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Review ~ Teaching Young Learners to Think

A well laid-out, attractive book of material which will develop problem solving and decision making skills in tandem with language skills.
Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kaithe Greene
Teaching Young Learners to Think

Teaching Young Learners to Think

This title is everything I love in a book – easy to use, well laid-out, attractive materials with excellent instructions, and above all activities that actually work well and serve a useful purpose in the EFL classroom!

Photocopiable resource books have been around for some years, and are an invaluable item in the resource centres and libraries of all language schools. Although not a new idea, this one is a little different in that it aims to provide material which will develop problem solving and decision making skills in tandem with language skills. The rationale behind this is twofold. Firstly, the activities aim to engage learners in cognitively-challenging activity – something that is often missing from language courses simply because all our language learners have an intellectual capacity that far exceeds their level in the target language. Secondly, the activities use language to complete non-linguistic tasks, thus creating a genuinely communicative situation, often with real-life-type tasks.

The eleven-page introduction takes us on a conceptual tour of a range of thinking programmes, classroom philosophy and multiple intelligence theory in order to orientate the reader as to how best to exploit the resources to suit their specific teaching/learning context. It makes interesting reading and is a useful introduction to using the book as it is written for teachers of English in a range of institutions catering to primary and lower secondary age learners. Also in the introduction are suggestions about the teacher’s role in teaching thinking, L1 in the EFL classroom and the part error plays in learning.

The activities in this book can be used alongside any text book or course to provide meaningful language practice over a wide range of language areas and thinking skills. The 80 activities in the book are organised into 13 subsections such as comparisons, sequencing, exploring numbers, cause and effect and creative thinking. Each of these subsections begins with a mini introduction outlining the relationship between the thinking and language skills involved in the activities; for example, making comparisons , one of the essentials of decision making is also a necessary subskill of reading because it enables us to recognize the shapes of letters and therefore words.

Some of my favourites are the Cars and Bicycles venn diagram worksheet and the Apples and Oranges mind maps in the Comparisons section. I also found the Word Trees and Sorting Animals worksheets in the Categorising section particularly appealing. The Language Friends activity provides some very interesting work with articles and personal pronouns, and Solving Problems is full of fun with The Ice Cream Machine and The Spy amongst others.

Some of these activities, for example Selecting Presents and What Should We Do in the section on Making Decisions are equally appropriate for use with adult classes at lower levels, and others could easily be adapted for adults.

My only gripe with this book is that the recommended ages and levels, although included in the individual instructions, aren’t listed in the contents at the front of the book. This would have facilitated selection of suitable activities for busy teachers.

This book is for any YL teacher who wants to add some variety, challenge and interest to their classes. The photocopiable worksheets make an excellent addition to the English language learning portfolio, as used in portfolio assessment systems, and could easily be used to form the basis of larger projects and wall displays. Many of the worksheets are also suitable for a range of ages, and others could easily be adapted to suit different age groups.

I confidently predict that using this book will not only stimulate learning in our students, but also give teachers more insight into how learning takes place, and therefore how best to facilitate that process.


Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kaithe Greene
October 2012 | Filed under Young Learners
Having been in the EFL industry for nearly twenty years Kaithe is currently working for Language Link Vietnam where she is Head of Teacher Training and Development. When not working she can be found grannying in Devon or Australia.

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