PROMOTING THINKING SKILLS
IN THE LANGUAGES CLASSROOM
2011 AFTV Conference ‘Le français dans tous ses états!’
Friday 22 July 2011
Presenter: Maree Dellora
Second language study enhances thinking skills
Research with children learning a
second language (Canada, Swain and
Lapkin 1991) –has shown benefits
from language study for divergent
and creative thinking as well as for
first language literacy skills.
Language study enhances thinking skills
Second Language students
“………………….begin to broaden their
understanding of human behaviour and
begin to see that their own cultural
perspective is just one possible world
view amongst many” (Crozet, Liddicoat
and Lo Bianco 1997).
The three main areas of study in second
language courses
Learning to communicate in the target
language ie proficiency
Intercultural
learning
Language
awareness
ie investigating how
language is structured
The three main areas of study for thinking skills
Reasoning, processing and inquiry (using
critical thinking to analyse and evaluate
information students encounter.)
Creativity (thinking creatively
to solve problems and
be innovative)
Reflection, evaluation and metacognition
(reflecting and refining a student’s existing ideas
and beliefs and evaluating their own thinking
processes )
Challenge
Combine pedagogy for teaching
thinking skills and pedagogy that
develops effective
communicative
competence in the
target language
Strategies to support thinking processes in the
second language classroom
• Work on topics that students are interested in
• Have them solve problems in groups
• Strike a balance between demands of problem –
solving task and students’ linguistic skills
• When giving a thinking skills lesson as part of a
second language course
keep target language
simple and
cognitive demands higher
Types of thinking tasks for second language classes
Reconstructing a story
(Mackay & Lim)
• Teacher reads a story three times
• Story told in simple sentences
• Students close eyes, just listen for first
reading
• For second and third readings make notes
• Students in groups given pictures
depicting stages in the story
Thinking tasks for second language classes
Reconstructing a story (continued)
• Work in groups to reconstruct the story
and write it under the pictures
• Helps students develop inferential skills students infer meaning from pictures and
words
• Debrief with class as to skills used
• Follow up three days later – can students
tell the story?
Thinking tasks for second language classes
Odd one out
(Mackay & Lim)
• Students are given a table or grid of three or
four items (words, phrases, sentences or
pictures)
• Work in pairs or groups to identify the ‘odd
one out’ and say why and what the other
items have in common
Thinking tasks for second language classes
Odd one out (continued)
• Develops oral skills
• Students offer different reasons why it is the
‘odd one out’ – there is no one right answer
• Can be used to allow students to develop
inductive understanding of grammar points
Thinking tasks for second language classes
Odd one out (continued)
• Develops students ability to categorise and
compare
• Useful diagnostic tool at start of new topic
or to assess at the end
• Students develop their own grids and share
them
‘Odd one out’ grid - sample
parents
(Mackay & Lim)
père
soeur
grand-mère
L'Autriche
La Hongrie La Grèce La France
joue
était
va
importants
utiles
difficiles simple
professeur
lunettes
calendrier matière
vient
Thinking tasks for second language classes
Opinions
• Students are given statement cards and a
main question to answer
• Sample main question: Alex’s parents are
separating, should he live with his mother or
father?
• Work in pairs or groups to read each
statement card about family circumstances
and establish its meaning
• Students discuss whether each card favours
the father, mother or neither – and why
Thinking tasks for second language classes
Opinions
(continued)
• Sample of statements on cards: Alex’s father works
at night
• Students report final decision to class in target
language
• Students offer different reasons - there is no one
right answer
• Students required to justify their thinking
• Students create own statements to discuss a
different problem
Debriefing after problem solving activity
Ask students
• How did you get your answer?
• Can you think of another situation where
you could use what you’ve learned today?
• Students discuss completed task and their
solutions
• Reflect on learning process
• Students give reasons for their thinking
• Use target language as much as possible
Strategies to promote thinking in discussions
• Ask fewer questions but allow thinking time
• After asking a question allow enough time for
students to think
(Try waiting 30-40
seconds)
• Promote participation
• Ask some open ended
questions
• Try not to answer own
questions
Strategies to promote thinking in discussions
Build up a core of phrases second language
students can use to perform different sorts of
thinking tasks such as:
• Expressing different levels of agreement and
disagreement
• Giving opinions
• Giving reasons
• Asking for clarification
Creativity
In the second language classroom there
are opportunities for students to express
themselves creatively in improvisation,
role-play and other drama
activities.
Role- plays can be based
on modelled language.
Advantages of thinking skills lessons in second
language classes
• Teaching thinking is the opposite of the
teach, test and tick approach
• Aims to challenge and motivate
• Increases intellectual stimulation
• Makes students better learners
• Students can learn about memory
techniques – for second language
learning it’s important to know how to
memorize (MacKay and Lim)
Strategies to promote thinking in a second
language class
• Create a culture where thinking is valued
and rewarded
• Learning a second language is a risk
taking activity – you have to be prepared
to make mistakes to progress in a
language
• Sometimes grammatical correction can kill
discussion – students may think what you
say is less important than how you say it
• Engage more with what students say
Contact Details
Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
(VCAA) www.vcaa.vic.edu.au
Maree Dellora
Ph: (03) 9651 4620
Fax: (03) 9651 4324
[email protected]
Mille fois merci
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