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Part 3       Feedback: Pupil and Teacher Reflections on the Thinking Theme Day

Following on from the ‘Thinking Day’ (Thinking Theme Day, Part 1, Thinking Theme Day, Part 2). All the pupils filled in a feedback and reflection form, which was partly based on questions they’re always asked after theme days and partly based on questions we wanted them to think about afterwards. Here’s a summary of the pupils’ answers: (The first three questions are always asked after a theme day.)

1Was the theme day   Great ( 19 ), Good ( 64 ) or Boring ( 39 )? The older children in particular found it boring; the younger ones were enthusiastic. There are probably several reasons for this.

a) The older ones are more resistant to doing things in a different way from usual, especially if they have to work hard at it.

b) Because the groups were from different classes, the older ones had to take responsibility for their groups and sometimes found it hard to control the younger ones, or to get anything out of them – there wasn’t a very equal share of work.

c) Some of the older ones think (or at least say) that everything is boring.

2. What did you learn from the theme day?

To think, to make a poster, how to keep the corridors tidy, to pick up coats from the floor, to keep our indoor shoes in the classroom, to work in a group, that you don’t always need money to solve problems, what the word ‘think’ means. 

One boy wrote, ‘ I learned that if you really, really think about something, you can eventually find a solution.’ But another wrote, ‘ I learned that some things are too difficult even for children to solve.’

3. What was the best thing about the theme day?

Making new friends, working in a group, making a poster, thinking together, juice and biscuits, breaks, no homework.

4. What was easy?

Working in a group, making the poster

5. What was difficult?

Thinking,  thinking up a name for the group, finding the solution, making the poster.

6. What helped you to find a solution?

Talking to friends, group discussion, the aim on the wall and the limitations on the wall, the chart about the reasons on the blackboard, listening. Above all they felt it was very useful to be solving the problem in a group.

7. Which of the solutions presented in the assembly hall did you think was best and why?

They liked a variety of solutions and gave reasons such as, ‘It’s a good idea.’, ‘It would keep the corridor tidy.’, ‘It didn’t cost anything.’, ‘It was funny’, ‘It gave the problems and the solutions.’, ‘There were good pictures to remind us how to behave’, ‘It’s good to use the class mentors to keep order’, ‘ It’s good you don’t have to use the class mentors to keep order.’ The majority of the reasons concerned content rather than the thinking aspect, which is natural, since this is new. Maybe it shows us some of the things we could be working on?

Our own reflections and the follow-up to the day.

It was quite ambitious to think that we could get the whole school to try to solve a problem, and maybe it wasn’t exactly TA, going round the Thinking Task Framework, or proper TA problem solving. However, our aim was to get the whole school working together on something that’s a common problem and to make them think about thinking, and I think we did succeed in that. It was a change for the pupils to be given responsibility for this problem as they’re used to just being told continuously to pick things up and keep things tidy etc etc. Might it change their attitude to the issue? The results, their ‘solutions’ were a variety of suggestions, which didn’t of course produce one solution.


Now the student council is now going to choose the best ones, and make a ‘solution’ or suggestion from a mixture of the best ideas which could help. They’ll present them to the school and say why they decided on these and then they’ll think of a procedure – how they’re going to implement it. Everyone will check to see if it’s working and if it’s not, then they’ll give feedback and suggestions and it can be refined. We’ll see at the end of the term if all this has helped to keep the corridors tidier or not! Could this be called Step 3?

TA or not?

During the course of the theme day the pupils were given challenges, with limitations, and the answers were not to be found anywhere. We didn’t give them tools, but we helped them to make a kind of ENV model of the reasons for the problem, and guided them as to how they might come up with ideas by asking them to think what would be the ideal situation. After that we just let them get on with it, except that they had to say why they came with the solution they did, and then reflect on the day. Through the student council this will continue, they’ll be reminded of it and will be checking how it’s all working.

Of course, our groups were too big (6 in each) and there was too much age difference in each. In retrospect it might have been better to have had classes 1 – 3 working together and then 4 – 6 working together, especially as they have separate corridors. There could have been a separate solution for each.

In the course of the day one or two of the teachers tried out Yes/No or Odd Man Out with some groups, and enjoyed it.

I think having a thinking theme day was a good idea, but maybe we could have done it quite differently. The topic itself was fairly motivating, and everyone recognises it’s a real problem, but actually, just before it the cleaners had given one class chocolate for being tidier than the others, and suddenly everyone started being tidier! That kind of undermined our idea, though we stressed to the pupils that chocolate is not a long term solution and does not get to the root of the problem!

Maybe pupils could have been thinking up stories together and then we could have made a school book? The theme itself could be anything I guess and it’s good if it’s a useful one, but it also has to be motivating. Maybe it could be a day run by pupils with lots of thinking  games? It wouldn’t have to be called a thinking theme day, but the topic could involve TA in some way.

We’d be grateful for any comments on how this could be improved and any other ideas for a thinking theme day.


# Irina Buchinska 2013-03-10 19:35
Dear Susan and Ani, thank you for this interesting post. I really like the idea of a Thinking Theme day for the whole school.

I think you did right to involve the students in the very beginning into the discussion of the problem and that they accepted the situstion as a problem which, I believe, motivated them to solve it. It is very important to develop students' positive attitude and interest to problem solving.

I might miss something, but it would be interesting to read what solutions exactly the students offered.

What were the reflections of other teachers on this day?

In general, in my opinion, problem solution is one of the most difficult and exciting area of TA application.

For me it's very difficult to give you any advice on how to change or improve something in such events organisation, as I have never even thought about so big events. I agree with most of your reflections about both positive and negative aspects. You mentioned that there are some smaller things you could work in class, if you do, it will be interesting to discuss them.
# Susan Granlund 2013-03-14 20:34
Thank you for your comments, Irina!

I think this is an exciting area too, but I must admit it's one I really don't know enough about yet. However, we wanted to give this a go anyway.

I think the teachers found the day in some ways interesting, and in some ways difficult, and were surprised in the end at how much the children came up with themselves.

I'll post some of the student solutions soon!
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