The best thing that parents can do to support their children for success in school isn’t helping them with their science project or in figuring out fractions. Those are, of course, terrific ways to convey to children the value of school success. However, these content-rich activities are most educational when the conversation that goes along with them is not about the homework grade or remembering a particular concept for an exam.
The whole idea of talking with youngsters during homework time or any time is most productively guided by the goal of teaching them to talk about themselves in relation to new information or ideas, to self-express about how something fits into their lives…or how it doesn’t. Well-meaning parents and teachers can find themselves quizzing children about facts gleaned from reading or focusing upon getting correct answers to other people’s questions. In doing so, however, they can end up losing their kid’s interest.
It is axiomatic that our favorite spoken word is the sound of our own names. This isn’t selfishness in the negative sense. It’s self-awareness. Who is more interesting than US, after all?!
That is a valuable lever in working with children or older students, and of course, even adults. That we might recognize a major connection between two historical or story events is only worth knowing if kids can somehow see themselves and their lives in that connection. This mental act, above all, will enhance retention and even application of any new learning. Otherwise, things can solidify into trivial and isolated bits of information, destined to quickly fade. To make new information enduringly ours, we must extrapolate beyond long ago events or abstract concepts to create a personal link that helps us to understand our current world. This is most likely to occur when we talk personally about it with others. Instructionally, this means that EVERY child has something unique to contribute.
To identify and articulate the kinds of language that evoke personal understandings of ideas and events outside of ourselves, and to develop the deeper and richer meanings from what is available to all in any experience, we need questions that include the word YOU (the learner). Guiding the development of this type of deep thinking is really about getting children to think about themselves in the world and building personal connections to expand new information into personal information.
Guidance for conversation about shared books or events suggests stepping back from them and exploring their personal significance. When children learn to think deeply, it means they have learned to reflect upon how things impact their lives beyond a particular lesson or school.
The prevalence of the word YOU in the advanced levels of critical thinking shown in the above diagram is a clear indication of how the path to developing a life of informed thought is centrally self-reflection. The more complex the thinking, the more YOU appears.
So…let’s talk about YOU!