if you can get your lines to be straighter and more parallel to each other.
  9. Draw some rectangles and squares. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect: just try to get the lines a bit more parallel and the corners closer to 90° each time.
  10. Give students a movement break.
  11. 3D isometric sketches

  12. Show students some 3D shapes, such as cereal boxes, food cans, building blocks, etc. Have them try sketching some rectangular prisms, cubes, cylinders, triangular prisms, etc. These are called “isometric” sketches.
  13. Have them try sketching a more complex 3D shape, such as two boxes stacked on each other, or a toy car. Help them visualize the complex shape as made up of simple 3D shapes in the previous step.
  14. 2D orthographic sketches

  15. Arrange two building blocks together and draw the top, front, and side views to show students what a orthographic sketches of an object look like.
  16. Practice sketching objects

  17. Set up four different “sculptures” with a few large blocks or boxes each, leaving lots of space all around them. Tell students to be careful not to bump or move the sculptures.
  18. Let students circulate through the room to make orthographic (2D: top, front, side) and isometric (3D) sketches of the block sculptures. Some students may get through all four sculptures, some may only get through one or two.
  19. Part 2: Ideating

  20. Have a quick discussion with the class again about ways to contribute to a positive environment where people are comfortable sharing their ideas. Remind them that they ALL have the right to be heard and respected, which also means a responsibility to listen to and respect their peers. Record a list of their suggestions on the board so they can refer to it while brainstorming and collaborating.
  21. If needed, review the design challenge, and the success determinant and parameters lists they developed in lesson 2.
  22. Give them 5 or more minutes to individually sketch a minimum of three of their own product ideas (on the design template or on scrap paper).
  23. Divide the class into small groups. Give them another 5 minutes to each share their three product ideas with the group, then note any feedback they get for each sketch on their design template.
  24. Ask students to discuss all the design ideas amongst their group with the goal of choosing one of their three ideas to move ahead with in their design process. Encourage students to help speak positively about designs while helping their groupmates choose which one to move ahead with.
  25. Once every student has chosen their favourite design idea to move ahead with, you could add one last level of collaboration by allowing the groupmates to give each idea one “wish”, or “constructive suggestion” to improve on the design ideas.
Extension Challenges
  1. Encourage students to think about and look for different materials that they might be able to use in their design, and make some notes on the benefits or drawbacks to using each material.
  2. Ask students to consider what tools and materials they might want or need to learn more about in order to build their product.
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