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Raising Standards in Thinking Skills Using Creative Development in a Year One Class

Raising Standards in Thinking Skills using Creative Development in a Year One Class According to the Welsh Assembly Government’s (WAG) Framework for Children’s Learning (2008), learners should develop their thinking throughout all the Areas of Learning by the processes of planning, developing and reflecting. These processes help learners to obtain a better understanding of the world around them.

WAG (2008, p10) suggests that ‘these processes enable children to think creatively and critically, to plan their work, carry out tasks, analyse and evaluate their findings and to reflect on their learning, making links within and outside the setting/school. ’ This essay will aim to explain the theories and strategies to develop thinking skills as well as discussing the use of Creative Development, particularly Music in a Year One class.

The essay will also discuss how thinking skills can be improved through the use of music in the classroom and suggest further strategies to encourage a ‘thinking classroom’. What is thinking? From a scientific point of view, thinking is a process in which neurons connect with each other in the brain to pass electrical impulses from cell to cell. The connections are made in two different ways: firstly with the normal maturing of the brain and secondly by the interaction within an environment (Robson, 2006).

Research shows that a child with more opportunities for stimulation and encouragement will be able to form better connections and therefore an improved ability to think (Cowley 2004). Thinking is an important tool not only in a school setting but in everyday life. The ability to be able to think clearly, logically as well as creatively is essential for a successful approach to life (Cowley, 2004). Jean Piaget was a prolific figure in the study of children’s thinking and his work concentrated on the development of thinking and how knowledge is obtained.

Piaget argued against the traditional view that children were ‘empty vessels’ who received all their knowledge from rote learning, his belief that children learn through their own experimentation and that the role of the adult is to act purely as a facilitator and to provide an environment to assist the child’s development (Robson, 2006) links well with the theories of the Foundation Phase. Thinking within an educational environment allows learners to learn and apply new skills effectively.

Lifelong learners need to have the ability to learn not only in school but at home or in a workplace and learning should not only focus on what is being learnt but how the process is taking place (WAG, 2010). Thinking skills can enable learners to gain a deeper understanding of the areas of learning as well as being able to make judgements and decisions rather than jumping to conclusions. An important part of developing thinking skills is ‘metacognition’; thinking about thinking.

Learners should be encouraged to think about their learning to make sense of the task they have been set, understand strategies that can be put in place and be able to evaluate their work. This can provide several benefits for both the teacher and the learner: * learners can take ownership of their learning which in turn motivates them; * learners will be more likely to learn for themselves and independently apply their new skills and knowledge; * learners will be more confident with their own thoughts as individuals; * work can be differentiated to suit the individual needs of a learner (Cowley, 2004)

Thinking skills are not based on levels of intelligence and different learners will have different approaches to thinking. Some children will be better at logical thinking to deal with problems they come across, others will develop thinking skills more productively as part of a group and some may be more imaginative with their thinking. These different approaches to thinking have to be taken into account in a whole classroom environment (Cowley, 2004). Learners should be motivated and encouraged to think about how and what they are learning which in turn will lead them to become interested and confident in what they think and learn.

Learners should not be told what is right or wrong when it comes to thinking, although there are some instances where only a certain answer will fit, i. e. a maths problem or spelling question, on the whole they should be encouraged and to be creative with their thinking and openly discuss their ideas with their peers or adults (Cowley, 2004). Developing Thinking Skills Questioning plays an important role in the development of thinking and can encourage learners to develop a range of different thinking skills.

Imaginative questioning can promote the development of thinking skills within the classroom as well as focussing the learners’ attention, stimulate conversation, provoke interest and provide new ideas. Questions should be kept as open as possible, giving the learner the opportunity to think for themselves and give their own reasoned response. Very often, it can be seen that classroom questioning is often closed or narrow which only encourages a simple right or wrong answer or a very limited response (Cowley, 2004).

Some examples of open questions include: * What do you think about….? * What do you think will happen if….? * How can we….? Benjamin S. Bloom was an accomplished researcher in the field of education and famously classified different levels of thinking and questioning in to six levels: * Knowledge – being able to remember but not necessarily understand * Comprehension – being able to explain about something * Application – using information to solve problems Analysis – being able to identify connections and links * Synthesis – suggest alternatives or improvements * Evaluation – being able to offer an opinion By providing learners with open questions, they will be able to succeed at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy from the Lower Order Thinking Skills of ‘knowledge’ to the Higher Order Thinking Skills of ‘evaluation’ throughout all the Areas of Learning (Fleetham, 2003). Closed questions, which are based on pre-existing knowledge or the requirement for a specific response, are not conducive to a thinking environment.

Although there are some occasions where closed questions are needed, for example, in a test to check for understanding of a topic, for thinking skills to be developed they should be avoided. Closed questioning can also prevent some learners from answering, particularly if they are slower at working things out than others in the class (Cowley, 2004). Examples of closed questions include: * What is 5 + 5? * Is this pencil red? * What letter comes after c? Practitioners need to find the right balance between the two types of questions particularly when the aim is to develop thinking skills in the classroom.

Creative Development, Creative Thinking ‘Children should be continually developing their imagination and creativity across the curriculum. Their natural curiosity and disposition to learn should be stimulated by everyday sensory experiences, both indoors and outdoors. Children should engage in creative, imaginative and expressive activities in art, craft, design, music, dance and movement. Children should explore a wide range of stimuli, develop their ability to communicate and express their creative ideas, and reflect on their work. ’ (WAG, 2008, p39)

Music has often been taught as something outside of the main curriculum with teachers feeling less confident about teaching it compared with the ‘traditional’ subjects of Mathematics and English (Young and Glover, 1998). Children come into school having been surrounded by music in many different aspects of their lives according to their social and cultural backgrounds, from television, shops, places of worship and radio. Music is often referred to as the ‘universal language’ and it can provide a way to convey emotions without the restrictions of a linguistic system.

Children have a natural enthusiasm for music from previous experiences outside the school environment and this can provide a way of bringing a class together and even changing the mood of a classroom (Young and Glover, 1998). There appears to be something about listening to music that has an appeal to a person’s brain. This could possibly be due to the fact that listening to music involves relatively little effort in comparison to maybe reading a book, when concentration is needed on the words, the subject and the plot.

When listening to music, the stimulation that the patterns of sound generate in the brain in turn produces images, memories, and thoughts automatically, without having to make a conscious effort (Struthers, 1994). Music encourages children to not only think about the musicality of the piece, i. e. the rhythm, instruments, tempo etc. but provides them with ideas about what images the music cultivates and means to them, therefore encouraging them to think.

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