By Dice Wood, Thinking Skills Coordinator, Maidstone Grammar School for Girls
Two years ago at the Thinking Matters conference Christie Ransom (Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Thinking Skills) and I got fired up with an idea of promoting thinking through a festival.
This would give us the opportunity to really push thinking skills within the school community and gather evidence for accreditation at the same time. We have just held our second ‘Festival of Thinking’ and have learned a lot from the last two years that we wanted to share.
Obviously, with the current restrictions in place we were unable to do everything we had dreamed of with the Festival, but nevertheless we were determined to make it happen. We started from the point of thinking about what staff and students needed at the moment (and of course what would help us with our evidence as an Advanced School this September).
Our original plan of big games that all the students could join in had to be put on hold due to 'bubbles' not being able to mix and year groups being separated around the school, so our game of Cluedo from last year is sitting on the shelf ready to be used another time! Instead we had to focus on activities students could do from their form rooms.
We settled on showing Learning How to Learn videos by Barabra Oakley et al in form times, and a blog where students could reflect on how they are using thinking processes in their learning over the two weeks, with prizes (of course) for the best entries. At the end of the two weeks we also held a popular self-marking Thinking Quiz, with a thunk at the end to separate out those who got identical grades, again allowing for a prize in each Key Stage.
With staff we set up a game of Battleships (last year it was bingo), where each staff member (teachers and our support teams) had particular thinking methods to use. They could email evidence of methods being used by students in the classroom, or a written account of what happened and how the student's understanding developed, and in exchange they were awarded points; 1 point for a miss, or 2 for a hit. For teaching staff we based the Battleships ‘boards’ on Thinking Frames and Project Zero Thinking Routines; recognising that our staff are working so hard with Teacher Assessed Grades and dual learning, we wanted them to use methods that require minimal planning and marking, whilst gaining maximum effort and development from students.
For support staff the focus was on Thinking Frames and Habits of Mind, with the aim of helping us to ensure that these skills are embedded throughout the school community. With both an individual and department prize of sticky chocolate cake, we soon learnt who our competitive colleagues were!
Finally we decided to ask our governing body and parents how they use habits of mind and growth mindset in the ‘real world’. We were astounded by the number of responses we received, from such a wide range of professions, and are now looking at creating posters and a book of their advice for current students.
The Festival has once again pushed our Advanced Thinking Skills focus to the forefront of the minds of our school community, whilst giving an opportunity to have fun at the same time. Our only hope is that next year, the inter-year group games can return.
Candice Wood Thinking School Coordinator Maidstone Grammar School for Girls
To find out more about thinking at Maidstone Grammar School visit their website. A pdf about their journey to become a Thinking School can also be seen here and an article looking at their use of thinking schools through G Suite can be seen here.
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