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Thinking Through Modern Foreign Languages is a hugely important new publication which helps teachers and pupils make sense of what goes on in the languages classroom. Teaching thinking is definitely not ‘teach, test, tick’; rather it provides strategies that challenge and motivate pupils, that put enjoyment and intellectual stimulation into teaching and learning.

This book helps language teachers to improve their practice, make lessons more exciting and challenging for all concerned, and make pupils better learners. It connects theory and practice. The nine strategies have been classroom tested by teachers in a wide range of different contexts. There is a body of theory that both helps to explain why the strategies work and how they can be exploited to maximum value. They provide a huge stimulus for professional development – they create enthusiasm, new ideas, the need to collaborate and to find out more about pupils’ learning.

The thinking strategies are deeply embedded in the National Curriculum and other national strategies which stress a focus for pupils on ‘knowing how’ as well as ‘knowing what’ – Learning how to learn. The five National Curriculum identified thinking skills of information-processing; reasoning skills; enquiry skills; creative thinking skills; evaluation skills are fully covered as are the key skills of communication; working with others; improving one’s own learning and performance and problem solving. The cross-curricular benefits of Thinking Through Modern Foreign Languages are identified for Citizenship and PSHE.

Teaching thinking contributes in quite spectacular ways to the Breadth of Study prescribed for pupils during Key Stages 3 & 4 through:

  • Communicating in the target language in pairs and groups, and with their teacher.
  • Expressing and discussing personal feelings and opinions.
  • Producing and responding to different types of spoken and written language.
  • Using the target language creatively and imaginatively.

Thinking Through Modern Foreign Languages provides opportunities to promote Thinking Skills through:

  • Developing pupils’ ability to draw inferences from unfamiliar language and unexpected responses.
  • Enabling pupils to reflect on the links between languages.
  • Developing pupils’ creative use of language and expression of their own ideas, attitudes and opinions.

Thinking Through Modern Foreign Languages opens up many possibilities for teachers and pupils and that in itself is liberating:

  • Opportunities for exploratory talk, both in and about the target language.
  • Giving pupils the space to think out loud, to make mistakes, to learn from each other.
  • Moving away from the transactional type of language and the rote learning that has tended to dominate language learning for too long.
  • Moving towards opportunities for meaningful interaction in the language and engagement with the language at more than a superficial level.

The diagnostic value of Thinking Skills lessons helps teachers to do their job more efficiently. Lesons which ‘take the lid off’ how children think and learn, free teachers to make informed choices about how and when they might best intervene to take learning forward.

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