With learning how to learn, the skills to be mastered are basic thinking skills. And your guidance as a parent can make the difference between a child who is an unsure, shaky thinker and one who is alert, perceptive, analytical and imaginative.
COMPARING AND CLASSIFYING
Strong learners don’t just see things, they tink about what they see. Their minds are quick to look for special detail: What makes that item, or plant, or animal, or person (or idea) unique? What makes it similar to other things?
Be alert to opportunities to encourage your child to make comparisons. At a picnick, for example, you might ask, “How are butterflies and birds alike?” “How are they different?” Stretch your child’s thinking with follow-up questions. For instance, “What is different about the wings of birds and butterflies?” You could do the same with “ants and people” or “football and baseball.”
“Classifying” involves a higher level of thinking than “comparing.” Organizing dishes in a cupboard is a classifying activity. In school, children use this skill in every subject. It’s also the essential skill in an activity that most children enjoy, collecting.
Encourage your child to collect anything he or she finds interesting: insects, rocks, ribbons, leaves, stamps, coins, pressed wildflowers, models, trip souvenirs, etc. Organizing a collection into groups and subgroups is a wonderful activity that will help your child become a more disciplined, independent thinker.
DO YOU ASK GOOD QUESTIONS?
A good question can stimulate your child’s thinking. A poor question can have the opposite effect. Avoid questions that can be answered yes or no. Also avoid questions that pressure your child into a certain answer, such as: “Don’t you think…?” “Isn’t it true that…?”
Instead, try to ask open-ended questions that will excite your child’s curiosity and encourage him or her to speculate on what the answer might be: “What do you think dug that hole?” “What will happen if…?”
One more tip: When you ask a question, give your child time to think about a response. Most questioners wait less than one second before they jump in with a comment or another question. If you force yourself to wait three to five seconds (at first it will feel like an eternity) your child’s answer will be much more thoughtful and interesting.