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Learning Tools

CoRT Thinking Skills (©Edward de Bono)

Edward DeBono has developed a wide range of resources to help with the development of thinking skills in students. The resources and approaches have been developed through CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust).
Some of the skills developed through the CoRT programme include the following:
* PMI - thinking of the pluses, minuses and interesting points of ideas, suggestions, proposals
* Thinking of the consequences of short, medium, long term actions
* Prioritizing e.g. relevant factors, objectives, consequences
* Decision making
* Seeing other points of view
* Recognising evidence that is weak, strong or key
* Challenging existing ways of doing things
* Solving problems by thinking about problem requirements

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Six Thinking Hats (©Edward de Bono)

Edward de Bono has another major strategy which is highly effective in practice. His 'Six Thinking Hats' encourages students to consider different perspectives of a problem, idea or situation by wearing a different coloured hat - either figuratively or literally. The hats are labelled as follows:
* The White Hat = the objective facts
* The Red Hat = emotions, feelings, hunches and intuitions
* The Black Hat = disadvantages, difficulties and negative realities
* The Yellow Hat = advantages and benefits
* The Green Hat = creative improvement
* The Blue Hat = metacognition The six hats method can be taught directly as part of a thinking skills programme or can be incorporated into curriculum areas. It provides a simple and practical way of showing that thinking is a skill that can be learned practiced and improved.

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Brainstorming is used widely in schools at all levels in all curriculum areas. Many variations have developed in the way in which it is used and recorded. The basic method is as follows:
1. Write or draw the main idea in the centre of a blank page inside an oval shape.
2. Scatter words or phrases randomly all over the page as you think of them or as they are offered if in a group situation.
3. Don't stop to discuss or decide whether or not the words are appropriate at this stage.
4. All contributions from the group accepted and recorded.
5. It is quite acceptable to 'freewheel', 'hitchhike' or 'piggyback' i.e. build on the ideas of others - this is a working together exercise.
6. Continue until all possibilities have been exhausted - note that the lateral ideas and thoughts often come out in the last few minutes.

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Graphic Organisers

There are a huge number of graphic organisers. Graphic organisers may give students the opportunity to show their thinking in a visual way, and may be relatively unstructured, such as mind maps, or may provide a structure within which students can organise their thinking. Graphic organisers may be used for research, planning or reflection and metacognition. Students should be encouraged to try a range of different organisers and to reflect on how useful they find these. Different organisers appeal to different people.
Some well known Graphic Organisers:
* Fish bones
* Mind mapping
* Web
* concept mapping
* T-chart
* Venn diagram
* Matrix
* Effects or consequences wheel
* Flowchart
* Structured overview
* Spider diagram


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Bloom's Taxonomy

Although Bloom's Taxonomy was first designed in 1956 as a guide for writing instructional objectives it is still a very valuable model for considering thinking skills and is a useful guide for checking whether students' thinking is being extended to a higher level. There are six levels of thinking in the model.
Six levels of Bloom's Taxonomy

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Gardner's Multiple Intelligences

Gardener's theory includes strategies that cater for the range of human intellect so that students may be supported in their domain of giftedness. He cites nine relatively independent intelligences described below.
The Intelligences:
Visual/ Spatial: learning visually and organising things spatially; might include charts, graphs, maps, tables, illustrations, art, puzzles, costumes - anything eye catching.
Verbal/ Linguistic: the language arts; speaking, writing, reading and listening.
Mathematical/ Logical: an aptitude for numbers, reasoning and problem, solving.
Bodily/ Kinesthetic: learning through activity: games, movement, hands-on tasks and building.
Musical/ Rhythmic: learning through songs, patterns, rhythms, instruments and musical expression.
Intrapersonal: in touch with own feelings, values and ideas, intuition.
Interpersonal: people oriented and outgoing, learning cooperatively in groups or with a partner.
Naturalist: loving the outdoors, animals, field trips, environmentally aware.
Existentialist: curiosity about where humankind stands in the 'big picture' of existence.

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A thinking strategy allowing the creative treatment of ideas:
S: Substitute: Have a person or object act or serve in another's place
C: Combine: Bring together or unite
A: Adapt: Adjust to suit a condition or purpose
M: Modify/ Magnify: Change in form or quality, enlarge or make smaller, slower
P: Put to other uses: Use for alternative purposes
E: Eliminate: Remove or omit a quality, part or whole
R: Rearrange: Change order or adjust; create new layout or scheme
Scamper can be used within any subject area as a way of encouraging different perspectives on creative responses, social issues and problem solving. Students may be taught to use it when they are not sure what to do next, whether in a creative writing exercise, a dance or drama activity, or in attempting to solve a problem.

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William's Taxonomy

There are eight skills covered by William's taxonomy, four are based on cognitive skills and four on affective skills.
The four cognitive skills relate to the four basic skills of creativity:
Fluency: The generation of many ideas, responses, answers, solutions to a given situation/ problem.
Flexibility: The generation of a range of different alternatives, variations, adaptations, different ideas/ solutions/ options.
Originality: The generation of new, unique and novel responses/ solutions.
Elaboration: The expansion, enlargement, enrichment or embellishment of an idea to make it easier for others to understand or to make it more interesting.
The four affective skills:
Risk taking: Experimenting, trying new challenges.
Complexity: The ability to create structure/ order out of chaos to bring logical order to a given situation and/or see the missing parts.
Curiosity: The ability to wonder, ponder, contemplate or puzzle.
Imagination: The ability to build mental pictures, visualise possibilities and new things or reach beyond practical limits.

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Thinkers Keys

Developed by Tony Ryan in Australia, Thinkers Keys are twenty thinking strategies designed to encourage divergent thinking. Each key comes with a justification which explains to teachers and students why this is an important skill to develop.
The keys are:
* The Reverse
* The What if
* The Disadvantages
* The Combination
* The BAR
* The Alphabet
* The Variations
* The Picture
* The Prediction
* The Different Uses
* The Ridiculous
* The Commonality
* The Question
* The Brainstorming
* The Inventions
* The Brick Wall
* The Construction
* The Forced Relationships
* The Alternative
* The Interpretation
* The What If - What if all ships were powered by wind power?
* The Disadvantage - List all the disadvantages of a fishing rod. For each disadvantage, develop at least one improvement.
* The Combination - List the attributes of a surfboard and a videotape. Combine them to make a new object

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Surface Skimming

Examples of Surface Skimming.
Write a story
Paint a picture
Create a role play
Write a poem
Make a collage
Make a graph
Make a game Debate a topic
Write a song
Listen to music
Read about...
Interview a....
Gather facts about...
Design a...
Make a crossword
Make a puppet show
List the attributes of...
Write a Book review
Do a project on...
Create a chart
All of these activities, while interesting, are low level activities,
.... UNLESS ...
specific instructions accompany them which demand Higher Order thinking.

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Diving Deeper

Some Examples:
Write a Story: ...that illustrates the disadvantages of... and a potential modification of...
...that justifies the choices made by...
...that shows the decisions that would have to be made when...
...shows the conflicts that arise when...Write an investigation on:...the disadvantages of...
...the choices made by... and decide whether or not you agree
...the decisions that were made when...and the consequences of alternate choices that could have been made
...the conflicts that arise when... and ways in which the conflict could be resolved...Paint a picture:...that illustrates the disadvantages of...
...that illustrates the choices made by...
...that shows the outcome of what might happen if...
...that portrays the feelings expressed by...
Explain your picture
And the research that led you to portray it in that fashion Prepare to debate by researching OPVs on 'X' topic
...examine the facts and look for supporting evidence ...look for contradictory evidence ...argue convincing from the other person's point of view
...find 'holes' in your argument ...reverse brainstorm the moot ...would your conclusions be the same?

Create a role play:...that illustrates the disadvantages of... and shows a possible outcome of a decision...that illustrates the choices made by... and the factors that may have led them to that point ...shows the range of emotional responses that arise when... occurs
Gather evidence about "X": use as evidence in a mock trial disprove a well accepted theory ...imagine if an opposite event had occurred: gather facts that could support this theory and argue why they could prove it true

Use Bloom's & William's taxonomies to dive deeper into the topic

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