Thought that counts

Robert Fisher looks forward to a thinking skills conference

Only 10 per cent of children can contribute more than three words to the literacy hour and only 5 per cent can manage more than five, researchers have found (TES, May 3).

Infant teachers are posing fewer challenging questions and the hour is failing to develop children's thinking skills, the researchers conclude (Pedagogical Dilemmas in the National Literacy Strategy: primary teachers'

perceptions, reflections and classroom behaviour by Eve English, Linda Hargreaves and Jane Hislam. Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol32, No1, 2002).

Part of the trouble is the demand that the literacy hour be "well paced" and taught "with a sense of urgency". This does not encourage thoughtful behaviour. Time needs to be allowed for thinking and exploring ideas. The literacy hour is leaving children tongue-tied. They may be reading the words, but they are not thinking and talking about what they are reading.

This research highlights the importance not only of teaching children to read and write, but also of teaching how to think and how to express the thought.

Good thinking is becoming increasingly important. Computers now do many of the tasks people used to do, leaving us those tasks which demand sophisticated thought. The Department for Education and Skills recognises this, so too do businesses.

The problem is that teachers do not always find it easy putting thinking skills into practice. Where can they go for help? From June 15-19, Harrogate International Centre will host a conference on thinking, "Changing Minds" (details are at www.changing-minds.org.uk). Experts such as Howard Gardner and Edward de Bono will share their methods for teaching thinking.

If the conference persuades teachers to give children more time to reflect, it will have contributed to developing more thoughtful and articulate citizens of the future.

Robert Fisher is director of the Centre for Research in Teaching Thinking at Brunel UniversityEmail: robert.fisher@brunel.ac.uk www.teachingthinking.net

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