Getting kids thinking

Developing the thinking process

Monday morning. Jimmy, John and Martha sit in a huddle, anticipating and wondering what the next teaching and learning instalment will bring to their education experience.

Jimmy: (leaning in towards John and Martha, head slightly to one side) Good weekend? Shattered I am. Spent so much time thinking about the History homework, and the Maths stuff, then there was the Geography project, and I had to fit in some on-line gaming, my head’s completely fried, and I don’t think I can think anymore. My brain just ain’t workin’.

Martha: (grey under the eyes and a little more tired than usual) Me too. I had to do such a lot of thinking about all sorts of things this weekend! Not just about school work, but my bike got a puncture coming down the mountain and I had no way of fixing it. Phew…it was a nightmare. So, I had to think about the extra time it would take me to get home and what I was going to tell my mum and dad because my phone battery had gone dead too. Flipping heck I was in right a state…I couldn’t think about anything.

John: (eyes wide, listening intently to the others) Nothing much to report guys, just one of those typical, didn’t do much, just lazy weekends really.

Jimmy: Well….you know what’s going to happen next don’t you? Every Monday morning, the same old same old routine…one of those thinking sessions! (Huffs!) Guys, I think my brain has run out of batteries! I’m so tired, been thinking so much on the weekend that my brain is frazzled, all mushed up an’ stuff.

Martha: Yeah…me too. I haven’t got an ON/OFF button for my thinking, I just can’t turn it on when the teacher wants me to, or anyone else for that matter, and then when I’m doing other stuff, I get some great ideas, but I can’t share them because it’s not the right ‘Thinking Time’ in our school day. (Huffs too!)

John: (slowly tucking his hand into his trouser pocket and in a secretive way, slowly slides a little doodle pad out to show them – sketches, words, doodles and all sorts, just a maze of John’s thinking in a little notebook! – making the sure Mrs Halliwell doesn’t see) Sorted guys. I got myself a…. Thinking Space. My Nan gave it to me and said whenever I needed to think, share my thinking stuff, or just got a great idea, I could jot it down in here. It’s fab. And….she bought me some well cool sharpies to doodle with too. I get the most brilliant ideas at the weirdest of times, not when I say to myself, right John time to think, but when I’m just watching TV, or talking to my nan, or just having a shower. It’s great. This is my ‘Thinking Time’ and it comes alive in my doodle book. Shhhhhh….she’s coming.

Jimmy & Martha: (wide eyed, curious and excited by this new Thinking Space, they are intrigued and look at each other with raised eyebrows and a sense of approval. The gently nod their heads…giving John the thumbs up!)

Jimmy: (to Martha and John) Best we turn our thinking switches on then guys, here it comes, one of those weird questions and a picture. That Monday morning ‘Thinking Time’

Martha: (with a sad and deflated expression, whispers to the boys) I just can’t turn my brain on when someone else asks me to think, forces me to, when I’m not ‘in the zone and stuff’ it doesn’t work like that……why can’t it be when I want to share my thinking? Ohh….I’m gonna to be rubbish a this…..again!

John: (with a slight urgency in his rocking motion towards them, reaches into his bag and pulls out two Doodle books for Martha and Jimmy, those Thinking Spaces as he calls them) My nan says, because we are such good friends you two could have one as well and we can see, and share, what we think at different times…..? There was three in a pack anyway…and I thought…great share with you two, my best buddies.

Jimmy & Martha: (Together in an excited voice) Cooooooool.

Getting kids to think (or anyone else for that matter) at a given, prescriptive time, when the curriculum, syllabus or lesson demands it, isn’t the best way of developing the thinking process and trying to get the best from learners. We need to be aware that our thinking processes change on a daily basis depending on our physical, emotional and cognitive state. When getting kids thinking me mindful of these factors, as none of us have ON/OFF Thinking switches in our brains.

However, my top tip for you is to give learners opportunities and experiences of capturing their thinking at different times. This can be in any format. Digital, Doodle Books, Talks, Art, Graffiti Walls, Learning Tiles & Tattoos – any form that helps with the thinking process, which is unique to that individual. We are all the same and yet we are all different.

Our three learners Jimmy, Johnny and Martha, without realising what they were discussing at the time, were being quite philosophical about their own thinking and what works and doesn’t work – sometimes. Talk is good, talking can be thinking in action and yet there is so much more I could share with you….in fact we could be here for weeks on end chatting and debating about ‘thinking’. But, for now I will ask you to think about thinking in a different way, and wonder how you can capture magical moments of creativity, awe and wonder from learners, as well as the critical, logical and reasoning of thinking. Hang on….I’ve had a thought…..

Maybe, some thinking is best kept private!

This article was first published in the September 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine. You can order your free printed copy of the magazine (paying for P&P only) by clicking here.

Nina Jackson is an Education Consultant and leading practitioner in outstanding learning and teaching. Author of ‘Of Teaching, Learning & Sherbet Lemons’ ‘The Little Book of Music for the Classroom’ Twitter: @musicmind Blog: Teach Learn Create (TLC) at She is also Associate Director with Independent Thinking Ltd.

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