Posts Tagged ‘thinking’

Dancing Through Math Class?

In activities, education, inquiry, math, thinking on September 1, 2013 at 4:10 pm

*This post is a reply to a thoughtful educator that I respect and with whom I disagree on certain education-related topics. The stir began with my tweet,


I replied to Shawn,

Dancing in a math lesson will not improve thinking. THINKING advances mathematical thinking.”

A cute “engaging” math song might energize the kids but it won’t make them better at math. Surely, “memory is the residue of thought” and it is actually the main key to thinking (see D.T. Willingham’s posts on cognition and learning), but to use dance in 2nd grade as a way to memorize subtraction facts is not the most effective way. Despite the general belief that testing is damaging, cognitive science demonstrated that testing has a far greater impact than additional study. So if you want kids to memorize their number facts (so as to give space to higher-order thinking in solving problems) instead of making them dance it is better to allow them to self-test or to test each other in pairs.

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Thinking: Shaken Not Stirred

In activities, inquiry on February 22, 2013 at 11:47 pm

prov·o·ca·tion  (prv-kshn) n.

1. The act of provoking or inciting.
2. Something that provokes.
Our brain needs it. To engage. To learn. To remember.
In an inquiry-centered environment learning provocations abound. They motivate, sustain, invite to future wonder.
The recipe? Confusion, strong reaction, interest. One or more.
What are some ways to put that into practice in a classroom?
1. Photos
Because they are worth a thousand words.
Use various strategies:
I See / I Think / I Wonder
Silent Conversation
Musical Tables etc.
There are millions of photos available that can be used in inquiry on various concepts – poverty, conflict, power, gender, multiculturalism, pollution – basically anything and everything.

The Art of Questioning

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers…” (Voltaire)



Kids are born with it. It is in our genes. Somehow, for various reasons, it gets extinguished though as we go through school. And yes, it is curiosity.

So how can we keep it from vanishing out slowly? I think it is by nurturing curiosity, but also by teaching the art of questioning.

I would like to share a few ways I tried to give my students opportunities to inquire. And understand the frame of their questions. Because not all questions drive the inquiry. 

NOTE: My students are second-language learners. We are in second grade now. 🙂 What I show below is what we did last year, in first grade. 


The Open- Closed Box Analogy

Through this lesson I wanted to introduce the two types of questions:

         closed questions (those that can be answered by yes/no or by simply giving a piece of information. E.g. “When was Einstein born?”)

         open questions (questions that need research, reflection, understanding at a deeper level, sometimes rethinking opinions and perspectives. E.g. “Why are there conflicts in the world?”)

Step 1:

I simply brought a box and had it closed. Kids had no clue whatsoever what it contained. So they asked me, “What’s inside it?” and I invited them to guess. Below are their answers: 

I showed them what I had: glue sticks, paper, scissors, a book etc.

Step 2:

I asked them the next question, “Which item do you think is most important?” Not only did they have to think more, but they had to bring arguments for their choices (see below).

I invited the students to compare the two types of answers. They observed that in the second case the answers were longer and they had to THINK in order to give them.

Thus we concluded that OPEN (“fat”) questions help us more in our learning because we need to read, research or think much more to answer them.

Step 3: I encouraged students to practice classifying the questions. I gave them paper strips with many questions written on them and together we figured out in which category we should place them (“skinny” or “fat”). Examples: What is the most endangered animal today ? (skinny) How do we know what a fact /opinion is? (fat)

Step 4. Last thing I did was to get students thinking! This time they had to come up with their own fat and skinny questions. And, boy, I could hardly stop them! “Why do volcanoes erupt?”, “Why do seasons change?”, “When was the iPad invented?” etc.

P4300009P4300008 did this help us? We could since then (last year, first grade) inquire better. And ask smarter questions relatd to our units of inquiry.

The Wonder Wall in the classroom helps us rethink our questions as we learn more and more. We also use questioning techniques in our reading sessions as we have a Thinking Board in the classroom. 


I also adapted a PPT – The Power of Our Questions – created by Angela Maiers, an exceptional educator whom I have been following on Twitter for the past two years. I shared the presentation with the kids, stopping after some slides to ask them questions and connect what they saw/read with own knowledge and experience.

In another session we brainstormed answers to the question, “What does it take to be a THINKER?”. See kids’ answers (first grade) below. I displayed them on the wall so we can remember that when we feel like giving up. 


I used quotes, too. 

We made concept maps

We self-evaluated

From time to time I change the mini posters I create near the Thinking Board. Below are some of them. I added the Download feature in case you would like to use them. 

I know this was a long and overcrowded post but I always try to give evidence instead of lecturing. And I also found that I like better the blogs that have photos of practice or samples of student work.

Would you share how you nurture curiosity and an inquiring attitude in your classroom? I am always willing to learn more, reflect more on my own practices and share. 

Thank you for reading!

*Photo credits: Marco Belluci, Flickr

*Music: Kevin MacLeod ,

Outside. The Box.

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Traditional thinking is all about “what is“. Future thinking will also need to be about “what can be“. (Edward de Bono)


I wanted to share how I encouraged thinking outside the box with my students (ESL students).Maybe it will inspire some of you.


You need no technology. You need no big preparation ahead. Just a box and, some colored paper and some post-its. And, of course, engagement.


I made a simple box and placed inside the following:

“bias and prejudice”

“no challenge”

“safe steps”

“own experience”

“limited understanding”


Kids were intrigued. “What is in the box?”…so I encouraged them, “Come, come closer and see for yourself”.

They began taking out and reading the cards. We had a discussion – kids connected the ideas with their own experience. Then I asked them, “What then should we place OUTISDE the box?”


The answers began pouring…as you can see. 









“new challenges”




Using student input is more powerful than you imagine. Those words were on our class wall and both students and I referred to them when things got complicated and when it was easier to give up. 

You can build on this lesson – now that we have tech tools, I would do it slightly different. Maybe use a powerful quote, video, use Scribblar or another application in the process. This is just a first step. The next is actually modellling creative thinking in the (almost every) lesson you teach. 

Thank you for reading!

*Photo credits: