Case study 6: Using thinking sheets to support answering in sentences
Teacher-researcher Carla Brierley says “every child can explain their ideas in a sentence.”
Identified need: Carla wanted to support all children, including those who need longer to process information, so that they could formulate sentences and take part in small group or whole class discussions.
The Approach: Carla created symbol and word sheets to accompany Odd One Out activities which she called 'thinking sheets / mats'. These have a sentence template which allow children who are not literate, or have low levels of literacy, to give a reason for their selection by circling the symbols. Carla uses the colourful semantics approach recommended by speech and language specialists in other subjects across the curriculum. She incorporated this into the Explorify ‘thinking sheets’. Here is a completed example for Defying Gravity:
Responding to the needs of each child, Carla varies the sheet’s level of challenge by adding more options and some ‘red herrings’ as shown here:
Carla gives other children, who do not need a thinking sheet, a white board so they can ‘keep hold’ of their ideas by jotting them down. She gives all children two minutes thinking time (using a timer) without any discussion. This allows supporting adults to work with the children using the thinking sheets.
After the thinking time, Carla targets her initial questions to the children with the thinking sheets so that they share their own ideas rather than drawing on the ideas of other children. To keep the focus on sharing ideas, if there is a scientific misconception or disagreement, she writes a note on the board so the class can revisit and explore that later.
Giving children thinking time and providing some children with thinking sheets means that every child can give an answer with a reason. Children who previously gave me one-word responses are formulating much better-quality answers and sharing their opinions. This is something that helps them in other subjects too. On top of that, I can keep the sheets as a record of their understanding.
I’m able to make the sheets individual by selecting between 8-13 words for the child to choose from. The more confident children can cope with having more words on their mat and the challenge of having ‘wrong’ answers included on their thinking sheet too. Here is another example of thinking sheets at two levels: