If the hat fits ...

11th November 2005 at 00:00
In the belief that "creativity" extends beyond the traditional subjects of art and literacy, I have found that a very effective way of encouraging thinking skills with primary children is through the use of Edward de Bono's "Thinking Hats". It has been particularly effective in geography and science.

I initially got the idea from an inspirational creative writing course run by headteacher John Fowler. For the uninitiated, the hats offer a way in to different modes of thinking and are widely used as problem-solving tools in industry and business. I always refer to the old adage "put your thinking caps on". To make the ideas clearer to the children I have made coloured hats from laminated card attached to pea sticks and we use them as a visual tool to encourage thinking skills in a variety of subject areas.

These sit in containers on tables. The hats can be defined as follows:

l White Hat: related to facts and figures.

* Red Hat: related to feelings and emotions.

* Black Hat: related to problems and difficulties (pessimistic outlook).

* Green Hat: related to creative ideas.

* Yellow Hat: related to an optimistic outlook or bright future.

My class of Year 3 and 4 children were studying the local area (Windsor) and brainstorming facts we already knew. One child said: "It's a nice place to live." This gave me the opportunity to say: Ah! That is your opinion, not strictly a fact. You are telling us how you feel, so you are now using Red Hat thinking!" We then had a very interesting discussion about the drawbacks of living in a tourist town. We were now well and truly into Black Hat thinking. This led us to be creative in order to devise solutions for these problems. Should we have different rates of parking for residents? Should we build more out-of-town car parks? The children identified these ideas as Green Hat thinking. It did not take a great step for them to realise that, if their plans worked, the outlook would be more optimistic and sunny - Yellow Hat thinking.

We charted the thinking into columns on the whiteboard. Although simplifying de Bono's ideas, this encouraged children to think in different ways and extended creativity .

We have used the hats in so many subjects that one lower-ability child said recently, in the middle of a piece of descriptive work: "I've finished my White Hat thinking now, Miss Gregory, and I'm on to my Green hat thinking!"

Michelle Gregory Literacy co-ordinatorsenior teacher Oakfield First School, Windsor and Maidenhead LEA

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