The Thinking Curriculum and Mental Development

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The Thinking Curriculum and Mental Development Fall 2011


  • “Not On the Test” by John Forster & Tom Chapin
  • Jeopardy” Run Amuck The High Cost of Creating Factoid Factories by Dan Nelson
  • Developing Deductive And Inductive Reasoning by Sandra N. Kaplan
  • Data-Driven Decision Making by Beth Littrell
  • Creativity–as Easy as 1-2-3 by Karen Daniels
  • The Modeling of Thinking Skills by Jessica Manzone & Sandra N. Kaplan


  • Parent talk: Teaching Children to Think and Question at Home by James Webb & Janet Gore
  • Technology Ideas for Home and School: Using Wikispaces to Differentiate Instruction: Ten Ideas for Parents and Teachers by Barbara L. Branch
  • RtI2 for Gifted Learners: Appropriate Instruction and Intervention for Gifted Students by Beth Littrell
  • Carpe diem: Deductive and Inductive Nitpicking by Elaine S. Wiener
  • Tech tools for today’s teachers: Interacting with Maps and Playing with History by Brian C. Housand


  • Your Creativity: From Ordinary to Extraordinary by Karen Daniels
  • Greek Mythology for Teens by Zachary Hamby
  • The Gifted Teen Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith & Jim Delisle
  • Math Dictionary for Kids by Theresa R. Fitzgerald


I have three children ages 6, 6, and 8, and it often seems that not one minute goes by without someone asking me a question about one thing or another. And the dizzying array of topics that race through the mind of a child never ceases to amaze me. For instance, here is a partial list of questions one of my 6-year-olds asked, all in one hour, just the other morning:

  • Why isn’t my computer working?
  • What’s for breakfast?
  • Why is my waffle burnt?
  • What are we doing today?
  • Are we doing anything beside Karate today?
  • Can we go to Sea World?
  • How much did we cost to be born?
  • Can we sell (my brother) on eBay?
  • Can we go to the dollar store?
  • Is God real? How do you know?
  • Is Santa the king of the world?
  • Does Santa know if God is real?

Wow. Where to start? With burnt waffles, of course, since I feel perfectly able to easily answer the breakfast question without much apparent thought. My brain is even pretty good about responding to the whole “Can we sell my brother on eBay” question and debating how much money we might be able to get. The God-Santa-King-of-the world arena feels a little tougher though as it requires more in-depth thinking. At least I think it does. Questioning is part of the thinking process—particularly for those gifted children who have a seemingly-insatiable need to know.

In Parent Talk this issue, James Webb and Janet Gore state: Even when our ears are tired from hearing “Why?” and then “But why?” on and on, we should do our best to listen and respond to children’s questions; we don’t want them to stop asking. Let’s face it. Listening is not always easy—or convenient. But whether you’re working with gifted kids in the classroom orat home, going out of your way to not squelch their curiosity and rapid questioning is probably one of the greatest life-long gifts you can give them.

What goes on in a child’s head can be literally mind-boggling. And when we start to worry about whether children are using inductive or deductive reasoning to work their way through the labyrinth of learning, perhaps we’re getting a little sidetracked. And in our need to label and quantify, even to create lesson plans around the various processes we lump into “thinking,” is it possible we might be doing more harm than good? Perhaps the whole point should be for each student to think how they think, in the way that they think, however we label what they are doing.

This is not to say that thinking skills should not be taught; but rather to keep in mind that each and every child will bring, and should bring, their personal thinking skills to the process and that that should be honored. When a child’s individual thinking and passions are supported it can make a positive difference in their lives. For example, in Tech Tools for Today’s Teacher’s, Brian Housand writes about how his childhood passion for maps influenced him later as an educator when he plastered the walls of his classroom “with a series of maps that were constantly referred to as real world events were discussed.” And he shares that continuing passion with you this issue by suggesting some awesome tech tools for interacting with maps and playing with history.

As teachers and parents we are strong models for our children. We need to show them how to apply thinking strategies in ways that will help them in their lives, and that it’s okay to question assumptions—to question everything. In fact it’s imperative that we do so. In Beth Littrell’s RtI2 column this issue she mentions a letter sent out in 1987 from Donald Kennedy, Past President of Stanford University, in which he states:

To maintain and enhance our quality of life, we must develop a leading-edge economy based on workers who can think for a living. If skills are equal, in the long run wages will be too. This means we have to educate a vast mass of people capable of thinking critically, creatively, and imaginatively.

So, in the spirit of helping to produce a quality future for all of us, the next time one of my children asks me “Is Santa the king of the world and does he know if God is real?” I plan on saying, “I don’t know. Let’s do some research and talk about it because I’d like to know what you think.”

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