Monday, 23 September 2013

Donna White: A LIttle Ramble about developing our Thinking

Karyn’s Introduction:

In our second year we made a strategic decision to establish a reception class where students would go upon entry to school until they were ready to cope with the rigours of the junior classroom. Some of our students are in the reception class for less than a term. Others remain for significantly longer.

We have been fortunate to have found Donna who is a talented teacher able to orient these young learners into the experience of being at school.

Donna shares a story with us about helping these youngest learners develop thinking skills

 A little ramble on how we are developing our thinking skills within our learning discoveries – using  Mr Edward de Bono’s thinking hats.
“Oh Cool – Michael Jackson”  – was the first expression of joy I heard,  as I unpacked a series of brightly coloured glittery hats that I was introducing to the children….
“Oh Cool, Can I wear it,?”  .. immediately we were trying on the red, black, yellow, green, blue and white hats, and making Michael Jackson moves…”Mrs White watch me…I’m Michael Jackson!”. The black one seemed to be the most popular, followed by the red, and white one…. 
Now that we were excited about wearing the hats., I was about to embark on developing our thinking habits and values, that I had no idea how would work with 5 year olds., as the whole school’s curriculum development is based on using Solo taxonomy, I was fairly terrified that I didn’t really know how to incorporate Solo with 5 year olds, as I wasn’t sure how to base programming on developing depth of thinking,   
So here we are two terms later…developing understandings and concepts through our discovery time, shared reading literacy, and guided reading activities, and most excitingly,  the  children are  beginning to relate the kinds of thinking back into their own experiences.  Let me explain…
Throughout the shared book activities of the week, we have been discovering that in every story there are characters who often have big problems to work out.   In order to sort out the issues, we put on our problems hat – the Black hat, and discuss all the problems that are associated in the stories.  We then relate this to ourselves, and put on the red hat to discuss feelings, and develop the language to express these feelings.  The exciting development that I have observed lately is that after interval or break times, the children have been coming in to report – “Mrs White, I had a problem during lunch time”  “Oh dear”  I say, “Shall we put on the black hat?”,  
“Yes, and we need the red one too”  
“Right of course” I say.  The scenario gets discussed, and parties associated have turns talking about their issues, and feelings, then we make a plan for how to sort things out.  Voila – Oh the joys of discovering how to solve our issues!!!
Our red hat, and black hat thinking skills have been the basis of building our values systems within our classroom, and how we solve problems throughout the day.  It has been wonderful to hear children develop an empathy for how others might feel, as they are getting used to discussing emotions with their red hat thinking skills.
Our white hat thinking is the one we do the most when we are focussing on listening to our nonfiction stories, and writing our recounts.  Being able to recall the true things, and discuss facts like maths equations we know.  We enjoy this kind of thinking, because we can remember things straight away, and understand that we have learned facts.  We relate all of our remembering punctuation like full stops, capital letters, phonics spelling, to our white hat. 
Developing our use of the blue hat, planning hat, and green hat new ideas has been really exciting, as we discover that often in our weekly shared books, the characters have a problem, we are able to put on our new ideas = green hat, and our planning blue hat to sort out new ideas.  This week we read a story about a King, who had a mouse in his house.  We figured out that the King, didn’t even have a “plan “to catch his mouse, like we would.   All he did was look, and yell about the place for people to find the mouse.  Well!!!  We put on our new ideas hat, and thought about all the ways we could catch a mouse, and as we are also learning about “inventions” through our theme for the term, we thought we could plan how to make a mouse trapper…We decided that the King should have made a trap, and put some bait on it – he wasn’t really a very clever king after all.  So, we had a talk about the mice we had experienced in our short 5 years of age, but even we knew that you can catch them with a trap – or at least use your cat!!!
We are discovering that we can use our hats for all of our group work, discussions, developing all of our think, pair share activities, throughout the basis of what kind of thinking we are doing at the time.  As I develop greater understanding of what the hats represent, I am able to let “Go” of some of my pre-conceived understandings of where our learning will go for the day, and discover with the children how to create and deepen our thinking.  Keeping up with the discussions, and learning how to question children is becoming fascinating.  I take of my hat to Mr Edward deBono, and celebrate the joy of seeing children make connections and develop their own confidence in thinking and expressing themselves.

Donna White


  1. Having seen the hats in action, it's always a pleasure to go into your class and see students so involved and enthusiastic about their learning!

  2. I especially like how you are prepared to learn new ideas with your students. Thanks for the great example.

  3. And hats off to you for the unbridled joy you take in teaching.