Winnie-the-Pooh often muttered “think, think, think” to himself when trying to solve a problem. Well, in the ACE room we’ve been doing a lot of thinking, we’ve been thinking about our thinking, and then we’ve been talking a lot about our thinking (and hopefully becoming even stronger at thinking!). As I mentioned in my last post, each group of Level 2 ACE students is currently working on an explicit thinking unit.
Third graders, for example, have jumped into a unit on Logical Thinking. In Level 2 Math groups, the kids have solved a variety of puzzles using toothpicks. You’ve no doubt seen problems like them before — remove three toothpicks to leave three congruent squares, or move four toothpicks and create seven squares of different sizes. Once you learn to solve one such puzzle, the others become that much easier. Building on what you already know is a key component of logical reasoning. After all, who would want a doctor who had to look up the symptoms of a cold for every patient who came into the office?! In humanities groups, the discussion has focused on the difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. After learning that with deductive reasoning the answer is right there on the page, the kids set about looking for mystery words in a series of Deducibles puzzles, as well as trying to arrange the toppings on a salad bar according to a set of clues.
Fourth grade Level 2 Humanities students started looking at Symbolic Thinking with the explanation that often really well written stories have three levels to them. In the first level, the Literal Level, everything is just as it seems — if the author writes that there was a man in a red shirt, well, then, there was a man in a red shirt! In the second level, the Inferential Level, making inferences becomes important (this can, at times, be difficult without the proper background knowledge or experience). In the third level, the Symbolic Level, one thing in the story might actually represent something else. We talked about how light and dark are common symbols of good and evil, birds are often a symbol of freedom, and names can reveal a great deal about a character. As we continue to read books over the next several weeks, the kids will be looking for the secret meanings hidden in the text.
Meanwhile Level 2 Math students in fourth grade needed to get started on their Math Olympiad preparations. Each session begins with a “Quick Think” problem. (You’ll see those coming home on 1/2 sheets of paper). Quick Thinks should be solved quickly and easily. If they’re not, then it’s likely the most efficient problem solving method isn’t being employed. We’ll keep working on them so the kids will become even stronger. After the Quick Think, the kids move on to a practice packet made up of past Math Olympiad contest problems. Typically, whatever isn’t finished in class will be completed for homework. For each practice packet, I have a follow-up practice packet which kids can request. The follow-up practice packet uses the exact same formatting as the problems of the original packet, but different numbers.
And last, but definitely not least, fifth grade Level 2 ACE students started their study of Critical Thinking. The big idea from the first lesson is that to be a good critical thinker you need to focus on details, slow yourself down, and read things more than once if necessary. Fifth grade Level 2 Humanities kids definitely figured that out as they solved their first Directive Detective problem. Using a series of complex clues, the kids needed to identify key words on a page. Using a second set of equally complex clues, the words were then arranged into a sentence. If all critical thinking was done accurately, a reasonable sentence emerged. Level 2 Math kids already knew the drill with Math Olympiad so, although they needed to practice as well, they also had time to play the New York Times Daily SET Puzzle — one of my all time favorite critical thinking games!
Next week’s post will focus on what’s happening in the Tiger Pause groups for each grade level. Until then, happy thinking!