ThinkWise is an Early Years thinking curriculum. The curriculum is introduced over three months, and consist of 10 thinking strategies and 50 activities that enable teachers to support the development of critical and creative thinking skills in children, aged 5 – 7.
The programme is easily integrated in any existing curriculum, and after the completion of the programme, teachers can continue to develop their own activities to ensure that the strategies become embedded in the classroom culture that promotes thinking. The programme provides extension activities for parents to be implemented at home. It is essential that parents and caregivers are involved and reinforce the use of strategies in different situations and environments in which the young learners find themselves.
Neuroscience has proven that windows of opportunity exist in young children’s brains to build the basis for neural networks that will determine thinking patterns and the effectiveness of future learning. This is why we develop ThinkWise.
Thinking skills can be taught and it is essential that we intervene at an early age, and equip our young children with structures that will help them to think effectively and grow their thinking skills exponentially in the future. At the same time, we know that thinking and emotions are linked, ThinkWise therefore also supports the development of social and emotional skills – which are both widely recognised as essential to future success in learning and relationships with others.
We saw how the staff development, that we had to work so hard at, became a natural consequence of the teachers involvement in the ThinkWise Curriculum. At first teachers said that what they are facilitate in ThinkWise was part of what we did in Staff Development but as they progressed they learned and applied new strategies. We stood amazed at the learning opportunities that teachers could facilitate during lessons. This is that part that I appreciate the most about the ‘ThinkWise effect’.
We observed that learner involvement during lessons increased. There was an opportunity for learners to participate and internalize information.
Learners became more aware of Emotional Intelligence as it is integrated in ThinkWise activities. The collaboration in learning opportunities, supports learners to communicate better with each other.
We saw a drop in learners reporting bullying of hurtful things that are said to each other. Since 2020 we did not have one disciplinary hearing in this phase. It improved discipline and self-worth of learners as they can now voice their opinion in a safe environment.
With the return of learners to school in the 2021 academic year we experienced a challenge with new learners taking longer to adapt to their new environment than in the years before. Our ThinkWise learners were able to come up with strategies as how to make them feel safe and support their peers in saying what made them feel unsettled. Some learners came up with self-reflection quotes of doubt and fear. It was great to hear the conversations; Why do you feel like that? Tell me more? What do you think about the school? What do you see? What do you wonder about?
During 2020 we had challenges with learners having to attend school at 50% on alternative days. As soon as we were back to 100% attendance we had time available to start actively with the program.
We experienced 14.2 % in learner growth in numbers. The word is spreading that thinking skills are being practiced as a way of learning at our school.
Normally in South Africa the jump from Foundation to Intermediate Phase is a challenge for many learners. In the transition grade, we experience learners failing their grade. We had a 100% Pass rate in our Grade 4 classes at the end of 2020.
Creativity increased in the way learners solve challenges as they have a range of strategies learned in the ThikWise program to support critical and creative thinking.
Communication improved between parents and children as the ThinkWise Parent Pack facilitates the start of conversation. Many parents appreciate this part very much as the art of communication gets lost in the business of a day.
In collaborating with our parents, it adds value to the strategies we use in class and extends thinking strategies and skills within our community as well.
ThinkWise became part of our way of learning at Motheong. We thought about it and want to extend this opportunity to as many schools as we can in our area. It will change our community in the years to come.
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