KOTSESOL (part 3) Herbert Putcha on thinking and young learners

N.b. I’m going to make these write-ups slightly shorter than my last one as I realised just how long it would take to do otherwise. If I did a full write-up I’d forget what people said by the time I got to the end of Sundays talks. If you want more detail about anything drop a comment in the box below and I’ll try and help.

Herbert Puchta – teaching young learners to think

The next talk after Mike Long’s was Herbert Puchta on teaching young learners to think. I think I lucked out finding it because I wasn’t really sure what to see but it turned out to be very relevant to me  It was a really good presentation. He opened by saying that students are so bombarded by information that it can be very tempting to do the same to them in the classroom with all singing all dancing lessons. His perspective was that if young learners are engaged emotionally engaged they’ll enjoy classes. (He proved this by citing some studies that show that emotional engagement in class causes dopamine to be released. I’m pretty sure that you don’t need neuroscience to show that though.)

To make lessons emotionally engaging you should make them meaningful. Lots of lessons aren’t meaningful, for example in the dialogues they use. If you ask ‘What colour is my tie? What colour is my suit?’ and so on, you’re not really having a meaningful conversation. He pointed out if you asked these questions on the street people would think you were really weird. Instead of asking about tie colours he suggested giving students blank CDs and ask them what colours they can see reflected (refracted?) when it’s held up to the light.

Colours in a CD

By engaging learners different thinking skills we also emotionally engage them, and so they can learn more in our classes.  He gave a list of all of the thinking skills he’d identified, but the one he spoke about most was imagination. We should, for example, set gap fills with lots of possible answers where they can be imaginative. He did give some more examples and you can have a look at them here.

The talk was really good, even though the conclusion was make lessons emotionally engaging and let kids use their imagination which isn’t that controversial. It was nice to see it delivered from a neuroscience point of view. Afterwards I bought his Teaching Young Learners to Think book. I’ve used it a few times in the last week and it seems pretty good so far. I’m sure I’ll do a full review in the future.

Questions to think about

The talk wasn’t that contentious to be honest, although I’m not that sure how much of a ‘real thing’ neuroscience actually is. So, what was one time you really emotionally engaged learners in your class? How did you do it? What was the result?