Students need to think for themselves

There is a Love and Logic principle that I have been trying lately. It mostly comes up when students ask me a question about Spanish outside of class or during brief independent work. When they ask me a question about what something means, I usually respond with, “What do you think?” I don’t say this in a sarcastic tone, but a friendly tone that encourages them to really think about it again.

I would say that 8 out of 10 times the students know the answer already, they just need a little push to think on their own. This is such an important skill that leads to deeper processing of the language. It causes them to dig deep into what has been acquired and draw it out of the well. I wonder what kind of meaning is being established during this time? Maybe more than we know.

This should not be confused with giving translations for words during storytelling. This is the quickest and easiest way to define new words and is necessary for the sake of time. We challenge students to think for themselves in times of independent work, whether it is inside or outside of the classroom.

I find that when I give my students the answers all the time, they become handicapped. Enabling students to think for themselves is something that needs to be encouraged in our schools today. We are not there to give all the answers, but to encourage students to develop their own process of thinking. In terms of teaching a World Language, this is also important because we are teaching students to go through their index of words. It is a way of empowering them to be active agents in their own learning.

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4 Comments

Filed under Teaching Discoveries

4 responses to “Students need to think for themselves

  1. Ben

    Yes and that is why I cringe when I hear teachers during a story SAY the L1 word within seconds of saying it in L2. That teacher is training the kids to just avoid any thinking because they know the English is coming in a few seconds. If the teacher could just do two things, the entire method for them would change:

    1. they should NOT say the word but rather insist that the kids either a) register that they understand through their eyes or with “ahh!” or b) ask with “what does ___ mean?”

    2. as soon as it has been ascertained that even one kid in the room doesn’t get it (the kid who has asked what it means) the teacher should go to the board and WRITE the word (not say it!) and point to it and pause and then move on, because when you look at them after the killer Point and Pause TPRS skill, you will KNOW that they know it, and that without the auditory, only the visual, use of English. There IS a difference.

    What if you sense that a kid doesn’t get it but didn’t ask? GO NO FURTHER IN THE CLASS. Stop, walk over to the kid, and say, “What did I just say?” If the kid can’t say it (usually they can’t), you remind them about the “what does ___ mean” rule, and in a few days that kid will be in the flow of the class, because they know that they will get a friendly visit from you. Kids who space and try to ignore me are dead meat in my classes, as they meet my cheerful smile (that the class can see) and steely look (that only they can see).

    • thomasyoung

      Ben,
      You bring up such great points. It also reminds me of taking the time to pause and point after we write in order to give the students a chance to process.
      Today, I experimented with both and I found that there was way more impact when all I did was pause and point. It sends a strong message when we do not speak English in our class, especially when the students are coding what they hear in L2. It keeps the flow going.
      Thanks for your comments!

  2. As far as learning another language, is concerned, can I put in a word for the international language, Esperanto?

    Although Esperanto is a living language, it helps language learning as well.

    Five British schools have introduced Esperanto in order to test its propaedeutic values. The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester and the initial encouraging results can be seen at http://www.springboard2languages.org/Summary%20of%20evaluation,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf
    You might also like to see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670

    Confirmation can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

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