Teachers, do you ever get asked, “How on earth do you entertain 30 kids in a classroom every day?” For many people outside education, the idea of being a teacher can seem threatening, exhausting and even overwhelming. The mere thought of standing in front of a class of students – boys and girls with big personalities, often excited, sometimes unruly – is enough to give some people heart palpitations.
But what I often tell people is that ‘the best learning takes place when the teacher is quiet…’ That’s right – quiet! As teachers, we don’t need to do a song and a dance or to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Our mission is not to ‘entertain’ our students. Yes, we must hold their attention, and we must challenge, excite, engage, encourage and support them to learn, but as teachers we must never own the learning. In fact, the quickest way to lose students’ attention is to be in control of the thinking.
Rather, I encourage every motivated teacher to transfer the learning from their side of the desk to their students’ realm. Learners are empowered when they feel independent, trusted, and in control. Do you agree?
Let’s consider how you learn best. Have you ever tried to bake a cake by listening to someone read you the recipe? It’s not much fun, is it. Or do you bake better when you’re actually the one poring over the ingredients list and cooking method, measuring the ingredients, stirring the bowl and licking the spoon? Do you feel a sense of satisfaction when you run out of an ingredient and have to think on the spot how you can best substitute it with another item?
Well, it’s the same with teaching students to think – let them hold the spoon. The best learning takes place when the teacher is quiet, but this depends on three things.
- An explicit question/activity which contains a task verb (e.g. ’explain’, ‘compare’, ‘discuss’ or ‘select’
- An appropriate thinking tool
- A clear time frame
For example: “Students, please explain why that event took place by using a Cause-Effect Map. You have about 12 minutes to do this!”
In other words, give them a framework for thinking, set a question with an explicit task verb, teach them some thinking tools, and then let them get on with it!
So how do you transfer the learning power to your students? The first step, I believe, is for you, the motivated teacher, to embrace and understand the Thinking Skills Framework (see our free download) and to get confident with using thinking tools. I have a strong belief in the value of teaching specific and appropriate thinking tools, both cognitive and cooperative, in order to promote a vibrant and meaningful learning environment.
Once you are confident in sharing your passion for thinking you can guide your students to refer to this Framework and use relevant thinking tools to tackle any classroom activity or assessment task. It is always dependent on the task verb. So ‘Explain’ is part of Bloom’s ‘Understand’ level of thinking, and a useful thinking tool is the Cause-Effect Map or the Metaphor tool. As you use thinking tools regularly in your classrooms, you’ll notice your students’ self-esteem grows as they are given the space and tools to work on their own, free of direct teacher involvement.
The thinking strategies I share (some favourites include the Noisy Round Robin, the Hot Potato, the Decision-Making Matrix, the Double Bubble Map, and more) are very simple to incorporate into daily teaching. I know that when I am using these strategies in my class, I am unable to dominate the thinking of my students. Students are usually more motivated and feel a far greater sense of ownership of their learning. Lessons are more fun and far more productive.
Ownership leads to motivation!
I hope that you enjoy our upcoming blog stories where we’ll share step-by-step guides to our favourite thinking tools, which are applicable to any year level, subject and student proficiency. We will also share little stories or vignettes from the classroom.
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Share the Joy and your personal triumphs!
If you have a favourite thinking tool or some successful examples of how you’ve transferred the learning to your students, please share it with us via our contacts page or Facebook. We love to hear real-life examples of excitement in thinking classrooms.
BY Eric Frangenheim
Rodin Educational Consultancy