“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”– Albert Einstein
Thinking is the magic word in education today. This is as it should be … because it is the lack of curriculum integrated thinking skills activities that has produced a nation of children who can get the “right” answer but often do not know how they got it! Research is showing that our children need more experience with “using” information beyond memorizing and regurgitating it. Incorporating an active thinking skills component to the preschool curriculum is an excellent place to start to meet these needs. It is not only the activities we do with children … it is also the way we talk to children and how we interpret their thinking by observing their play. It is necessary to understand thinking processes in order to incorporate thinking skills into the curriculum. Thinking processes can be defined as a way to order the world an individual knows, a means to learn about the unknown and a way to strengthen ones’ ability to create. Some of the different thinking processes are:
Critical Thinking: The process of breaking the whole into parts. Activities such as: sorting, classifying, analyzing, comparing contrasting.
Creative Thinking: The process of developing fluent and flexible thinking.. looking at things and ideas in new ways. Activities such as: brainstorming, developing original products (ideas) from old materials (ideas), compare and contrast the same elements in different situations, creating imaginative solutions to problems.
Logical Thinking: The process of going from the general to the specific and vice versa. Deduction-the ability to reach a logical conclusion by interpreting clues. Activities include: making analogies, predictions, inferences, recognizing cause and effect and patterns.
Problems Solving: The process of defining a problem, analyzing possible solutions, choosing one and taking action upon it. Activities include: hypothesizing, validating judging, researching and analyzing information.
Creative Questioning Using Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning
“Just when I thought I knew all of life’s answers, they changed all the questions.” – Charlie Brown
Benjamin Bloom identified in this book, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, six major cognitive operations involved in thinking:
knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
Infants and toddlers use primarily the first two levels, but by age three, most children can use all six. By asking specific kinds of question, you can help children experience and practice thinking on each of these levels. Questions asked on the first two levels of thinking tend to be convergent in nature. These questions test children knowledge and comprehension about a topic and usually have a right or wrong answer. Questions such as “What shape is this?” or “Is this red?” do not elicit language or divergent thinking. Children either know the answer or they don’t. Young children learn very quickly that they have a fifty-fifty chance of being wrong in these situations. Many decide not to even try an answer so they avoid the risk of being wrong.
Questions designed for the upper four levels of the taxonomy are meant to encourage more abstract thinking and a more sophisticated integration of content and experience. These divergent questions often do not have a right or wrong answer. These questions are open-ended and stimulate a child’s creative and critical thinking. The process of answering these questions is based on using or synthesizing information instead of regurgitating facts. It has been found that teachers who consistently use questions on a higher level of thinking increase their children’s higher level thinking skills in terms of frequency, depth and complexity.
• Gathering knowledge means acquiring basic pieces of information. Questions at this level ask children to identify or describe objects. You might say, “I see you are using lots of materials in the water. What can you tell me about them?”
• Comprehending and confirming looks at the meaning of the information gathered. You might say, The yellow sponge floats. What about the other sponges? Do they float too?”
• Applying requires children to take what they’ve learned and use it in new situations. You might ask, “What can you make that will float using these materials?”
• Analyzing is thinking about the whole in terms of its parts. You might ask, “Which materials do you think will be best to start your boat? A wood piece? A foam tray?”
• Synthesizing asks children to put parts together to form a whole. You might ask, “How can we use all the materials together to make a boat?”
Evaluating includes comparing and making judgements. You might ask, “Which materials worked best?
Try to limit the amount of convergent questions you ask. Avoid ones that begin with “do, did, is, can, will, would or should”.
Some divergent question starters include:
“What did you notice…….? “How many ways can you…….?”
“What might happen if…..?” “If this is so, then….?”
“What can you tell me about…..?” “What else can you tell me…..?”
“Did you ever wonder …..? “How can you do this a different way?
Applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to Literature(based on “Suppose the Wolf Were an Octopus” by Michael T. Bagley)
Do you ask questions after reading a story? Think about it…. Stories provide an excellent basis for questioning throughout the six levels of the taxonomy.
Let’s try it with The Three Little Pigs:
Knowledge: What materials did the pigs use for building their houses? Who was the pig’s enemy?
Comprehension:Why did the third little pig’s house stay up?Application:What materials might the pigs find around your house to build a house?
Analysis:What was the third pig thinking when the wolf came into his house? What was wrong with the first two houses?
Synthesis:Suppose the wolf was octopus. How would the story be different? What if there were six little pigs? What other materials could they use to build their house?
Evaluation:Which would you rather be, the wolf or a pig? Why? If you could choose one pig to be your friend…. Who would you choose and why?