Local Educator Wants to Get Students Thinking

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Raleigh

If you're visiting the playground at Meadow Glens Elementary School and a disagreement occurs over who gets a ball, you could well be impressed with the way those kids work it out.

Instead of arguing, the students might talk about options and what should be the criteria to determine who gets the ball.

Principal Mary Anne Kiser really appreciates the times when she overhears Meadow Glen students using thinking and creativity skills that she and her staff have helped hone.

Kiser has witnessed these student discussions on the playground and in classrooms when classmates determine who gets a favored reading spot.

Another time, a father recounted a story of a dinnertime discussion about whether to make a car purchase. His Meadow Glens second-grader piped up to say that it might help to list your options and judge them.

Kiser has been keenly interested in thinking skills for many years. Several years ago she served on the thinking skill committee in District 203.

At the same time, she spearheaded efforts to infuse problem-solving techniques at Meadow Glens. Robert Swartz, the director of the National Center for Teaching Thinking, was invited to assist with staff development.

"In that process, he not only presented lessons, but coached in writing, observed and provided feedback in use of strategy and ideas." Kiser explained.

As it turns out, not only did he assist the staffers in their efforts, they returned the favor. Having success with critical thinking strategies as a staff and in the classroom, Swartz asked Kiser and District 203 teachers Traci Whipple, Gina Blaisdell and Jacqueline Larisey to co-author a series of books that deal with teaching critical and creative thinking in the language arts.

The first book, written by Swartz, Kiser and Texas teacher Rebecca Reagon, was recently published. "Teaching Critical & Creative Thinking in Language Arts," is geared toward grades five and six. Kiser said the main focus of the book and its lessons is "to get kids to be more analytical and suspend judgment."

She said children discover that there are more options than "going with your gut." The book contains numerous lessons about teaching others to define the problem, list possible solutions, and analyze consequences and values of possible solutions. …