Strategy of the Week

Three Insights That Are Vital to Adopting a Thinking Schools Approach

The video above is from the Edivation Classics library that explores teaching intelligent behaviors such as metacognition, checking for accuracy, questioning, and more.

The importance of teaching for, of, and about thinking

In his new Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools LumiBook (cloud book), David Hyerle offers a brief analysis of the last 100 years of research on thinking, from early psychological testing based on IQ to the 1950s behaviorist views to constructivism and the “thinking skills” movement of the 1980s.

This “thinking skills” movement, which included Howard Gardner’s challenge of the constraining definition that bound thinking to an intelligence quotient, was introduced into classrooms by education leaders including Dr. Art Costa and Dr. Ron Brandt to help bring about a change in educational practice by emphasizing the idea of teaching for, of, and about thinking in every classroom.

These cogent, practical approaches to thinking align with and support the Thinking Schools model, and are well worth a closer look.

1. Teaching for Thinking. This can be summarized as creating an environment in the classroom for student thinking to improve, including teaching strategies that foster different types of thinking.

With this approach, teachers and administrators create a positive environment that promotes the development of students’ thinking and includes a variety of perspectives, such as consistent problem-posing by teachers which facilitates creative thinking, being open to a range of student ideas and learning styles, and teaching content.

2. Teaching of Thinking. With this approach, teachers instruct students in the skills and strategies of thinking directly and/or implementing thinking programs.

While Teaching for Thinking is based on the teacher using strategies that create a rich environment for improving thinking, Teaching of Thinking is based on teachers directly instructing students in skills and macro-strategies for thinking, as well as dispositions or habits of mind. These include cognitive skills, steps in problem-posing and solving, and reflective thinking. The desired outcome is that students will consciously apply and transfer thinking processes across content areas.

3. Teaching about Thinking. In this approach, teachers help students become aware of their own and others’ thinking processes for use in real-life situations and problem solving.

Teaching about Thinking focuses on supporting students as they become more conscious of their own thinking processes and provides background knowledge about how the human brain functions as the seat of learning. This approach steps back and allows students to see a broader view of thinking as it occurs in everyone, including how the human brain functions, how they think as individuals, and how knowledge is constructed.

The result: getting students to think about thinking
As students enter the upper elementary level, they will likely become more interested in what is going on in their heads. All three of these approaches, as identified by Costa and Brandt, work to get students thinking about thinking, especially as they are mastering several models of thinking for daily learning, and form a common sense way of framing avenues for classroom practice.

For a more detailed look at Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools, click here


To get Chapter 1 of David Hyerle’s new LumiBook (cloud book) for free, click here


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Three Principles for Creating “Thinking” Schools

How to harness the power of your students’ brains to accelerate learning

More than 30 years ago, John Goodlad produced a groundbreaking study that provided a stark and honest picture of the primary teacher-student relationship:

“If teachers in talking mode and students in learning mode is what we want, rest assured that we have it. Clearly, the bulk of this talk was instruction in the sense of telling. Barely 5% of this instructional time was designed to create students’ anticipation of needing to respond. Not even 1% required some kind of open response or perhaps an opinion from students.”

Of course, our classrooms have come a long way since Goodlad’s assessment, but the fact remains that the more we actually engage our students, the better their brains function and the more they learn.

But it takes more than just cutting down on lecture time to activate genuine thinking in kids. Here are three principles for creating “thinking” classrooms and schools as outlined by David Hyerle, the author of Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools. 

Principle 1: All learners have innate abilities to think in a variety of ways

We are all born with the capacity to think. There is a plasticity in the human brain, and when we facilitate different kinds of thinking in our students, they tap into that plasticity and accelerate growth. Emphasizing the way students learn (thinking skills) alongside what they learn (curriculum) can improve critical thinking and increase classroom success.

But how do we tap into the power of thinking? To begin with, when we teach our students, we should focus not only on the instructional styles that we prefer—or that we imagine they prefer—but also provide opportunities to think and learn in a variety of ways.

Principle 2: Create a connection between students’ thinking processes and the content we teach

As we help students develop thinking skills, we ought to do more than focus on the skills themselves. We need to make sure those skills are transferable. In other words, we have to offer students a way to not only improve thinking, but to use thinking processes and inquiry skills across a variety of disciplines and in their own lives. This requires consistency in applying thinking skills throughout the year, in every type of lesson and across all curriculum we present to students.

Principle 3: To improve thinking processes, we need student-centered models

To permanently instill effective thinking in students, leaders have to provide more than a list of skills to teach in the classroom. They need to provide models for thinking that students can learn very easily. These models need to be fundamental and adaptive—the types of models that can be used by all students.

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To learn more about how to develop thinking students and thinking schools, click here and download a free sample chapter of David Hyerle’s Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools.

Six Key Attributes of Student-Centered Thinking Models

In the age of information overload, thinking skills are more important than ever.

There’s more information at our fingertips than there has ever been in all of history. And while our students may be able to consume, memorize and manage this information, do they truly know how to think about it? It’s more important than ever for students to consciously understand their own thinking skills and develop them alongside the content they’re learning.

David Hyerle, founder and director of Thinking Schools International, spoke about the importance of growing thinking students at a recent education conference—and how, specifically, educators can begin the transition to a Thinking School model that supports these efforts.

The most effective Thinking School models share six common attributes that make them so effective at teaching thinking skills to both students and educators. These six characteristics are outlined in David Hyerle’s latest work, Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools, as follows:

  1. Models Are Fundamental

Each model is based on the most basic processes of thinking. For example, the Thinking Points model does not include all cognitive skills; just the fundamental processes that are used every day in classrooms. The five cognitive processes underlying the visual Thinking Points are derived from cognitive science research: human beings categorize, sequence, and identify characteristics of things using our senses, etc.

  1. Models Are Integrated

Thinking models show how the identified processes are used together. For example, each of the Thinking Points can easily be drawn and linked together visually on a page or across multiple pages. This is distinct from other visual tools, such as separate graphic organizers that have discrete graphic forms that don’t work together.

  1. Models Are Developmental

The models we developed are adaptable for simple or complex applications. To continue with Thinking Points as the example, each of the basic graphic elements may be easily expanded depending on the context of learning and the learner. One of the patterns, the “Group Points” for classifying information, can be as simple as categorizing three forms of water or as complex as the taxonomy of all living creatures!

  1. Models Are Intuitive

It is essential that a student-centered model for thinking makes sense to teachers and students alike within a relatively short period of time. There are many complex models that, while rich and detailed, never become used with fluency because the pieces or processes are idiosyncratic and do not represent how our minds work in real time. This is a key testing ground that teachers immediately understand: how can I teach a model to students if it doesn’t seem natural and, to a certain degree, obvious?

  1. Models Are Teachable

A student-centered model for thinking needs to be easy for students to access and understand. Teachers need to be able to present a model’s processes in a clear and defined manner so that all students can master them quickly. For example, students can easily draw the cognitive patterns for each of the five Thinking Points using only points, curved lines, and arrows.

  1. Models Are Transferable

Students need to be able to use each model in their lives. Models are most useful when they can be used for interdisciplinary applications as well as within a single discipline. Each of the student-centered models for thinking can be used outside of school and in students’ everyday experiences, college, the workplace, and for personal decision-making. View Points© are designed so that any person of any age can draw out their thinking in almost any context.

Overall, the Thinking Schools model represents a well-designed, sustainable, and significant shift toward a foundational focus on thinking. The model:

  • Draws from cognitive neurosciences and learning theory
  • Is backed by research-based practices and proven classroom models for applied thinking
  • Offers an effective and efficient way of developing all students’ thinking skills

Diver Deeper into Student Thinking Models

Pre-purchase your copy of Growing Thinking Students in Thinking Schools by David Hyerle, set to be published on November 19, 2014.

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Six Proven Steps for Effective English Language Instruction

Six Proven Steps for Effective English Language Instruction

When English language instruction is at its best, teachers are designing lessons to support academic language acquisition for all students. Those lessons are particularly effective for English Language Learners when they’re based on an instructional model that involves the following six stages.

  1. Introduction: the warm-up or anticipatory set. Teachers help activate students’ prior knowledge and prepare them for new learning.
  2. Input: the teacher-led direct instruction.
  3. Focus: a quick check for understanding. Can be in the form of thumbs-up/down or fist-to-five questioning.
  4. Transfer: students apply their new learning by working on activities or answering questions independently or in groups.
  5. Evaluation: students report on their learning through teacher check for understanding, whole-class share-out, or presentations.
  6. Extension: students take part in engaging, often hands-on activities that provide additional reinforcement of new knowledge.

English Language Instruction: Changes in the Weather, a video segment in the Edivation library, offers an outstanding example of how these six stages are used in a science lesson.

In this video, you’ll join Ms. Betsy Gomez’s 1st grade class at Agua Caliente Elementary School in Cathedral City, California, and see how her students increase their content vocabulary by using word links and visual reading guides to identify and describe weather conditions. Learning is differentiated as students engage in the classroom’s Equity Access Centers.

The students also review the lesson objectives and associated science content standards before starting their science vocabulary activity.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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10 Best-Practice Strategies for Preventing Bullying in Schools

10 Best-Practice Strategies for Preventing Bullying in Schools

Despite the heightened awareness in recent years, bullying continues to be a problem that affects students everywhere. According to a recent US federal government report, more than one quarter of American students ages 12 to 18—over 8 million children—were bullied during the school year.

Children who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as suffer from physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, stomach aches, and poor appetites. And they view school as a stressful environment rather than a learning one.

But there are measures that every teacher can take to reduce bullying in their classrooms and schools. The following best practices come from the US Health and Human Resources website and offer proven strategies for intervention and prevention of bullying.

  1. Focus on the social environment
  2. Assess bullying at the school
  3. Obtain staff and parent buy-in
  4. Form a bullying prevention group
  5. Provide prevention training for staff
  6. Establish and enforce school rules and policies
  7. Increase adult supervision in “hot spots”
  8. Intervene consistently and appropriately
  9. Devote class time to prevention
  10. Continue efforts over time

A thorough examination of bullying, including the latest strategies for dealing with LGBTQ bullying, is available in six video segments on Edivation (search for “bullying” in Edivation).

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Integrating Technology Into Your Instruction

Integrating Technology Into Your Instruction

Technology moves fast, and it can be a challenge to keep up with the best practices for integrating the latest innovations into your classroom instruction. But you can watch some outstanding examples of teachers doing just that—using new technologies to engage and enlighten students in ways never before possible in the classroom. These videos are also great for rounding out your own professional growth goals.

3rd Grade Math: Rounding to the Nearest Hundred

See how students use the Nearpod interactive whiteboard app to learn how to  round whole numbers to the nearest 100.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

Additional videos focus on technology used in teaching – viewable on Edivation.

8th Grade Social Studies: Taxation Without Representation
Watch as students research using their tablets and participate in a role-play of the taxation of the American colonies, posting their responses to the role-play in real time through the Edmodo app.

10th Grade ELA: Multiple Accounts of a Single Topic: Japanese Internment Camps
Students analyze historical documents in text, audio, and video by using their own devices to access QR codes.

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Classroom Management – Intervention and Redirection Strategies

Classroom Management – Intervention and Redirection Strategies

Getting a rowdy classroom to focus on their work can be hard, but doesn’t always require dramatic measures. In fact, some of the most effective classroom management strategies are also the simplest—practical little interventions that redirect students and get them instantly on task.

This week’s video offers examples of exactly these kinds of classroom management strategies, with ideas on how to use physical proximity, gestures, and verbal reminders to get students back on task.

Watch teachers in California and Louisiana as they strengthen classroom management by using these intervention and redirection strategies in their classrooms.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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Create a Climate for Differentiation – Educational Leadership

Create a Climate for Differentiation – Educational Leadership

A teacher is the keystone for establishing an environment that can foster differentiation.

Cindy A. Strickland suggests, “The classroom has to be welcoming, safe. Kids have to feel that they can take a risk, that they can fail and it’s going to be okay, that growth will be rewarded and is expected. If that’s going to work for differentiation in the classroom, take that out a step and that is what’s going to have to happen. The teachers have to feel safe to take a risk and try something new.”

Watch students, teachers, and entire schools come together to move forward with differentiation.

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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Understanding Equity – Elementary

Understanding Equity – Elementary Setting

Most educators believe all children can learn. However, does this belief extend to all students, regardless of race, economics, language, gender, and ethnic background? This video is part of a larger program that features extensive research into both elementary and secondary schools that have closed or are rapidly closing their achievement gaps.

Watch professionals give systemic guidance and discuss the functionalities of closing the achievement gap. The overriding focus in the framework is driven by:

  • Expectations
  • Relationships
  • Rigor

This video comes with a downloadable guidebook.

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What is your experience with equity? Is equity always equal? What are your thoughts?

Narrating Positive Behavior – Classroom Management Strategy

Narrating Positive Behavior – Classroom Management Strategy

When instructors verbally highlight positive behavior, a student’s clarity level and personal motivation are enhanced.

Watch teachers in New Orleans and Louisiana demonstrate classroom management techniques that focus on narrating positive student behavior.

While mastering these techniques, these educators’ students experienced a positive, constructive reinforcement of instructions and a non-competitive, non-divisive way to highlight student modeling of expected behavior.

Here are some key elements in narrating positive behavior:

  • Begin by giving clear directions
  • Within several seconds after giving directions, describe 1-2 groups/individuals who are following directions
  • Descriptions should be brief and rarely include overt praise
  • Secondary students may prefer group vs. individual attention

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What are some positive behavior narrations you have successfully used or seen in your (or someone else’s) classroom? Leave a comment below.