Teaching Students HOW to think

A huge focus of my teaching, outside of using technology effectively, is teaching students how to think. This is important for students of all ages, but I feel it is particularly important for my middle years students as they make the choices about the type of person they want to be.

I use several strategies to teach students how to think, including teaching them Bloom’s taxonomy, de Bono’s Thinking Hats and Direct Action Thinking Tools. The method I have enjoyed the most, however, is something I call Thursday Thinkers.

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Thinking does not have to be a solitary pursuit!

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Mait Jüriado via Compfight

Thursday Thinkers is an hour long session I run on a Thursday afternoon, based on the idea that thinking can be a communal activity. I pose one main ‘Key question’ that is based around a philosophical idea and two to three ‘Guiding questions’ to help students think about the key question in different ways. An example is a key question of ‘Do we have a responsibility to others?’ and guiding questions of ‘Do you have to help yourself before you help others?’ and ‘Is there any time when it is wrong to help another person?’

The session begins with introducing the key and guiding questions and then watching a short video about the topic – TED talks are very handy for these! The students then form a Socratic seminar (an ‘inner circle’ and an ‘outer circle’) to discuss the topic. There are numerous videos on YouTube about how you can run a Socratic seminar in the classroom, but I find that it’s best to take the general principles and then mould them to fit your students.

In the beginning the students needed to be guided with additional questions to help stimulate their discussion and thinking, but after four weeks they are beginning to hold their own discussions and challenge each others’ thinking without constantly looking to me for clarification or confirmation.

Teaching in this way has been an amazing experience – my students’ thinking skills have gone beyond that one session a week, and they are really beginning to apply their higher order thinking in their work. The next step is to explicitly build a path between these thinking skills and their reading, to deepen their comprehension skills. I can’t wait to get started and see my students’ become really involved in their own thinking.

How have you taught thinking skills in your classroom?

Rebecca Davies

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