Tony Ryan's Thinkers Keysexternal image j0336382.gifexternal image j0336382.gifexternal image j0336382.gif

Key Features:

First developed by Tony Ryan, Thinker's Keys are a set of twenty different activities designed to engage and motivate learners in a range of thinking tasks.
A range of question or task starters are presented as keys to unlocking the analytical, critical and creative thinking abilities of learners.

The Key Features of Thinkers Keys are the 20 keys themselves. These are also "twenty powerful strategies for generating quality intellectual rigour in everyday classroom practice".
The Reverse Listing KeyPlace words such as cannot, never and not in sentences which are commonly displayed in a listing format.THE JUSTIFICATION:Students are too often required to regurgitate endless lists of facts. Moving in the opposite direction still requires a sound knowledge base, but it forces students to think.THE EXAMPLE:Name 10 things that you could not clean.List 5 sounds that you have never heard.Name 10 things that you could not photograph.
The What If KeyYou can ask virtually any What If question. They can be either serious or frivolous. One excellent means of displaying ideas from this key is to draw up an Ideas Wheel.THE JUSTIFICATION:Great for introducing an area of study, and for tapping into the students’ knowledge base. It also generates loads of innovative ideas.THE EXAMPLE:1. What if the price of petrol was immediately doubled?2. What if all cars turned into skateboards?Now construct an Ideas Wheel. Place the base statement in the middle circle, and put 5 consequences of that event in the 5 outer circles.Then deal with each of the 5 outer circles in turn. Put 3 consequences of each of these into the smaller circles.Thinkers_Keys_Version1.pdf (Ryan, 1990, p. 6)
The Disadvantages KeyChoose an object, eg an umbrella, or a practice, eg playground duty, and list a number of its disadvantages. Then list some ways of correcting, or eliminating these disadvantages.THE JUSTIFICATION:We often accept the inadequacies of many products, without really considering how they can be improved. Practise this key and you will be amazed at the number of everyday products which can be further developed.THE EXAMPLE:An Umbrella:The Disadvantages The ImprovementsThe sharp sections can poke you in the eye. Glue flat erasers onto the end of each one.They take up too much room, even when folded. Develop a series of locking hinges along the length of the umbrella.Water drips onto your shoes. Attach an overhanging plastic sheetto the edges of the umbrella.
The Combination KeyList the attributes of 2 dissimilar objects (one within your area of study, one outside), then combine the attributes into a single object.THE JUSTIFICATION:Many important inventions, such as the disposable razor (the concept of loading bullets into a rifle, combined with a normal razor) and the first printing press (the wine press and the coin punch) were created in this way.THE EXAMPLE:A leaf and a mousetrap.The Leaf The MousetrapThey change colours through the year. They are made of wood and wireInsects often eat them. They can kill mice.There are millions of them. They can be left in lots of places.THE COMBINATIONS: 1. A miniature mousetrap for placing on leaves, that can kill insects when they try to eat the leaf.2. Mousetraps that can change colour and blend in with the surface on which they are placed.
The BAR KeyThe following acronym, or ladder of words, can be used by different age groups (ranging from Yr 1 to adults) to reinvent or redesign everyday objects.THE JUSTIFICATION:A practical step-by-step strategy for developing innovative and highly unusual products. This type of strategy is often used in today’s hightech product development laboratories to create new products for the market.The Ladder is:B iggerA ddR eplaceTHE EXAMPLE:B A R a skateboard. Ask the students to draw a standard skateboard, and then direct them through the steps one at a time.Here's one series of possibilities:Bigger Extend the rear of the skateboard, making it much bigger, and put some shelves on it for storage space. Place a counterweight on the front to balance it out.Add Add a small rocket motor, which can be controlled with a foot throttle near the back of the skateboard.Replace Replace the wheels with a small hovercraft unit, which is controlled by a hand-held rotating device.It is very important that SILLY and INNOVATIVE ideas are encouraged. Very few new ideas emerge from predictable and tedious efforts.
The Alphabet KeyChoose an object or general category of objects which features in the area of study and compile a list of words from A to Z which have some relevance to the object/s. Then try to expand on some ideas which link with each of the words.THE JUSTIFICATION:Using the alphabetical format clarifies students’ thinking. It is a sorting process which is made easier by considering one aspect at a time.THE EXAMPLE:Sport (specifically tennis)A. Antbed courts - does this mean that ants can play tennis while in bed?; perhaps a miniature game of tennis could be devised as a board game, with each of the players being activated by remote control.B. Bouncing - could tennis racquets be constructed of a special rubber so that they could bounce as well?; this feature could be included in a new version of tennis. Perhaps the rules would require each player to bounce the racquet after every shot is played.Then continue with C through to Z. If the students draw a blank with a particular letter, simply move on, and return to that letter at a later stage.In a more simplified version, merely list single objects from A to Z, e.g. Foods:A - artichokeB - beetroot etc.
The Variations KeyThis key employs a special group of words. Start each question with “How many ways can you …”THE JUSTIFICATION:Another one for expanding your thinking. Some very practical ideas often result fromusage of this key.THE EXAMPLE:How many ways can you:paint a housewash an elephantmake new friendsturn a TV on
The Picture KeyThe teacher draws a simple diagram which has no relevance to the area of study and the students then try to work out ways in which it could be linked with that area. As an interesting imaginative writing exercise, ask the students to compile a list of 10 things that the diagram could represent.THE JUSTIFICATION:Research strongly indicates that the development of visualization capacities will enhance learning in virtually all fields of study.
The Prediction KeyAsk for a series of predictions in regard to a particular situation, product or set of circumstances.THE JUSTIFICATION:Attempting to predict the future is not the timewaster that some would lead us to believe.The journey is always easier if you know where you are going.THE EXAMPLE:1. Predict how schools will operate in 100 years.2. Predict 5 present day household appliances which will be obsolete in 20 years time.3. Predict the power source of the family car by the year 2020.For Example N°3:a. combination electric/petrol/nuclear fission, with the driver determining the choice before the start of the journey.b. superstrength rubber bands which are wound up with a vintage car crank mechanism.c. satellite electromagnetic directional devices, drawing a car along a course which has been predetermined by the vehicle’s onboard computer.
The Different Uses KeyPut your imagination to work and list some widely different uses for a chosen object from your area of study.THE JUSTIFICATION:The concept of recycling is an important one here. This key is worth applying to many of our everyday (and often disposable) products.THE EXAMPLE:Find 10 uses for red plastic noses.1. Place them in your strawberry patch to give a false impression of the number of strawberries.2. Use them as face masks for mice when they undertake a cheese factory robbery.
The Ridiculous KeyMake a ridiculous statement that would be virtually impossible to implement, and then attempt to actually substantiate it.THE JUSTIFICATION:The expressions ‘It’s not possible’ and ‘That’s ridiculous’ often prevent the development of many excellent ideas. Learn to break through them.THE EXAMPLE:“The government should buy a brand new car for every taxpayer.”Some consequences:1. This would provide an incredible boost for the local car industry.2. With so many more people being employed, unemployment benefits would not need to be paid by the taxpayer.3. More money earned from wages would be injected into the economy and would boost a wide variety of businesses.4. Less accidents would be caused by unroadworthy cars, with a subsequent lowering of costs associated with accidents.5. Cars would be more fuel-efficient because of their modern design, leading to a reduction in air pollution and less wastage of petrol.
The Commonality KeyDecide upon 2 objects which would generally have nothing in common, and try to outline some points of commonality between them.THE JUSTIFICATION:Another mindstretcher. Great for creative ideas as well as the development of unusual concepts.THE EXAMPLE:Ayer’s Rock and the Pacific Ocean:They both change colour through the day.They both have a rough surface.They are both tourist attractions.You can’t drive cars on either of them.When the Flat Earth theory was in vogue, you could have fallen off both of them.
The Question KeyStart with the answer, and try to list 5 questions which could be linked with that answer only.THE JUSTIFICATION:An excellent break from the pattern of the teacher asking all of the questions. Students still need to demonstrate a solid knowledge base.THE EXAMPLE:The answer is: MIDNIGHT1. When is it 12 hours after midday?2. When did Cinderella’s coach turn into a pumpkin?3. What word is spelt M-I-D-N-I-G-H-T?
The Brainstorming KeyState a problem which needs to be solved and brainstorm a list of solutions. Start the brainstorm statement with the words ‘How to ....’.THE JUSTIFICATION:Great for solutions to everyday problems. Make sure that the freedom offered within the rules is available to all participants.THE RULES OF BRAINSTORMING:1. Think of as many ideas as you can; don’t hesitate and consider the implications; simply write them down.2. Unusual or silly ideas are acceptable.3. ‘Tagging’ onto other people’s ideas is encouraged.4.No criticism of any ideas is allowed.The Example:How to encourage people not to drive their cars to work.Some possible solutions:1. Offer monetary incentives to drivers with 3 or more passengers.2. Introduce a wide range of work-at-home schemes.3. Revert to pedal cars so that driving requires a much harder effort.4. Provide a financial incentive for driving less often, by basing the annual registration fee on the number of kilometres driven rather than the present standard fee for all vehicles.5. Triple the price of petrol to provide further discouragement and direct the extra taxes towards the design of top quality public transport systems.6. Place wooden seats in cars.
The Inventions KeyEncourage students to develop inventions which are constructed in an unusual manner.The first step would be to outline the product on paper, which would then lead into possible construction.THE JUSTIFICATION:Kids (and grownups too) love to invent things if given the opportunity. Tragically, the opportunities in today’s society seem to be growing fewer and fewer.THE EXAMPLE:Invent some or all of the following1. An eggshell peeler.2. A combination knife and fork.3. Devices which would - catch mosquitoes, make your bed, do the ironing, comb your hair, wake you up in the morning.
The Brick Wall KeyMake a statement which could not generally be questioned or disputed, and then try to break down the wall by outlining other ways of dealing with the situation.THE JUSTIFICATION:We often give in too quickly when we question many of the world’s present situations. Practise the development of alternative strategies.THE EXAMPLE:Governments need to collect taxes in order to provide necessary services.Some Alternatives:1. Every government employee, without exception, could become an individual contractor and be paid directly for a service as a customer requires it.2. People could pay for government services by bartering their own skills for a set number of hours each week rather than paying with their taxes.3. Every working person could be rostered to work in a government department for one day each week.4. Break the entire nation into community groups of 500 people with each group being responsible for provision of their own services.
The Construction KeySet up a wide variety of construction problem-solving tasks and use lots of readily available materials.THE JUSTIFICATION:Here’s an example of really practical creative thinking. It goes hand in hand with outright fun. Try to encourage the development of the ’See/Plan/Do/Check‘ problem solving strategy.THE EXAMPLE:1. Build the highest possible self-supporting structure.Materials:10 straws and 4 rubber bands.2. Build a platform which will suspend a house brick as high as possible in the air.Materials:One house brick, 10 straws and some sticky tape.3. Build the ‘Story Bridge’ - a book placed as high as possible on a straw platform.Materials:a book, 10 straws and some sticky tape.4. Propel a balloon as far as possible through the air.Materials:One balloon, one straw, some sticky tape, a ball of string and a pair of scissors.5. Build the highest possible self-supporting structure.Materials:One sheet of newspaper, some sticky tape and a pair of scissors.6. Place a rubber band as far from the edge of a desk as possible.Materials:10 iceblock sticks and 6 rubber bands.7. Balance a marble as high in the air as possible.Materials: One marble, 20 straws and one paper clip.
The Forced Relationships KeyDevelop a solution to a problem by employing a number of dissimilar objects.For Years 1/2 - one objectFor Years 3/4 - two objectsFor Years 5/6/7 - three objectsFor Years 8-12 - four objectsTHE JUSTIFICATION:The dimensions of problem-solving are expanded dramatically with this key. Never underestimate the importance of constantly developing alternative strategies.THE EXAMPLE:A Problem : You need to retrieve your kite from a very tall tree by using:-a packet of Minties-a hairbrush-a comicA Solution: Melt the Minties and stick them on your hands and feet to give extra grip when climbing. When you are near the kite, throw the hairbrush to dislodge it and make it fall. Then stick the comic pages together with the Minties and construct a parachute for getting down to the ground.
The Alternative KeyList ways in which to complete a task without using the normal tools or implements.THE JUSTIFICATION:Necessity is the mother of invention. Take away the normal tool and spark some innovative solutions.THE EXAMPLE:Work out 3 ways to -clean your teeth without a toothbrushcook toast without a toasterpaint a chair without a paintbrushmow the lawn without a mower
The Interpretation KeyDescribe an unusual situation and then think of some different explanations for the existence of that situation.THE JUSTIFICATION:Another innovative thinking exercise. Develops the ability to consider a wide range of consequences.THE EXAMPLE:Your neighbour is making large circles in his backyard by pouring sump oil from a can.Some Explanations:1. He is a disguised alien and is sending cryptic messages to his friends in outer space.2. He considers himself to be another Pro Hart, and he will soon be rolling around in the grass, attempting to create an environmental masterpiece.3. He has had a fixation for circles since his childhood, and later will be seen dancing around the circles in the light of the full moon.
Source:Ryan, Tony. (©1990). Thinker’s Keys for Kids. South Coast Education Region, Queensland.

Strategies and ToolsThe strategies and tools that Thinkers Keys encompass are as follows:
-Using Ideas Wheels e.g. Thinkers_Keys_Version1.pdf (Ryan, 1990, p. 6)

-The 20 keys were revised and rereleased in 2005 as a set of 20 cards.(Different ways of brainstorming, and different forms of questioning are tools that are found within many of the keys)
-"The Cards have been placed into two general groups:
Critical / Organisational (the 10 purple ones). When you need to get yourself organised, these are the cards for you. They encourage you to do your research, to evaluate your information, and to place any necessary tasks into action.
Creative (the 10 Orange ones). When you want to generate all-new ideas, or to develop some different perspectives on an issue, then these Cards will help you to do so. They challenge you to think very differently."