We know that in order to learn English perfectly it’s necessary to understand how skills such as reading skills, writing skills, listening skills, speaking skills and of course thinking skills play an important role.
Thinking Skills are mental processes we use to do things like: solve problems, make decisions, ask questions, construct plans, evaluate ideas, organize information and create objects. There are many frameworks of thinking including Bloom's Taxonomy, DeBono's thinking tools and Lipman's modes.
Thinking Skills can be put into two broad categories; cognitive and strategic/reflective; The cognitive category includes itself information gathering: sensing — seeing, hearing, touching, retrieving — memory skills, basic understanding, organizing gathered information, forming concepts, linking ideas together, productive thinking, using information and understanding, creating, deciding, analyzing and evaluating.
Strategic/Reflective Thinking Skills is a metacognition — (thinking about thinking). It can involve planning, monitoring and evaluating your use of the cognitive skills above. A good way to introduce young thinkers to reflective thinking is by making activities.
E.g: The thirty small-group activities lasting 30 or 40 minutes were based on Piagetian and Vygotskyian psychology. They promoted cognitive conflict and encouraged social interaction and metacognition. Piaget believed that during the maturation process children go through different stages of development; the intervention activities in Let’sThink! were aimed at pupils making the transition from preoperational to concrete operational thinking. Each Let’s Think! activity follows the same structure, shown in Structure below. They require no writing from the children, leaving them free to engage with one another; they are free to concentrate on engaging critically but constructively with one another and so continue to build on their thinking skills.
Structure of Let’s Think!
Concrete preparation: The materials and language of the activity are introduced. Existing knowledge isconsolidated and children recall what they already know so that they can use thisknowledge during the activity.
Cognitive conflict: The children are given a challenge and encouraged to puzzle over it. A correctanswer is never given, even if the children do not find it out for themselves. The focus during this part of the activity is the thinking that is carried out, rather than a solution to the problem.
Social construction: Children are encouraged to interact with oneanother throughout the activity by offeringsuggestions and commenting on those ofothers in a polite, constructive way. Pupils may be asked to justify statements made. At the beginning of the programme the teacher models how group members should interact with each other during this stage.
Metacognition: The children are encouraged to be aware oftheir own thinking during any phase of theactivity. Questions and comments such as:‘…you’ll need to think hard…’ or ‘Whatwere you thinking when you did that?’ maybe asked.
Bridging: This is the process of linking the kind ofthinking that is being developed in the Let’sThink! activity to other situations when thattype of thinking could be useful. It can becarried out during any stage of the activity.
Thinking skills are implicit in many of the educational interventions shown to raise pupil achievement. For example, identifying similarities and differences in subject knowledge (Marzano, 2001), improves grades whilst using the skills of evaluation, decision making and problem solving.
As we know that lessons can be more interesting, more engaging and more challenging when they include a range of thinking skills. Students work harder and achieve more.
Teachers can become more effective and gain a great deal of satisfaction by infusing their lessons with a variety of thinking skills.
Using humour in the foreign language class is more than having something to laugh about, and engaging in small talk is not just an exchange of linguistic formalities — both are actually very important for the development of the child’s cognition. Children love jokes, and trying to understand jokes and punch lines is often the child’s first attempt at thinking about language. The ability to understand double meanings, puns and word play are important building blocks of the child’s cognitive development, as is the ability to engage in small talk. The latter has an important social function and that is why children need to learn to take part in it. However, successful participation in small talk situations is also important because it strengthens the child’s self-image and gives the child a feeling of social security and acceptance. Being accepted by their teacher and classmates is an extremely important experience for the child, and at the same time it is a precondition for developing social relationships and friendships.
The thinking skills debate is ongoing: should we teach knowledge and facts or thinking skills? Enlightened educators create lessons that make knowledge interesting and memorable through thinking skills. They do both rather than one or the other.
Thinking requires development
The development of cognitive capabilities in many ways follows the same principles. Robert Fisher, a leading expert in developing children’s thinking skills, says that thinking is not a natural function like sleeping, walking and talking. Thinking, he stresses, needs to be developed, and people do not necessarily become wiser as they become older. Some children are lucky because they learn important thinking skills from their parents or other people. This works especially well when parents take the child seriously, engage them in meaningful conversations, inspire their imaginations, ask them questions that get them to think and so forth. Other children are less lucky as they do not have such a nurturing environment that fosters their cognitive development. However, both children from brain-friendly families and others who come from less supportive contexts, will profit significantly from a teaching methods that takes the development of their thinking skills seriously.
The philosopher Matthew Lipman noticed a lack of reasoning skills in many children, and started a movement to involve children in philosophy, an approach that has spread to many countries of the world. He used the following metaphor to stress the need to systematically develop a child’s thinking skills: when we compare a car mechanic with an average person who could never repair their own car, the difference is not that the car mechanic knows how to use tools such as a hammer, a screwdriver, pliers, or a wrench. Most average people know how to do that too, yet they would fail hopelessly if they were to try to repair their car engine. What’s different between them and the car mechanic is not the knowledge of how to use a hammer, a screwdriver or a wrench. What the car mechanic knows, and what average people don’t, is how to sequence the use of these tools in a way that leads to the planned outcome. The car mechanic knows what they are doing, and why they are doing it; and when what they are doing does not give them the planned outcome, they keep trying to come up with alternative strategies that are bound to lead to eventual success.
We can see that the learners are fully engaged in thinking about what the problem is. The teacher facilitates the learners’ language by helping them to express what they want to say, and by clarifying meaning rather than reacting to the way they say it. This is an important step and prepares the class for the next phase, when learners will make suggestions about what the boy in this situation should do. Learners then think about which of the suggestions made is the best one and give their reasons.
It is easy to see how this approach helps with both the child’s cognitive and linguistic development and at the same time gives the teacher plenty of opportunities to take the learners seriously. This in turn sends out very important messages to the learners, enabling them to develop feelings of competence and serious involvement in their work.
The classroom discourse that arises from this work creates the need for ‘scaffolding’. The teacher listens and as the language emerges, supports the speaker in a positive way, as well as helping the other learners to understand what the speaker is saying.
- Baloto F. «How to Motivate Learners of English». — L.: In English Teaching Forum, 1996.
- Bandura A. Social cognitive theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of child development. — K.: 1985.
- Helgesen M. False Beginners: Activating Language for Accuracy and Fluency. The Language Teacher. — L.: 1987.