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15 MAY 2012

How to teach children to think?

How to teach children to think?

Two new books from Cambridge University Press suggest that thinking, and teaching how to do it, have been the missing tools in the teacher’s kitbag for too long.

The authors of Teaching Young Learners to Think and Super Minds firmly believe that, along with the traditionally agreed-on skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing, thinking is the, hitherto neglected, fifth skill. 

Based on the latest insights into how the brain works fresh from the field of neuroscience, the two texts offer teachers and students activities specifically designed to develop children's foreign language competence while promoting basic thinking skills and, along the way, improving memory and concentration.

Super Minds is from the respected author-team Herbert Puchta, Gunter Gerngross and Peter Lewis-Jones, while Teaching Young Learners to Think comes from the pen of Herbert Puchta and Marion Williams. The common theme is obviously Puchta who pioneered the introduction of elements from neuroscience (Neurolinguistic Programming, multiple intelligences and cognitive psychology) into ELT teaching. Puchta said:

"If you work on children's thinking skills on a regular basis, the development of their thinking skills will also enhance their cognitive resources. When children get used to systematically applying their thinking skills, they will go through positive learning experiences, and they will gradually learn to enjoy more challenging tasks. As a result, their self-confidence will grow."

In Teaching Young Learners to Think, he and Williams have created 13 categories of activity that help with both the development of the learners' thinking skills and their language. Running from basic to higher-order thinking skills, they include making comparisons, focusing attention, exploring space, time and numbers, creating associations, making decisions and analysing cause and effect. 

Around these they have developed specifically designed tasks that develop children's foreign language competence while promoting the thinking skills they will need as they grow older.

In Super Minds, Puchta, Gerngross and Lewis-Jones introduce children to engaging characters, each with super powers, who accompany the learners on their journey. As the students grow, so do the characters, and new faces are introduced every two levels. Exploring social values, the course is designed to enhance thinking skills, sharpen memory and improve concentration.

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