Encouraging students to think deeply and creatively about the content we teach is beneficial in so many ways. It causes them to stop and reflect on the information, and it encourages them to be more thoughtful and independent in their learning. The key to encouraging deeper thinking with children is consistency. It’s not very effective asking them to stop and reflect on their learning once a semester or giving them a brainteaser to work on once every few weeks only if they finish their work early. We need to be providing them with opportunities to stretch their thinking skills as often as possible. One useful way to start is by being intentional with the questions we ask.
We can and should use purposeful questioning across all learning areas. Whenever I’ve shifted my teaching to focus on including thinking routines and problem solving across all subject areas, I’ve clearly seen how valuable this is for my students. When students are expected to show, describe, share and analyse their thinking through every learning experience they have, it becomes a natural part of their daily routine. Below are some examples of questions that you can try using to get your students thinking and reflecting more on their learning.
1. How many possibilities can you think of?
In order to steer students away from the concept of ‘there is one right answer and I must find it’, use questioning that asks for a variety of possibilities. To take this further, try giving students the opportunity to share the possibilities that they come up with in front of their peers, and celebrate the different perspectives that they offer.
2. What are some of the most interesting discoveries you made while working on this project?
The process is just as important as the end result, so to make this clear to children, use questions that ask about discoveries that were made throughout the process.
3. How has your understanding of the topic changed?
This works best if you give children a chance to share what they know before studying a topic, and then compare that with what they know by the end of it. Even as a stand-alone question though, this still encourages students to take note of the new information and understanding that they’ve gained.
4. How did you help others during this process?
This is the kind of question that prompts students to look outside of themselves and be aware of those around them. This can be quite a challenging thought process for some students, and is beneficial for all children to become practised in.
5. What is your goal for next time?
Whether children achieve success or not, it’s important to help them think about how they can improve the next time they try something. This encourages them to see the learning process as ongoing, and to have a starting point for their reflections the next time around.
I encourage you to try incorporating some of these questions into your daily routine and notice the difference that they make to your students’ reflections on their learning. Let’s help our students to think creatively about the world around them, and to go deeper with their understanding.
If you’re after more teaching ideas, then take a look at this post with ideas for promoting problem solving skills.
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