Teaching Strategies: How to Enhance a Child’s Thinking


Cindy (education consultant) asks:

How can you interact with young children in a way that stretches their thinking?

Dr. Marion Blank answers:

Enhancing a child’s thinking is a goal that is high on parents’ agendas. For years, in an effort to achieve it, there has been a growing trend of asking children lots of questions. The rationale? “Questions make children think.” More commonly, the reality is quite the opposite.  Questioning is what lawyers do to make people uncomfortable. Not surprisingly, it has a similar effect on children. Fortunately, there is a wonderful, albeit underused, alternative. It is speaking to children in comment, or statement, form instead of ‘speaking via questions.’ It’s what you do most of the time when talking with people you are comfortable with and trust. In essence, it’s creating a conversation.

With questioning reduced (but not eliminated), children love to converse with adults and hear what adults have to say. One of the special areas for them is to have the adult share experiences (such as what their own childhoods were like). For example, over dinner time or at bedtime, the adult can talk about the differences between the past and the present (e.g., “when I was little, we used to ….”). Essentially, in contrast to homework or daily chores, it is chatting about realms that are of no pressing concern but which at the same time, are different and intriguing. The situation offers many advantages. These include broadening the children’s base of information and giving children the freedom to put questions to the adult. As with any new mode of interaction, it may take a bit of time for this pattern to become smooth. But within a few weeks, the effects can be amazing. All kinds of new ideas are raised and it all takes place with a sense of ease that endless sets of questions can never match.

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