How to build thinking skills in children

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How to build thinking skills in children, thinking skills are crucial in developing information processing and applying knowledge. Thinking skills can be applied across various situations and involved in all subjects. 

How to develop logical thinking in children?

  • Critical thinking can be developed by allowing children to discover answers. If answers are provided before critical thinking takes place, it can hinder the development of thinking skills. The child needs to be allowed to think.
  • At younger ages, critical thinking can be done through something as simple as playing with blocks in order to make specific shapes and structures. It is essential to allow the child to try and figure out a system before providing an answer or an example. 
  • Board games can also assist by allowing strategy to occur naturally.
  • Open-ended questions are also very beneficial in developing critical thinking. Questions with the terms “why”, “how”, and “what” should not be answered immediately, and minimal assistance should be offered when necessary. Instead, one can answer with a question like “What do you think?” Ample time should be given before following up should the child not approach you with an answer.
  • It is essential not to shut down the thinking process. Children often find ways of doing things that we may not know of. We need to listen to them carefully and ask how they are trying to find a solution. Allow room for all possible solutions to be discussed.
  • Forming a hypothesis prior to performing an activity may also be beneficial as it will allow the child to predict what may happen. If the activity is done, the hypothesis can be confirmed. If the hypothesis is wrong, it can be discussed as to why it may have been wrong. 
  • Working in groups can be a fun way to tackle a task and will still allow for critical thinking to occur, provided that there is participation from each child in the group.
  • Brainstorming before a task is undertaken can allow for various solutions to take place, and it will also make it easier to choose which way to approach a task. It also builds thinking skills by planning ahead.

The seven steps to developing critical thinking

The steps below break down the ideal process to follow when using critical thinking for more complex problems.

  1. Identify the problem and determine what it is and how it happened.
  2. Research different ways to solve the problem and consult various sources where necessary.
  3. Determine data relevance and evaluate the data. This will help differentiate which information is valuable and reliable and which is not.
  4. Ask questions to yourself to see if you are working on a biased opinion or whether you need to include any new information.
  5. Identify the best solution from the information that you have gathered.
  6. Present your solution to the interested parties. 
  7. Analyse your decision to determine whether it was effective or not. Adjustments can be made proactively in order to better the solution.

The five thinking strategies

The below strategies can help with developing critical thinking skills.

  1. Be a continuous learner and allow curiosity to lead to natural learning.
  2. Make the right decision for the majority and look at the solution holistically.
  3. Listen and consider unconventional opinions as this can help find another viewpoint and a different solution, which might be a better solution. 
  4. Avoid getting stuck on looking for new information as it will be difficult to obtain challenging information more often than not.
  5. Learn how to explain your thought process and steps to others. This can help with finding flaws in your logic and developing reasoning skills. 

How to teach thinking skills 

  • Ask a lot of open-ended questions to get the student thinking. 
  • Allow time for reflection before providing assistance. 
  • Do not provide the answer unless necessary.
  • Allow room for different methods to be used to obtain the answer.
  • Working in groups allows students to observe methods different to their own.

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)

In simple terms, the Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD is the difference between a student’s current thinking level and the child’s potential thinking level.  The Potential thinking level is reached through adult assistance or in collaboration with more advanced peers.

The ZPD refers to the learner’s ability to complete tasks with the assistance of other learners or adults with higher-order thinking skills. For this reason, it is often related to assisted or scaffolded learning. 

The main idea of the ZPD is that an adult or a peer with more advanced knowledge can help students’ learning by guiding them through a task slightly more challenging than their current thinking levels. As the learners gain more competence, the expert steadily stops guidance until they can complete the task themselves.

Thinking Skills Program

At Open Minds Campus, we have introduced a Thinking Maths Program developed by Michael Shayer and Mundher Adhami to scaffold our learners’ thinking skills towards being Formally Operational in terms of Piagetian Stages of Cognitive Development.

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