Children come to elementary school thinking. They do not possess all the skills they need to make sophisticated interpretations and judgements but they don’t need them all to begin questioning, exploring, creating and talking about ideas.
“Every day thinking, like ordinary walking, is a natural performance we all pick up. But good thinking, like running the l00-yard dash, is a technical performance… Sprinters have to be taught how to run the 100-yard dash; good thinking is the result of good teaching, which includes much practice.”
David Perkins, Howard University
We say we want kids to think, but do we really encourage it?
The Ontario Curriculum has hundreds of expectations that ask students to think. Professional development sessions for teachers often stress the importance of encouraging students to become critical thinkers. Yet, what you tend to see in most classrooms is lecture-style teaching, very little “wait-time” when teachers ask questions, and assignments that test content knowledge rather than thinking skills.
What does it look like when students are encouraged to think?
- They argue. They can form conclusions, identify premises, deduce, and understand poor reasoning.
- They question and don’t always except what is given.
- They identify, apply and modify the criteria by which we form judgements and make decisions.
- They make distinctions that allow us to see and discuss complexity.
- They identify the relationships between things and can discuss cause and effect, the means and the end, and a part and its whole.
- They discuss ideas: the good, the bad and the ugly.
- They have the ability to contemplate alternate ways of seeing and doing.
What concepts should be common parts of class discussion if our aim is to promote thinking?
- civil rights
- freedom vs. captivity
- goodness vs. evil
- rules and responsibilities
- the mind
- the nature of art
- the nature of love
- the nature of hate
- others….please add your own
What is the vocabulary of thinking that should be present in our classrooms?
Example and counter-example
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