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Helping Your Child Develop Thinking Skills

At Perform we talk a lot about the benefits of drama in terms of child development; we tend to break it down to the four Cs: Confidence; Communication; Concentration and Coordination.

Whilst of course drama does indeed benefit children in these core areas, of late I've been thinking that the list is by no means exhaustive.

I'm a big believer in the importance of teaching children 'thinking skills'. What do I mean? Well many researchers have tried to identify the key skills involved in 'thinking' - probably the most famous of which is Bloom's Taxonomy - he explains it far better than I ever could, so forgive me for simply quoting direct:

Bloom's Taxonomy

  1. Knowledge - Say what you know, or remember, describe, (knowing and remembering), repeat, define, identify, tell who, when, which, where, what.
  2. Comprehension - Describe in your own words, tell how you feel (interpreting and understanding) about it, what it means, explain, compare, relate.
  3. Application - How can you use it, where does it lead, apply (applying making use of) what you know, use it to solve problems, demonstrate.
  4. Analysis - What are the parts, the order, the reasons why, (taking apart, being critical) the causes/problems/solutions/consequences.
  5. Synthesis - How might it be different, how else, what if, (connecting, being creative) suppose, put together, develop, improve, create your own.
  6. Evaluation - How would you judge it, does it succeed, will it (judging and assessing) work, what would you prefer, why you think so.

Thinking skills can be tricky to teach, as it goes way beyond simply getting a child to learn something off by heart and being able to recite it. It's about independent thought, critical thinking, creative thinking, emotional intelligence - real life skills. The likes of which will benefit them in school, further/higher education and eventually in the workplace and in family life.


Drama lends itself very nicely to this sort of teaching structure - for example, when we ask the children to put together a simple situational improvisation we'll usually start by giving them the beginnings of the story and check their understanding of it - this covers step one (knowledge) and step two (comprehension).

We'll then encourage them to think about what they might have done and act it out - this covers step three (application).

Then as a group we'll encourage the children to offer structured feedback - covering steps four to six (analysis, synthesis and evaluation).

Research has shown that children's thinking skills grow and develop as a result of being consistently challenged to do so (by their teachers, parents, peers and so on). So how can you do this at home?

One really easy way is by talking about a book which you've read together, or perhaps a film or television programme - break it down as follows:

  1. Knowledge - What happened?
  2. Comprehension - Why did it happen? Why did the character react like that?
  3. Application - If it was you would you have done anything differently?
  4. Analysis - What did you like & dislike about it?
  5. Synthesis - How might it have ended differently?
  6. Evaluation - What did you think of it overall? Why?

It's all about asking open-ended questions and encouraging a discussion. Remember to give your child time to think and formulate an answer - a quick fire question round won't work! You could also use this sort of format when discussing an event, perhaps an incident at school - you can apply it to pretty much anything.


So over to you - I'd love to know your thoughts, and of course if you've any tips of your own to share.

Image credit Temari09

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