Embedding Thinking Skills

I was recently assigned to teach a year 8 class called “Project of Innovation” (8PI). It’s a semester long subject designed to get students to develop their thinking skills, and then use those skills to design and build a toy for prep students. It’s a fantastic program, and I’m so excited to be on the team teaching it this semester, but the most exciting thing for me is that it’s inspiring me to embed the thinking skills I’m teaching to my year 8s into my year 9 geography classes.

The thinking skills (or strategies) we are covering in 8PI this semester include:

  1. Mind Mapping
  2. Y Charts
  3. LOTUS Diagram
  4. SWOT Analysis
  5. SCAMPER
  6. BAR
  7. De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats
  8. Circle of Viewpoints
  9. Decision-Making Matrix
  10. Human Continuum

So far in year 9 geography I have managed to incorporate Mind Mapping, Y Charts, and a SWOT Analysis. I used the same resources I use in 8PI to unpack the concepts for my students. I modelled an example on the board and we talked about the strengths of each thinking skill. I then gave the students scenarios in which to use the skills to create a deeper understanding. For example…

Mind Mapping Example:
We used mind mapping to map out the different types of biomes and sub-biomes. This can be quite a tricky concept to understand, due to the fact that there are many layers and lots of terminology to confuse. The mind map allowed for a really clear picture showing how everything is connected.

Y Chart Example:
I was aiming to get my students to empathise and understand what living without food security might be like. I asked my students to create two Y Charts, one for a person that lives in food security, and the other for a person that doesn’t. The simple act of imagining what it might “look like, sound like, feel like” was enough to really get them thinking. It was a really powerful activity.

SWOT Analysis Example:
We had been talking about the droughts in Queensland and New South Wales, and the impact they were having on the farmers and rural communities. I asked the students to create a SWOT Analysis of Australia’s food production. It was interesting to see and hear the conversations that were sparked by thinking about what Australia is currently doing when it comes to agriculture, and the creative ideas the girls came up with for the future of agriculture in Australia. They made sure they paid particular attention to the threats and how they could best be overcome with technology advancements and government policies.

I have enjoyed watching the girls work with these new skills, and am surprised by how something so simple has given them so much more freedom in their thinking. They have instigated some interesting discussions and been challenged to ask some tough questions. I hope to incorporate the Decision-Making Matrix skill into their upcoming assessment item to challenge them further, and I’m looking forward to seeing how I might fit the other skills in, or revisit the ones we’ve already done before the end of the year.

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