Teaching people how to think

March 24 2015

I send students home with newspapers and tell them to come ready to discuss one article tomorrow.

Newspapers are incredible learning tools; they don’t carry the “uncool” stigma of textbooks, they’re lightweight and can easily fold into bags and purses and pockets. Not only can papers be scribbled upon (great for note-taking and analysis), they have an inviting quality: “Pick me up! Read me! Pass me on!” I know when newspapers are brought home, it isn’t just the student reading it but family and friends as well.

I stress 6 Ws in these newspaper assignments:

who

what

where

why

when

Instructing my students,

Who wrote it?

What’s the point of the article?

Where does it take place?

Why was the article written?

When was the article written or when did the events take place?

And most importantly,

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

It seems many of my students haven’t been asked this question before. Public schools in Nepal teach obedience and power hierarchy, not critical thinking or self-expression. Unfortunately, even native English speakers aren’t necessarily adept at communicating their own thoughts and opinions.

As you read articles, yes, read them for content, but read between the lines. Formulate your own ideas about the topic at hand. Do you agree or disagree, strongly, or not at all? Why?

The whole point of language is to communicate. To release your thoughts into the world, to express what’s inside. Beyond the grammar, theory and parts of speech, it comes down to expression. Can you express what is in your mind and your heart?