How to Develop Students’ Higher-Order Thinking Skills
Hello everyone, and welcome back to #langchat! We hope your holidays were filled with joy and good companionship.
This past Thursday, we had a fantastic first #langchat of 2012 with some quality discussion and professional development. Our topic, “How do we develop higher-order thinking skills in the world language classroom?“, was a big hit and we’re sure you’ll find some useful tips and tricks in the summary below. For the archive of the chat, please go here.
Also, be sure to check out the conclusion of this summary below for a special holiday offering from all of us at #langchat!
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Higher-Order Thinking Skills: A Rundown
Higher-order thinking skills include such skills as critical thinking, analysis and problem solving. These skills differ from lower-order thinking skills such as remembering and understanding in that they prepare students to apply existing knowledge in new areas. These are cross-discipline skills that stick with students throughout life.
One characteristic of higher-order skill instruction is the importance of modeling what happens in real life as much as possible (@tonitheisen). These skills involve analyzing, evaluating and creating material, and students need to have a real-life foundation.
With all instruction, it’s a good idea to praise students’ efforts even when they are having problems communicating. With critical thinking and other higher-order skills’ assignments, this is even more important. Be sure to praise the message, not kill it (@tonitheisen).
Critical thinking can be multiple choice, but it’s tough to make it work. Instead of asking “A, B or C,” try asking “How, why and what if” (@SECottrell).
Finally, critical thinking takes time. It’s important for us to remember to slow down and allow students the time to make the meaning. Try giving students more opportunities to ask questions, rather than ask all the questions yourself (@GlastonburyFL).
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Examples of Higher-Order Skills
Critical thinking involves solving problems, such as with situational prompts and questions like why, how and what if (@tonitheisen). Creating with the language involves critical thinking by taking words that students have learned in one context and putting them in another (@Lauren_Scheller).
Determining and debating why cultures are different by comparing products and practices is an example of evaluation (@Lauren_Scheller). Any evaluating or analyzing activity is good practice. Students often have different — but good — answers that they can debate with their classmates (@SECottrell).
Inferring from context is a skill that many students have difficulties with or are afraid of doing. Students are often trained to have right or wrong answers, but with higher-order thinking skills there shouldn’t be any right or wrong responses (@tonitheisen).
Circumlocution is another higher-order skill that language students will find extremely useful. It’s also a simple matter to practice in class, and many students will develop it on their own in a communicative atmosphere.
Higher-Order Thinking Skills in the World Language Classroom
Participants shared a wealth of ideas for activities and assessments you can try in the classroom to develop your students’ higher-order thinking skills. Check some of them out below.
- Finding errors is a fantastic critical-thinking activity. Try using it before an assessment to get your students warmed up.
- Anything interacting with the real world is good. Production for a purpose (@Lauren_Scheller). For example, try using prompts with food such as what food should we put in the box that is nutritional (@tonitheisen). @SECottrell recommends having students think about what food means to them and to people around the world.
- @HJGiffin regularly uses language classes as an opportunity to discuss advanced topics in the target language, such as the concept of self.
- For example, looking at self portraits, ask students how the portrait shows the artist’s definition of self? What would they put on a portrait to define themselves?
- @Lauren_Scheller suggests hosting an evening for ESL parents at the school to help with the school website when learning technology vocabulary.
- If they’re up for it, try and have your higher-level students teach lower-levels an essential grammar or culture point. @klafrench’s French 5 students taught the future tense to French 4 this week, for example!
- Similarly, have students investigate target-language ads or periodicals on the Internet and then write or develop questions for other students to answer (@atschwei).
- Try writing some target-language prompts or questions on various Jenga blocks, then play a game in the class (@HJGiffin).
- Use tools such as Google Maps and Google Street View to plan a virtual trip of students’ choice using a set amount of money (@kc_lewis).
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Higher-Order Thinking with Novice Students
Developing novice students’ higher-order thinking skills is difficult. These skills usually require that students already have an established knowledge base, as they generally involve applying existing knowledge in new areas. Still, there are quite a few activities you can do to develop your students’ skills. Some of the ideas above can be used for novice kids, and some of those below can be used with more advanced students — adapt accordingly.
- Have students label classmates with descriptive words (@SECottrell).
- Making Venn diagrams for compare and contrast on stories, photos and more works well (@CalicoSpanish).
- Show images to students and ask them to describe the situation. Then go into detail. For example, “What needs do these people have? What can you imagine they were doing before and after this photo?” (@CalicoTeach).
- This works well with other levels, too. @klafrench likes to show images of the target culture to intermediate students and ask them to write the story of the painting.
- @tonitheisen likes to use art images where students play a role from the painting in a skit or dialogue.
- This is a great method with all ages, but particularly well-suited to young and novice learners: rather than test vocabulary and knowledge with English translations, try using images. For example, @suarez712002 likes to use images for matching exercises and @klafrench often asks students to draw pictures instead of writing definitions, which makes for much improved connections.
- @GlastonburyFL shows novice students maps (try Google Maps) and asks them to decide the best transportation method from place to place. Use real locations in target-language countries and cities and ask questions such as “Can you walk from el Prado to el Palacio Real? What would be a better way to go?”
- @CalicoTeach suggests adding to the descriptions to give students more to consider, for example “You have two toddlers with you…”
- @GlastonburyFL suggests letting young, novice students describe a fruit to classmates. The classmates have to guess what the fruit is. An alternative is to put a picture of a fruit on the blackboard behind a student, and the class has to describe it for the student to guess. Or in pairs, put a picture of a fruit on one student’s forehead for the other to describe.
- These activities are actually good for any vocabulary or set depending on the students’ ages — from fruit and sports to movie plots and celebrities (@klafrench).
- Try using irrational questions to get kids thinking and responding critically. For example, “Do you brush your hair with bacon? Why not?” (@ProfaEsp). Students interact with the real world by defining items and their use.
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Tips and Resources
- Several participants mentioned Pinterest, an online pin board for pictures. Teachers can let students use Pinterest to create boards for many different themes, such as a dinner for a host family or exchange student, packing a suitcase for an extended trip or a culture party. Make sure to require students to write captions in the target language!
- @kc_lewis wrote a blog post on the uses of Pinterest in the classroom.
- Check out @Lauren_Scheller’s blog post on critical thinking with images.
Thanks to all our participants for joining us for our first #langchat of the new year — you shared so many great resources and ideas, and everyone appreciates your support! As we’ve mentioned for the past several weeks, we’ve been working on compiling a #langchat e-book, Web Tools for 21st-Century World Language Classroom, and we’d like to make it available to you, absolutely free!
Over the past year, #langchat has really turned into some of the best professional development out there for world language (and other) teachers. This is possible because of you joining us every week and so freely sharing your ideas for your colleagues’ benefit. We’ve compiled some of your best ideas and resources from the past year in this book for everyone’s reading pleasure, and you can download the free e-book here.
Please, accept this token of our thanks and check out the e-book soon. It’s designed to be a resource for you to consult as time goes by, no need to read it from cover to cover (though that’s a fine choice, too!). When you’re finished looking it over, please let us know what you think on Twitter or by commenting on the download page.
Thanks again, and see you next Thursday on #langchat!