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Lateral Thinking Puzzles…

A few years ago, when thinking about how to introduce some icebreakers into the sociology classroom, I chanced upon the idea of using lateral thinking puzzles, for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, because they get students who may not know each other talking and discussing possible answers.

Secondly, and perhaps more-importantly, they’re an interesting way of getting students to think about and solve problems – or things they’ve taken for granted for most of their life – in a new and different way. The best lateral thinking puzzles are both logical and require the application of a little bit of sideways thinking to solve – which, in many ways, I would argue, applies to sociological questions.

I used to follow this up with some counter-intuitive sociological observations, questions and explanations, but it’s not obligatory.

Getting your students, right at the start of their course, to think about ways of approaching the study of social behaviour from a slightly left (or indeed right) of centre perspective is something you might want to encourage.

Or not. As the case may be.

You can now find plenty of these puzzles online, but back then, not so much. I put together a little site to share a batch of puzzles I’d collected from various sources and while the interface was pretty cutting-edge at the time (you’ll have to trust me that the idea of combining inline frames that could be manipulated using a smattering of javascript was pretty outrageous when I did it) it’s safe to say that it’s not anymore.

But it does the job. And that’s all anyone could really ask. Probably.

The alternative is to simply copy the questions from the site (or use your own favourite puzzles) and write them on something you can display to your class.

A whiteboard perhaps?

Or maybe a piece of slate if you’re looking to capture that elusive old-school vibe?

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