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© 1994, Alla Alexandrovna Nesterenko
instructor of the course "Development of creative imagination"
the city of Petrosavodsk,


This article is composed of materials accumulated during lessons, which are given in classes of elementary school #30 of Petrozavodsk. The official name of the course is "Development of creative thinking using elements of theory of inventive problems solving (TRIZ)".

Today psychologists, teachers and parents are seriously working on the problem of development of creative thinking in children. Several ways of solving this problem are seen.

Some specialists study structure and quality of creative thinking and imagination in detail. Basically, they train children's capabilities by giving them such exercises as "Think of as many uses for this object as you can" or "Create a sentence using the following words", etc. Such exercises, of course, help children's development, but hardly can be seen as creative activity. Even as kids understand it, creative activity should give bright, attractive and new results. Developing creative ability without making kids familiar with creativity is the same as teaching a kid to swim only on the sand. Will such a student want to use his abilities in real creative activities? Will he be able to do that?

Other teachers create along with their students - they sculpt, draw, playact, write short stories without stopping to think which exactly abilities they are developing. They give their students a taste for creating, but no conscious tools to use. Such people practically can't share their unique experience of creating, because only the experience put into clear rules and techniques is usable.

Here TRIZ gives its users unique possibilities, allows them to improve old and create new; that means, to create with help of definite rules, terms and techniques. Based on objective laws of the world, TRIZ allows anyone who understands its rules to solve creative problems.

Older children who study TRIZ are able to write stories and to invent new real technologies. It is more difficult for small kids, because they don't know physics and chemistry that are so important for an inventor. Some of them can't even write.

The necessity to find objects of creativity for our smallest students led us to riddles. Not many children will be left unmoved by a good riddle. When riddles are used, many problems can be solved, such as systematization of an object's characteristics and functions, to building models and developing associative thinking. Besides, composing riddles is an art that can be mastered even by 4- or 5-year-old children.

The following material has been used for a year and a half in groups of 6-years-old children. When used to organize individual work with 8- and 9-year-olds it produced, we think, satisfactory results.

Our experience of using these materials allows us to give some advice, especially to those who are not too familiar with TRIZ.

1. Country of riddles is not a collection of lesson plans but just a general skeleton of training. For example, in the author's version the topic "Colour" takes, depending on age or level of development of children, one or two full sessions. However, teachers, due to their own goals, may either add to the groundwork of the lesson, or use parts of it in other sessions. An example of creative (even though, in our opinion, not completely correct) usage of the material from Country of riddles is S. Gin's article "Lessons in intellect development in elementary school".

2. The following material is just a cross-section of lessons that mainly touch riddles. Teachers should have in mind that the lessons must contain, as necessary elements, inventive problems. Synthesis of such problems and their solutions is discussed in another article.

3. Finally, to those teachers who never studied TRIZ and who are seriously interested in this theory, we advise training on one of our seminars.

A couple of words about the structure of this material: in the first 8 chapters the general skeleton of lessons is given, didactic goals are outlined. Also these chapters briefly describe the general plot of the lessons, specific exercises and examples of riddles are given.

In the chapter 9 we try to show how these materials can be used in some school subjects.

In the chapter 10 we propose some general schemes of synthesis of different kinds of riddles. When comfortable with that material, a teacher, in the author's opinion, will be able to compose his or her own skeletons of riddles according to his or her own didactic goals.

In the chapter 11 the author shares ideas about effect riddles have on kids' education.

CHAPTER 1: Country of Riddles - what is it?

What do we know about the Country of Riddles? First of all, this is a country, and this means that like every country it has mountains, rivers, seas, cities and roads. No, wait - mountains-riddles, rivers-riddles, seas-riddles... But what is a river-riddle? Could it be a river that exists but at the same time doesn't exist? You can solve this problem with your students, while we turn onto road (also riddle) which leads to the City of Riddles. That city is inhabited by strange objects (which are riddles also). Its inhabitants will appear only if we find an answer to them, and during other time they sit in their little houses and tell us different strange things about themselves.

Children invented a way of bringing riddles to class - they draw a house in their notebook, and the question is on the door. If the door is opened (it's cut in the paper), the answer written on the next page can be seen.

CHAPTER 2: The City of the Simplest Riddles

Our first goal is to learn how to separate objects according to their characteristics. Our journey starts in the City of the Simplest Riddles. Its four streets are called "Shape", "Colour", "Size" and "Substance". Let's write the names on the board, and in the centre we will have the Central Square.

To make an object into a riddle in this city you have to describe its shape, colour, size (compared to some other object) and substance it's made of.

Example: "Rectangular, black, smaller than the wall but bigger than the window, wooden" - blackboard.

But, before we compose real riddles, let's walk the streets of the city.

Street "Shape"

Ex. 2.1
"In this house round and flat objects live. Guess who inhabits the house? Which group (team of students) will put more tenants into the house?"

The points can be counted with chips.

Ex. 2.2
"We knock on the next door, and they answer, "The objects that live here can be found in your classroom, and they have a rectangle in their shape. Remember us with your eyes closed." Attention - everybody closes their eyes and thinks while I slowly count to ten. After that a person whom I touch will answer without opening his or her eyes."

On the street we also get familiar with the simple shapes: cylinder, cone, cube.

Ex. 2.3
"Look, on the table there are details of various shapes from children's Lego - they are the riddles' houses. Two toy birds are "flying" past, one is flying high and the other - low. The first bird looks at the houses from the height and says, "I see two circles and one square". The other looks from the front and argues, "No, there is one rectangle and one triangle". Guess who is right".

This might be the first time children understand that objects can be seen differently from different directions.

Street "Colour"

Talk about different shades of colour and their names. The teacher might show the students a spinning top that mixes the rainbow into one white colour.

Street "Size"

Kids get familiar with such terms as "height", "width", "length" and learn to describe objects in comparison (for example, "wider than a pencil-box but more narrow than a chair"). It might be good to start with objects that have opposite characteristics (such as wide-narrow, tall-short, etc.)

Ex. 2.4
"Solve a riddle: what can be first big and then small? (A muffin, a candy, sugar in tea...)"
"And what can be first small and then big? (A person, a soap bubble, dough - everything that grows)".

Here we make our first steps in imagination development.

Ex. 2.5
"We have a guest - a little gnome who dreams of becoming a giant. On the street "Size" it is possible, only the kids' help is required. To make the gnome grow we must tell everybody that he can do something only big people can do. Let's make him start growing gradually. We start: "The gnome is so big he can sit at the teacher's desk". Who's next? "The gnome is able to reach the ceiling"; "The gnome is able to take a bird out of its nest", "...tumble a nine-stored building", "...drink a lake", "...step from a planet onto a planet", "the gnome sees our Earth as a small globe...", etc."

Finally, the gnome is scared of his giant size and asks us to make him tiny. I start: "The gnome is now so small he can fit into a key-hole". Kids continue: "The gnome is so small he sees every puddle as an ocean", "...when a bread-crumb fell on his head, he started to cry because he thought it was a brick", "...you can't even see him in a microscope". Finally; "The gnome is so small he can't do anything".

A riddle for you, readers - try to describe an even smaller gnome.

Comment 1
In this exercise it is important to point at the graduality of growth, or there is a possibility that some student will enlarge the gnome to the size of Universe, and the other children won't have anything to do.

Comment 2
It also matters that the size of the gnome is shown through his acts. Describing his size through comparison (big as a skyscraper) is much easier than finding appropriate things to do for a giant.

Ex. 2.6
Our gnome is disappointed - he doesn't want to become a giant or a microbe anymore. He asks the students to draw the world's biggest tree for him so he can climb it and look around. Besides, near that tree he can, when he wants to, feel very small.

"Draw a very, very large tree on a standard sheet of paper."

Street "Substance"

Here we teach kids about the structure of matter, using the popular TRIZ model - Method of Little People.

"Imagine that every object, every substance, everything living and non-living around us consists of very little people. They behave very differently. The Little People of solids (stone, wood) hold hands tightly - so tightly you can't weaken their grip. That's why solids don't change form. The Little People of liquids don't hold hands - they just stand very close to each other, shifting from one foot to another. That's why liquids don't hold their shape. But if you fill a glass with liquid, you can't add anymore in there - the Little People stand so closely to each other there is no free space between them. Also there are gaseous People. They are silly - they are far away from each other, always running back and forth and bumping into each other. Into the glass full of gaseous People you can add more - remember, there are lot of space between them. If we breathe more air into the glass, the Little People will move closer, that's all."

Several students come out in front of class and show how the Little People behave in solids, liquids and gases. It is possible to introduce "soft" People, who are holding hands but are bent easily (cloth, paper).

Further in the city there are riddles with Little People.

Ex. 2.7
"Guess what's drawn in here: solid People on the outside, inside solid and liquid People, and solid again in the very centre. (That could be a cherry, a plum, a peach; or maybe a lake - in the centre there is a large island and small islands closer to the shore)".

Kids can find many versions of solutions for such riddles.

Ex. 2.8
"Compose your own riddle with the Little People and draw it. (Another version: a group of students composes a riddle and acts it out, with them posing as the Little People)".

After exploring every street of the city we are on the Central Square where all the streets meet. Here riddles live that require a description that includes the shape, colour, size and substance at once. We can now start composing more complicated riddles.

Comment 3
On this stage the teacher should have various simple objects: a piece of chalk, a mirror, a pencil-box, a jar, etc. (Not every object can be described according to the "shape-colour-size-substance" scheme.)

How do we play riddles? There are several types of such games.

Ex. 2.9
One of the students leaves the classroom temporarily. The teacher shows an object to the class and discusses with the students a riddle they are going to compose. Then the object is hidden, and the student is called to solve the riddle. We should say it is not easy to solve a riddle - one should be able to create a mental image of an object by joining several characteristics. If you don't believe it - try for yourself.

Ex. 2.10
The next step is composing riddles mentally. This time the one who is going ti be solving it doesn't have to leave the room - he or she simply turns to the blackboard. The teacher shows an object to the class, and the students mentally compose a riddle. Then the process of solving is repeated.

Ex. 2.11
"I have an object, which lives in this house and doesn't want to tell anything about itself. Try to ask questions - perhaps, it will answer them".

Students understand quickly that the easiest thing is to walk the familiar streets and find out the shape, size, colour and substance of the object. Some find other good questions - what is that object for? Where is it? And so on.

There is another way to warn off senseless going through different versions. Before the game starts I talk to one of the students, and we act out a small scene:

- I have an object.
- Is it a cup?
- - No.
- An eraser?
- - No.
- A book?
- - No.
- A ball?
- - No.
- I can't find the answer!

The teacher asks the class: "Why can't she solve the riddle? What should she ask me first?"

Then we start the game "Dialogue with IBM" or "Yes-No"

Ex. 2.12
"In our city we have a large computer centre. Who knows what a computer is? So, IBM can play riddles, too, and they can answer your questions. But, unlike humans, this machine can only say two words - "yes" and "no". If you ask it a question that cannot be answered with these two words, the machine will make a sound like that: "T-t-t..." (I click my tongue). Now try to solve the riddle the computer has. Ask questions."

"What shape is it?" (T-t-t...)

"What colour is it?" (T-t-t...)

Finally somebody understands: "Is it round?" - "Yes!"

Comment 4
In the beginning students don't follow the answers of the others, so it would be good if the computer stopped from time to time and buzzed quietly indicating that the students have to repeat what they have found out about the object.

When that game is well understood, the method of description of the object should be changed.

Ex. 2.13
"The computer has a new riddle for you; the object in the riddle is one of the characters of a fairy tale or a cartoon. On the blackboard there are questions that will show you the way to the solution. Remember that the computer can only answer "yes' or "no"."

Questions on the blackboard are: what does it look like? Where does it live? How does it move? What does it do?

"Where does it live?" (T-t-tů)

"Does it live in a house?" - No!

Comment 5
Younger students will do better in "Yes-No" if you give them the key questions that they are going to need to find the solution. For the children who can't read you can replace questions with symbols. Of course, first you have to teach children to understand the symbols.

Comment 6
In the exercises that have been described here, the key questions, of course, do not include all the branches of systematic solving. But, in our opinion, it's not needed. The basics should not be too complex; the students can add their own branches depending on the context of a riddle.

Comment 7
For those teachers, who are familiar with the basics of inventing, let's mention another effect of the game "Yes-No". Asking questions, the students actually conduct morphological analysis of an object along the axis given by the teacher (the key questions on the board are the axis of a morphological box). Therefore, work with "Yes-No" logically leads us to building morphological tables.

CHAPTER 3: The City of Five Senses

Our next goal is to teach children to use their five senses as a resource for solving various problems.

To get into that city we have to go through the Gate of Blindfolds. We choose a guide and blindfold him, and I take a bell, a bottle of perfume, open cans of sugar and salt out of my bag. The guide should guess what these objects are by listening to the sound, smelling, touching and tasting them. The students explain which sense helped them to define the object.

Let's draw a conclusion. A person has:

5 senses
5 receptors
5 ways to discover something
  Sight   Eyes   Looking
  Hearing   Ears   Listening
  Touch   Skin   Touching
  Smell   Nose   Smelling
  Taste   Tongue   Tasting

Five senses - five streets in the city.

Street "Sight"

Ex. 3.1
"Let's look at an object and describe the way we see it (not only size, shape, colour and substance but also other charactersitics)."

Then we'll organize a contest - which group of students, looking at an object, will compose the longest riddle? The number of characteristics we mark with chips, and the longest riddle is put to live into the largest house.

Street "Hearing"

"Objects that live here can be guessed by the way they sound. But right now the street is silent, all the sounds are hiding from us. What are we going to do? We can't guess an object without it sounding."

"We decide to be very-very quiet and wait. Perhaps, the objects will think we're gone and sound again"?

Ex. 3.2
"Let's close our eyes, sit quietly and listen which sound will come from what direction."

We hear: whistle on the left, rustling on the right, and tapping in the middle of the class.

"That means that in one group of houses there objects that can whistle. Guess what they are."

Similar exercise is given to the other groups.

Ex. 3.3
"I have a small bucket in my hands."

"It can thunder because it's been living in the same house with tanks, cannons and machine guns; but now the bucket asks us to find another apartment for it to live in. What can we do with it to teach it to make more peaceful sounds?"

We decide to pour water into the bucket. Now it can bubble and will be able to live with a stream or a kitchen tap.

Here we also study the nature of sound. We observe the way our throat vibrates when we make sounds; then we simulate with the help of the Little People vibrations in solids, liquids and gases. Conclusions can be made about the way sound is spread in different materials. To finish the topic we play with a match telephone.

Street "Touch"

How can an object feel? It can be sharp, blunt, smooth, hard, soft, warm, cold, slippery, rough...

Ex. 3.4

On the table there is a cardboard house with its roof off. I ask students to touch the inhabitants of the house. The first student's task is to find a smooth object, name it, take it out and show it to everybody. If you found a smooth object you get a point. The next task is to find a soft object, and so on.

For older students the task is harder - they have to find an object that has two characteristics (for example, soft and rough), then - three characteristics, and so on.

Street "Smell"

We fill the house with objects that have nice smells. We try to distinguish between different sorts of perfume by their smell and simulate with the help of the Little People the way perfume produces its smell.

Street "Taste"

We create sour, sweet, bitter and tasteless houses and try to distinguish between different berries judging by their taste.

A variety of exercises are possible; the important thing is to use all the five senses, to show their necessity to the students.

Then we start up on the riddles, which besides characteristics we've known before (shape, colour...) have some new ones. Possible questions are: How does it sound? How does it feel? How does it smell? How does it taste? The rules of the game are the same as before. However, now less time is given to the descriptive riddles than to "Yes-No" game.

The teachers that are familiar with the way of solving inventive problems are advised on this stage to start using problems connected to discovering. For example, a problem about discovering that a filling has fallen out of a tooth. (The answer: under the tooth a substance with strong taste is put beforehand).

In such problems students are given the basis - five ways to discover something:

- to hear,
- to see,
- to smell,
- to taste,
- to touch.

CHAPTER 4: The City of Similarities and Differences

The goal here is to develop in children associative, imaginative thinking and teach them to compare objects and situations.

In this city some very beautiful riddles live. Any object can be brought in here - there is enough place for everybody.

However, to get into the city you'll need a pass.

Ex. 4.1
I have a fur hat in my hands; what does it look like?

Possible answers are: a kitten, a crocodile, a pile of snow. It's not enough to just give an answer; you have to prove it. "From what direction do you have to look to see the crocodile? Where's its tail? Underwater? What is it doing right now?"

When every group of students has a pass, we can come in to the city. Here every riddle lives amongst friends it is similar with. Similar objects don't hide, they feel free to walk out of their houses and tell everybody what similarities and differences they have with the object in the riddle.

Ex. 4.2
Let's compose a riddle from the table on the blackboard.

    What does it look like?        How is it different?   
  A ballerina   Non-living
  An umbrella   Doesn't hide you from rain
  A mushroom   Can't eat it.

this is a riddle about a small spinning top: "Like a ballerina but non-living; like an umbrella but doesn't hide you from rain; like a mushroom but you can't eat it. What is it?"

Comment 1
When composing a riddle, you should tell students that the differences have to be important and meaningful, not just any.

In another house objects act differently - they tell us how the riddle is similar to them.

Ex. 4.3
The new basis showed on blackboard:

    What does it do?         What is it similar to?    
  Gives light   A lamp
  Melts   Snow
  Drips   Rain

A riddle about a candle. It can be presented as: "Gives light, but not a lamp; melts but not snow; drips but not rain".

Comment 2
What forms of work can be proposed? As before, the riddles are composed for one student (or for a group) by the whole class. Mental composition is not used here, since such riddles require longer work with words. It might be more efficient to divide students into groups and organize a contest. Also, composing riddles could be given as homework, but then the students should be given tables with the basics. On one side of the sheet a student can write his or her riddle, and on the other side - the answer.

Comment 3
The exercises, described in this chapter, require ability to read and write. These requirements can be evaded if the basis is given orally (it is usually easy to remember) and the parents are involved in the homework.

CHAPTER 5: The City of Strange Parts

The goal here is to make children familiar with the term of subsystem (a part of an object) and teach them to find parts inside of the whole.

"Two legs on three legs, with the third in its teeth..." with this well-known riddle we enter the City of Mystical Parts, where every object is turned into a riddle when only a part of it is shown. Some of the objects like to disassemble, and to show their separate parts in the windows of their houses. Others simply thrust out their noses, or tails, or some other strange curves (hard to understand whether it's a wheel or a kitchen tap), and the shiest ones hide in their basements, only leaving a trace - go try to guess by that trace what they are!

Here it would be the best if the teacher composed the exercises on his or her own. At least I think that the following exercises are not everything that can be given on that topic.

The Street of Unfinished Drawings

Ex. 5.1
"Once upon a time a lazy painter walked the streets of the city. He saw empty houses built for the riddles that weren't composed yet and thought: "Why don't I draw a riddle and put it into one of the houses?" He started to draw, but soon got tired of that, left the riddle half-done and walked on. Reached another house and started again. And again. And because of that lazy painter there is a whole street with houses full of unfinished drawings. See - there are these unfinished riddles on the album sheets. Why don't you try to help the painter and finish his riddles?"

Comment 1
This exercise is interesting to observe when every student is given the same fragment of a drawing. Some turn it into a donkey's tail, some - into a reed-pipe, some - into a flower's petal.

Ex. 5.2
I have a cardboard house with a hole for the window. From the hole its inhabitants - riddles - are looking out. I try to show an object through the window in such a way so it is difficult to understand what it is - show only half a handle of the scissors, a familiar toy I turn upside down and stick out through the window its feet. The task is for the students to guess what it is that is hiding in the house.

The next step is for the students to show their own objects and drawings through the windows of the houses.

The Street of Disassembled Objects

Ex. 5.3
We make a riddle out of an object by naming its parts and the number of them. For example: 4 wheels, 1 engine, 1 driving wheel, 1 driver's cabin, 1 trunk - we get a car (don't confuse with a motorcycle, which doesn't have a cabin). Such riddles are living on the Street of Disassembled Objects. The table for composing riddles looks as follows:
    Number of parts        Names of parts   

Comment 2
Despite its simplicity, this scheme is very useful, since it allows comparing, for example, parts of similar objects (such as vehicles, food, furniture, etc.)

Ex. 5.4
"How can you compose a riddle about a chair by naming its parts? (Four legs, one seat, one back)."

"Good, but this riddle is too simple. Imagine, if I took one of the legs off the chair and showed it to you separately, how would you call it? (A stick)"

"Very good! Can you compose another riddle about the chair, then? (Four sticks, two boards...)"

The table in this case is the same as before, but the teacher should point out that the parts should not be named directly. Speaking in other words, the students have to abstract from a given object.

Comment 3
Objects that can be used for the Street of Disassembled Objects: abacus (ten rods with ten beads on each), curtains, a light-bulb, a comb, a fork.

The Street of Similar Parts

Riddles in here are special because they tell you what every part is similar to.

Ex. 5.5
Let's compose riddles on the following basis:
Names of Parts
How many?
What are they similar to?
  The hooked part of rim   2   Fishing hooks
  Round pieces of glass   2   Jelly-fishes
  Rim   1   Letter "B"

The class creates a riddle about glasses. The first column is take out - erased, for example, and we get our riddle: "Two jelly-fishes on two fishing hooks and one letter "B"". (Glasses)

Comment 4
It is important that the first column, which explains the riddle, called "Names of Parts" is erased. Children often don't like it that in the way it is written down one can clearly see the riddle. If it is not warned off, they might simply refuse using the table.

Other usable riddles can be composed on this subject. Readers could do it on their own, using the material of chapter 10.

The Street of Silent Riddles

Ex. 5.6
"How is it possible to draw a cat without actually drawing it?"

One could draw a tail sticking out from behind a fence, or a paw, or whiskers. Or maybe a trace left by that imaginary cat - a puddle of spilled milk. A cat, drawn in parts, cannot be recognized too easily. Finally - and this is for the brightest kids - a small cat is drawn as a part of a huge mouse. There is a cat - but a cat is also not there.

I think you already know why these riddles are called silent - they are asked without the help of words, just by drawing.

CHAPTER 6: City of Strange Places

Our goal is to give students an understanding of super-systems (the environment of an object; something it is a part of).
In some sense this city is an opposite of the City of Strange Parts. Objects in here have their own way of hiding - they leave us messages of where they can be found.

Ex. 6.1
- On this house it says: salad, store, bag, vegetable garden. Look, this house is kind of big - probably, more than one object is living in here. Let's try and find out who they are.

Answers are given: potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, steak.

- Wait! Does a steak grow in a garden? No, that won't do.

Ex. 6.2
Let's choose a student and compose a riddle for him or her. For example, a needle. Which objects, and where, have needles? A spruce, a hedgehog, a syringe, a sewing machine, etc. Same riddles may be composed about a wheel, a hat, a bow, and many more. Such a riddle consists of only one question - what is it a part of? Or where can it be found? Or who has it? Smaller kids may be asked where does it live? For example, where does a feather live? (On a bird, in a pillow).

Ex. 6.3
Let's compose similar riddles, but instead of naming the super-system we'll use a metaphor (not a hedgehog, but a living ball), calling the objects by their characteristics (both the quick one and the green one have it), by their functions, etc. In the schemes the following questions are possible:

    Where does it live?         What is it similar to?    
  In the sky   Dark cloak
  In the lake   A mirror


    Where does it live?         What kind of house is that?    
  In the sky   Airy
  In the lake   Wet

Left column of the table is not included in the riddle. Using the words from the right column, we'll get the following riddle: spread on the dark cloak, reflected in the shining mirror, or live in the airy house and can be seen in the wet one. (stars).

Comment 1
It helps if you establish with your students how the super-system is called in general: a house, a place, or something else, or they, composing riddles, won't be able to use the table properly.

Ex. 6.4
Let's look at another interesting table - we can call it a "nested doll". The following riddle may serve as an example: on a branch there is a high hook, on the hook we have a box, in the box five guys are sitting together (peas in a pod). This riddle is different from the previous because it describes a progression of objects located on each other or inside of each other. Of course, none of these objects is named directly - all coded. Let's ascribe letters A, B, C and etc. to the objects in the riddle and make a table.

    Where is it located?         What does that place look like?             Object?             What does it look like?    
  a   A   b   B
  b   B   c   C
  c   C   d   D
  On the table   High floor   A lamp's riser   An iron arm
  On the riser   In the iron arm   A lampshade   A thin cup
  In the lampshade   In the thin cup   A light-bulb   An icicle
  In the light-bulb   In the icicle   A coil   A burning hair

Deleting the first and the third columns, we'll have the riddle: on the high floor - iron arm, in the iron arm - a thin cup, in that cup - an icicle, and inside that icicle a hair is burning. (a lamp).

Using such riddles you can study mechanical parts, structure of plants and animals, even the language. They allow finding common subsystems and finding the differences between objects. But these, of course, are only theories, and the only people who can prove or disprove them are you, colleagues.


The City of Strange Functions
In this city we can teach children to see objects' functions - main and secondary, visible and hidden.

Note: the names of many objects will tell you their functions. For example, a brush, a pointer, an alarm clock. If, using the same rule, we make up names for the other objects - we get riddles. What are shadowers? (Curtains) And so on.

Ex. 7.1
Let's make riddles using the same method: a mirror, a TV, a hammer, a spoon. In other houses inhabitants are more talkative. They are eager to talk about everything they can do. One of them tells us: "I can make holes, you can scratch you back with me, or roll out pastry, or draw. What am I?" (a pencil)

Ex. 7.2
- Compose the longest riddle about a brick, using all the possible uses for the object.

Ex. 7.3
- An opposite problem. In this house the objects live with whose help you cam draw. What are they? (not only Magic Markers, paint, pens, chalk, but also sand, and natural dyes, coffee-grounds, etc.)

Ex. 7.4
Make a famous character of a fairy tale or a cartoon into a riddle and try to explain it to the class without words, with only gestures.

Example: A student makes another person lie on the chair and pretends to construct him, then stretches him a long nose. It is easy - he is making Pinocchio.

Ex. 7.5
The game of opposites: one student is showing one action, and another student - the opposite action. Then the class tries to decide together how one person can do both at the same time. Thus, a new riddle is created.

Example: I show an action - knitting. The students are making gestures showing that they are unknitting my creation. Then we discuss how it is possible to knit and unknit at the same time. (Instead of a ball of string you can use an old sweater, unknitting it to make a new one.)


The City of Contradictions

TRIZ states: every inventive problem can be stated as a contradiction. A contradiction in TRIZ is defined as a pair of opposite requirements for the same object (or a part of it). For example, an eye of a needle should be large, so people can put a thread through it easily, and small, so it doesn't rip the material. By solving the contradiction - separating the opposite requirements in time, space or in some other way, we are solving the problem. For example, there are needles whose eyes are made of twisted steel threads. When it is used to sew, the eye is practically non-existent (really small), but when the thread needs to be inserted, one can untwist the eye and it becomes big.

Our goal is to bring the students to understand the contradictions and teach them simplest ways to solve them.

The first step is to teach the students to see positive and negative (good and bad) sides in everything. A game "Good-Bad" can help with it.

Let's look at an object or a situation and try to find as many ways as we can, in which it is good and bad. Usually we start playing that game long before coming to the City of Contradictions. However, it is that city where we can find the Street of Arguments. The objects that live here are extremely ill-mannered. As soon as we solve their riddles they, instead of inviting us to come in, start arguing between themselves and ask us to help.

Ex. 8.1
Once two umbrellas got into an argument: one, the parasol, was meant to protect people from the sun, the other - from the rain. The small parasol thinks that sunny weather is bad for you, and he is envious of the other umbrella, who goes out for walks only on rainy days. The other umbrella, however, is sure that sun is good but the rain is bad. The class divides into two teams and helps the umbrellas in their argument.

Ex. 8.2
On the door of one of the houses we find a riddle: in some places prickly, in some places smooth; for some people prickly, for others smooth; alone prickly, together smooth (one of the possible answers is a hedgehog. Try to prove it by yourself).

There are two ways of composing riddles in the City of Contradictions. Here is the first method.

Ex. 8.3
Let's compose a riddle with an unknown answer, and then solve it. For that we are going to choose two opposite charactersitics (better if they are physical) and separate them in space (in some places, or inside-outside, or one side-the other side), in time (first-then, sometimes) , in relationships (for some) or by combining two separate objects (alone-together).

For example: in some places soft, in some places hard (a jacket with a zipper), sometimes hard, sometimes soft (plasticine), hard for some, soft for the others (for a swimmer the water is soft, but for a diver it is hard), alone hard, together soft (sand).

The second method: composing a riddle about a specific object.

Ex. 8.4
Let's choose an object and find opposite characteristics in it, separated in space, in time and etc. We'll use the following table:

    Where? (when? for whom?)         The trait        Where? (when? for whom?)         An opposite trait   
 Yesterday  Soft  Today  Hard
 Yesterday  Light  Today  Dark

Read both rows from left to right and you will get a riddle about dough.

Comment 1
Note that such riddles can be composed not only for the opposite characteristics. For example, goes to bathe red and returns black (a crawfish). These types of riddles will be described in more detail in chapter 10. But for now our goal is to bring the students to understand contradictions, so the opposite characteristics should be looked at.


A school of riddles

The next goal is to show to the students how the material, familiar to them, can be used in school subjects.

There is only one school in the Country of Riddles, but it is a school of riddles. Along with the students we join classes that are both similar and different to what we would see in a normal school.

The math of riddles

Ex. 9.1
We add together potatoes, carrots, peas, onions... The other summands are unknown. What can be the answer? What should we add to get "store" as an answer? (A vegetable garden? A kitchen? Soup?)

Ex. 9.2
The answer is "a class in school". Name the summands. We discuss it with the students - a class is not only impossible without a teacher, it also can't exist if the students in it aren't friends, don't study and do things together.

Ex. 9.3
Counting in riddles (from the materials of A.M. Strauning). When 1+1=1? (Two pieces of plasticide are pressed together). When 1+1+1+1+1=1? (Five fingers equals one hand).

The students are asked to think up similar problems. For example, 2+2+2+2+2+2=1. (6 people are making a fence, and each brings 2 boards).

Ex. 9.4
Explain the formulas. (The exercise is designed by S.Gin).
Let's make T mean - tasty food, and nT - food that isn't tasty.
T+T=T (eggs with bread)
T+nT=T (bread with salt)
T+nT=nT (honey with salt)
nT+nT=T (cereal with salt)
T+T=nT (tea with fish)
nT+nT=nT (salt with mustard)

Ex. 9.5
Which things can be easily done together, but are hard to do when you are alone? (Playing on swings, trying to get an apple from a high tree). You can make alpinists an example - discuss why they climb mountains in groups.

Writing in riddles

Ex. 9.6

l is not only a letter, but can also be a part of other letter. Moving and turning l around, which letters can we make if we draw some more elements on it? (N, T, B, etc.)

Ex. 9.7
Write a large letter or a symbol on a sheet of paper. Draw on it so you will get a real picture.

Reading in riddles

Ex. 9.8

On the blackboard there are parts and pieces of words. Complete them in such a way so you get the whole words: so (solution, parasol, soldier, etc.).

Ex. 9.9
On the blackboard there are words - all from the same sentence. Add more words and compose a whole sentence.

Example: lake, sun, kettle. (By the lake a kettle was boiling; it shined like the sun)

Another possibility is to write a short story from the given words.

Gymnastics in riddles

Ex. 9.10

Turn your head without moving your neck. (turn the rest of your body)

Ex. 9.11
Clap with one hand. (join another person)

Ex. 9.12
Stroke your head without touching it with your hand. (stroke with an object or another student's hand)

Ex. 9.13
Raise your hands over your head but below your desk. (raise your hands while kneeling)

Ex. 9.14
Show a letter (A, B, C, D...) , a number or a mathematical figure.

Comment 1
The basics of most exercises are contradictions. It is important that the students understand it is necessary to solve the apparent contradiction instead of playing it down. For example, they shouldn't move their neck at all, it won't do to move it slowly.

Drawing in riddles

Ex. 9.15

- Somebody said: "I am cold and hot, hard and soft." Draw that somebody. One student drew a creature, one half of which was snowy and the other was a heated brick. Another made up a furry animal wearing a belt with a buckle - the buckle is always hard and cold to the touch.

Ex. 9.16
Drawing to the dictations - one square to the right, four down, three to the left... The drawings are made in such a way that each of them is an outline of some object or creature. After the dictation I ask the students to show me their drawings - the mistakes in such drawings can be noticed right away.

This exercise trains memory and the ability to work to instructions. For the students it is simply drawing mysterious creatures.

Doubtless, this list does not include every possibility to be found in the school of riddles. The pedagogues should feel free to design new lessons and exercises based on the age and abilities of their students.


What next?
And so, our trip comes to an end. But the Country of Riddles is truly endless. We can discover new vast lands again and again. As an author who doesn't want to disappoint the readers I see two ways for myself: to add new things to this book again and again, taking the readers for new trips on the unexplored paths, or lay my cards on the table and hope that using my methods the readers will build their very own Country of Riddles.

Trusting my readers I choose the second way.

This chapter is for adults only. These exercises, riddles and questions are only for you. It would be wonderful if after reading it you can compose your own materials - just don't try to give this material to the kids directly.

Let's begin with answering a few questions.

Question 1. What is a riddle?
Answer (unscientific): A riddle is an incomplete description of something that is not named in the text. "Why incomplete?" you might ask. "Are there any complete descriptions?" I would answer.

Question 2. What can a riddle be about?
Answer: About anything. You can make a riddle not only about an object, but also about an action. However, this chapter is mostly concentrated on objects.

Question 3. Can any description be considered a riddle?
No. A riddle has one specific function - it is designed to be solved. In the short text of a riddle the descriptions should be both detailed enough to make finding a solution possible, and brief enough so that the riddle is not obvious. This is why riddles highlight most important and unusual sides of an object.

Question 4. What can we teach children with the help of riddles?
Answer: This question I consider to be of an outmost importance. I'll try to join and complete all the pedagogic goals that were discussed in the previous chapters. Don't forget that we are only talking about using the riddles to develop kids' imagination. In the biology class the goals may be completely different. The basic stages of the training are outlined in the table 1 along with the needed explanation. But first let's look at a following riddle.

It has two parts: one is smooth and the other one ribbed. Its form is like that of a cylinder, made out of plastic. Put it on a level surface - it will be able to stand. Its length is about 3 cm. You can wear it on the tip of your finger. It's inedible but has a pleasant smell. You can use it to whistle, or just look into it.

If you didn't find an answer yet, let's add something:

It is used to close the tip of a marker.

It is not a real riddle. This is a description of a cap for a marker, written by an eight-year-old student, and the last sentence was in reality first. I didn't ask any leading questions, just told him not to stop. So what does the Country of Riddles teach us? Now, studying and analysing the table 1, we can answer that question.

Table 1

    What are we learning?         The key word         A possible key question     The key image         The key actions   
  To single out parts of the object in the riddle (OR)   Part   What does it consist of?     Mentally look at the OR through binoculars, watching each part separately
  To define super-systems - environment, or the other objects of which OR is a part   Environment   Where? In what?     Mentally draw apart from the OR so you can see its surroundings
  To define objects surrounding OR (to familiarize yourself with the super-system)   Surroundings, "neighbours"   What is around it? Among what (who) is it located?     Put yourself in OR's place and look around
  To define the characteristics of OR, its parts, environment and the neighbours   Characteristics and relationships   What characteristics does it have? What does or can it do? What can be done with it?     Take it into your hands (first times - physically, then mentally), look it over, touch it, etc.
  To find various functions that OR can perform (useful in a given situation)   Work   What is it for?     Use OR for performing some work (first physically, then mentally)

Looking at the table you can decide for yourself, which topics you want to give more attention. Now - the exercises.

Ex. 1
Try to find your own versions of key questions, new key images and actions. Can you invent new rows for the table?

Ex. 2
Analyse the following riddles. Try to define which concepts (first column of the table) were used by their authors.

1. Green but not a crocodile, on four legs but not a chair, wet but not jam. (frog)

2. Swims but not a fish, carries people but not a train. (ship)

3. On one circle five sticks.
(the palm of human hand with five fingers)

Ex. 3
Choose any object - it is going to be your OR (object of the riddle).

Going through every row of the table, try to compose various riddles. Write down the ones you find most interesting.

You might have noticed that a lot depends on what ways are used to describe OR.

Question 5. How can you describe parts, characteristics, place, work?
There are four basic ways to describe something (see table 2).

Table 2

    #         Name of the method of describing         Examples of riddles         Explanation    
  1.     Direct naming   "With a beard but not an old man, with horns but not a bull." (goat)   Parts and places are directly named.
  2.     Denial   "I don't have legs, but I go on and on; I don't have a mouth but I will tell you when to go to sleep and when to get up." (an alarm clock)   Absent parts and "neighbours" are named.
  3.     Indefinite description (using such words as "he", "we", "part", "characteristic", "work", etc.)   "Someone is blowing a red balloon in the morning." (sunrise)   "Someone" - pointing at a "neighbour" who doesn't exist
  4.     Metaphor - a "mask" for description   "In the forest a sand mountain is boiling" (anthill)   "Sand mountain" - OR is described, and "boiling" is a metaphorical description of its characteristic

Unfortunately, the exciting topic of finding and developing images in the riddles is not discussed in this work.

Ex. 4
Read again examples in the table 2 and try to find new methods of description for them ("With a beard, but not an old man..."; "with a beard" - a method of direct naming, "not an old man" - a method of denial, etc.)

Ex. 5
Read the following riddle. Decide which method is used to describe the underlined words. "Over the fields, over the lakes, like white swans, we flew without wings, shedding feathers and down."

Check yourself. The numbers of the rows in the table 2: 1, 1, 4, 2, 4.
Ex. 5
The following riddles are mostly using direct descriptions. Rewrite them, changing the method of description for denial or metaphor.

1. Grows, flowers, appears, reddens, is picked and eaten. (a berry)
2. Runs, barks, bites. (a dog)
3. Red and fat. (a tomato)

Ex. 7
Choose an OR and compose riddles using various methods of description. It is important to analyse the methods that you use.

I hope that your pedagogical folder of materials received a healthy share of your own interesting and new riddles. That means we can go to the new stage of our work. But before that let's look behind for a moment.

We already know which questions we are going to study with the help of riddles (table 1). We also know which language means can be used (table 2). Now we can look at the most important and difficult question of all:

Question 6. How do we compose exercises for the students?
The rest of the chapter is dedicated to answering this question. Why don't me and you, dear readers, play the box? It's a "morphological box" full of riddles, which is presented in the table 3.

Table 3

    #         A         Amount B         Characteristic C         Work D    
  1.   Part      
  2.   Place      
  3.   Neighbour        
  4.   Object      
  5.   Time   XXXX   XXXX   XXXX

XXX means that this square is not used.

Ex. 8
I'll teach you to name every square of the table (excluding the ones with the XXXX sign). For example: A-1 - part; B-1 - number of parts; C-1 - characteristics of the part; D-1 - work of the part; C-2 - characteristic of the place,
B-3 - number of neighbours, etc.

If you prefer visual images, try to find a visual for every square (see table 1). For example:

I don't doubt it that you will come up with something of your own invention.

Ex. 9
Using basic questions from the table 1, come up with a key for every square. For example, D-3 (work of the neighbours).

Table 4

  What is around? (neighbours)   What purpose do they serve?

Ex. 10
Choose an OR that you like and compose riddles using the given basics. Composing the riddle, change the names in the first column to indefinite. In the second column you can use a direct name, or denial, or, if you have enough fantasy, a metaphor.

Example: Let's compose a riddle using the table from the exercise 10. First we'll choose an OR, to which a simple and interesting description can be given through the objects that surround it (through its "neighbours"). For example, food on a plate. Filling out the table:

Table 5

    What's around?         What do the neighbours do?    
  The plate   Holds the food
  A fork   Carries the food to the mouth
  A knife   Cuts

Here is the riddle: "What am I? I'm held by the first, cut by the second and carried by the third."

The squares can be chosen according to the topic of the lesson. If the class is studying parts - we'll take the squares of the first row, characteristics - first column, and if it is necessary to take up super-systems (place, surroundings) and work - we'll use the square D-2.

Now we can look at the new exercises that allow tracking the changes and relationships between objects and their characteristics.

Ex. 11
Read three riddles and try to understand the way they are made up. For that note to which square of the table 3 each word can be ascribed.

1. During the day it is a hoop, during the night it is a snake. (a belt)
2. On the street it looks like a pole, in the house it is a blanket. (smoke)
3. Born in the forest, works in the house. (a wooden broom)
Check yourself.

1. A-5, C-4, A-5, C-4.
2. A-2, C-4, A-2, C-4.
3. A-2, D-4, A-2, D-4.

Interesting order, isn't it? It looks like to compose such riddles we have to pull out of the box not one, but two squares. And our riddle will have a minimum of two lines: it will tell how, changing one characteristic, you can change the other.

Usually, however, I make it easier on myself - I plan only the first half of the table (the source of changes or relationships), and the second is given by a general question "what is happening?" or "what is changing?" The content of the second half will depend on the object itself.

Example: I take any square - say D-3 (characteristics of neighbours). My task is to compose, in a group with my students, a riddle in which the OR depends on the characteristics of the surroundings. A classic example would be the cuckoo's eggs. It is well known that, putting its eggs into others' nests, a cuckoo will always colour them according to the colour of the nest owner's eggs. Let's make a table.

Table 6

    What's around?        How do the "neighbours" look?        What's happening?   
  Eggs of the other bird   Grey   Cuckoo's egg becomes grey
  Eggs of the other bird   Speckled   Cuckoo's egg becomes speckled

The riddle is: "When others are grey, it is also grey; when others are speckled, it is also speckled".

Ex. 12
What table can be made for this riddle: "Sometimes wet, sometimes dry; the bottom is wide, the top is narrow; for a human it is bitter, for a cow it is sweet". (grass)

Ex. 13
Try to compose tables and riddles based on the squares "characteristics of place", "time", "work of a part" (similar parts should be used), "characteristics of OR". Finally, the last topic I give to your attention is description through comparison.

You can compare anything - objects, their parts, their surroundings, their characteristics, work, time, amount. This question was studied in detail in the City of Similarities and Differences. Here I am only going to draw the conclusions. (Some materials have been taken from the seminar of I.N.Murashkovska on the speech development).

First of all, an object is always compared with something else - if a riddle is based on comparison, there is always a mediator - something an object is compared with. A bell is ringing - if we say "laughing" it means we compare it with a human. A person is smiling - we say "shining", comparing a person with the sun. We can compare both characteristics and work: "runs like there is a fire" , etc.

Secondly, description through comparison implies three elements: the descriptive part, the mediator (similarities) and the differing part (differences).

Thirdly, description, differences and the mediator can be built according to almost any square of the morphological box (table 3).

Ex. 14
Complete the following sentences: "Perfume are like jewellery : in work (make a woman prettier), by characteristics of part (the perfume bottle is just as hard as jewels and shines in the same way); "A lamp is different from a mirror: in work (a lamp lights the room, and the mirror reflects what is going on in there)...

Ex. 15
Define which squares of the table were used for the descriptions and mediators in the following riddles.

1. Slippery but not ice, cold but water, long but not a tale . (a snake)
2. The eyes like cinders, the hair like tree branches, the nose like a hook, arms like sticks. (a goblin)

Check yourself:

1. Descriptions (left half of the riddle): C-4, C-4, C-4.
Mediators (right half of the riddle): A-4, A-4, A-4.
2. Descriptions (left half of the riddle): A-1, A-1, A-1.
Mediators (right half of the riddle): A-4, A-4, A-4.

Ex. 16
Define which squares of the table 3 were used to create the mediator and the differences in the following riddle: "No windows, no doors, but the room is full of people". (a cucumber)

Check yourself:
Differences (first half): A-1, A-1.
Mediator (second half): A-4.
The full scheme of the riddle based on comparison looks as follows:

Table 7

  Description   Mediator   Differences

However, usually in riddles any two columns are used (description and the mediator, the mediator and the differences, description the differences). Let's look at the following riddle: "Jumps but doesn't bark, bumps but doesn't cry". (a ball) A table would look as follows:

Table 8

    Description        The mediator         Differences    
  What does it do?   What is it like?   How is it different?
  Jumps   A dog   Doesn't bark
  Bumps   A kid   Doesn't cry

In this case the mediator is not mentioned in the text of the riddle. Returning to the chapter 4 we'll see that the table in the ex. 4.2 ("What is it like? How is it different?") is composed of the mediator and the differences, whereas the table in the exercise 4.3 ("What does it do? What is it similar to?") is composed of the mediator and the description. Using the table 3 you can access more specific questions.

Here our conversation about composing riddles ends, and we will now proceed to the very last chapter of the book.


Why do I love riddles?
When I made a decision to teach elements of TRIZ to the children with the help of riddles, I felt the necessity to explain my choice in more detail. Even more so because I think that whatever I had to teach - reading, writing or math - I would still choose the same way to do that.

Pedagogues who know TRIZ came into schools and kindergartens with a clear goal - to develop a new method of teaching, which would include education through creative work, through solution of inventive problems. Of course, such problems are not enough; the children should also take in and memorize quite a lot of information.

Take, for example, the systematic approach - the ability to see an object as a system of parts or as a part of something bigger. Here the exercises are not too creative: name the parts of an object, name something of which it is, etc. Same happens to all instructions in TRIZ: to defining a contradiction, defining the resources and function of an object, etc. All such exercises require training. And where the training starts, the creative work is practically finished. And that's not too tragic, if not for a small detail - children are rarely interested in reproductive exercises. If they do such exercises with enthusiasm, it is more because they want to earn the teacher's approval. The hunger of knowledge, which is a foundation of every successful education, is practically not formed.

We should add the fact that not for all children self-affirmation can serve as a stimulus. Lazy students and low-achievers thrive on reproductive problems. A contradiction appears - there are should be non-creative problems so the children receive the necessary knowledge, and shouldn't be so the students don't lose interest for studying. Riddles present one of the ways for solving that contradiction.

In reality, looking from a teacher's point of view, the exercise "describe an apple" doesn't differ from an exercise in which a student is composing a simple descriptive riddle about an apple. But, while going through that low in creativity exercise, the student is thinking about the person behind the door, for whom, the only person in class, solving the riddle is a real creative task. Children are not busy reciting the old dusty truths about an apple, they are composing a creative riddle for their class-mate. You have to agree, there is a great difference!

That's why I love riddles so much. Perhaps now, colleagues, you will share my passion.

I wanted to create material easy to read in the beginning and very interesting, despite its complex structure, in the end. I hope that the name TRIZ did not scare those who did not hear about it before. And maybe, just maybe, I was able to transfer if not the knowledge, then at least the feeling of gladness from studying "children's" TRIZ.

Giving my work out to be judged I, as usual, hope for comments and help of my fellow teachers.

Good luck to us!

The author thanks students and teachers of the school #30 of the city of Petrozavodsk who took an active part in creating and editing this materials; colleagues in TRIZ I.L.Vikent'ev, S.I.Gin, I.N.Murashkovska, whose comments and ideas were used in this work; all the pedagogues who supported this work with their letters, genuine interest and involvement.


(˝) 1997-2002 OTSM-TRIZ Technologies Center
Send your comments and proposals to:
Nikolai Khomenko jlproj@gmail.com


30 Jun 2002