Angela K. Salmon is a professor of early childhood education. She was featured in FIU’s Worlds Ahead ad series in The Miami Herald last May.
A good teacher is always engaging children in thinking, fostering their curiosity and valuing their right to play. Big discoveries, big inventions come from people who were able to play.We need to teach children for a globally competitive world. That demands a lot of creativity, good communication, thinking skills, and problem solving. If teachers have high expectations with young children, they will provide high-level thinking activities. I started Visible Thinking about eight years ago at FIU in my classes. After two years, the students who took this course came back and wanted to continue learning. We started a learning community with three students, and now we have 50 students and teachers. The first part of making thinking visible is to unleash children’s thinking. We capture evidence of their thinking with notes, photos or video and then discuss how thinking is taking place in that activity. This is the teacher-researcher perspective. Because young children are concrete learners and thinking is invisible, the teachers have to be creative. For example, using a metaphor like a thinking key to tell the children: “Let me unlock your thinking,” creates the disposition for thinking in a child. They then become aware of their thinking and learn how to learn. We have found that by engaging children in high-level thinking they are learning to think globally. We use children’s literature to awaken children’s desire to understand the world around them. They end up discussing peace and they make connections to their lives. They say, “People are fighting because they don’t know how to use their words.” What makes me proud is that we are building a thinking community. Students don’t graduate and say goodbye. That’s teaching – a lifelong learning experience.