Training, consultancy and resources to improve teaching and learning
You are here > Members' Resources > Teachers' Toolbox > Toolbox Instructions
Thinking Classroom Instructions
The visual challenges will save you planning/preparation time and will enhance your curriculum delivery and the quality of teaching and learning. The challenges are designed to be engaging, thought-provoking and subject-linked. This page offers some general guidance. Specific help and examples appear with each activity.
Objectives
Visual challenges are '3 for 1 activities'. They cover 3 types of objective:

1. Thinking Skills. Each activity requires a combination of lower and higher order thinking skills
2. Subject. Each activity can be applied directly to subject knowledge
3. Group Work. Each activity can be used with pairs and groups
Organisation
Each of the 5 challenges changes every week. You can develop a routine or classroom ritual around them.
Here's an example:
  • Monday first thing: Review last week's Great Ideas
  • Tuesday after lunch: Odd One Out
  • Wednesday first thing: Pick Me
  • Thursday first thing: Links
  • Thursday last thing: Storytime
  • Friday last thing: Great ideas for Homework
You can also change the way that the activity runs and the time given:
  • Monday: Whole Class, 10 minute open discussion
  • Tuesday: Pair-Share, 5 minutes
  • Wednesday: 1-2-4* , 3 minutes
  • Thursday: Small Group Discussion & Feedback, 10 minutes
  • Friday: Individual, 3 minutes
*1-2-4:
  • Think individually for 1 minute
  • Pair-share for 1 minute - choose the best idea
  • 2 pairs share for 1 minute - choose the best idea to feed back
You may want to use a challenge as a filler, a break, or as a reward. The choice is yours. You know your class and their needs better than anyone and you can design the classroom routines that work best.
Curriculum

The curriculum is a moveable feast. Schools have varying amounts of control over what is taught and how. The visual challenges are generic which means that they can be adapted to different curricula.

The thinking skills developed are largely independent of, but applicable to, any subject content. So if the curriculum changes the challenges can still be used. For example, the skills in Odd One Out can be applied to a random selection of images or to weekly spellings; numbers; capital cities; lines from a poem, geological features, photographs, sports equipment and any other collection of subject-specific ideas/objects/resources. In Links you could challenge learners to link each new image to a current topic.

If Thinking Skills and Creativity are embedded into your curriculum then these activities automatically infuse relevant skills. If not then you are still developing valuable thinking processes that can be applied in the wider curriculum and in the children's next stage of life and learning.
Assessment

Visual challenges develop thinking and creativity. They are not about right or wrong. They give learners the chance to discover many different ways of being right.

Each challenge provides opportunities to assess thinking skills and creativity. Each activity uses questions to prompt thinking. The children's answers reveal their current ability and suggest their next steps.

For example, in Links, the children may need to connect Telegraph Pole with Sheep. A simple progression to look out for might be:

Children need further prompts such as: Do they share a colour? Do they share a texture? Do they share a shape?
Children give lower order answers such as: They both stay up straight; They both have brown or dark colour
C
hildren give higher order answers such as: They are both 'wiry'; They both vibrate (wires in the wind/baaing)

Each challenge provides unique opportunities to develop the concept that "Assessment IS Learning". You'll need to listen carefully to the children's thoughts and have some idea of how their thinking will develop in each task. A good starting point to develop a progression is Bloom's Taxonomy (though there are many other thinking taxonomies out there):

Knowledge - Understanding - Application - Analysis - Synthesis - Evaluation
SEN and G&T

Visual Challenges might well turn your definition of SEN and G&T on its head - unless, that is, you already have support in place for Special Needs Thinkers and enrichment experiences for Gifted Thinkers.

SEN usually refers to language, maths or behaviour needs. G&T is usually subject-specific. Visual challenges introduce thinking skills and creative challenges that cut right across the traditional SEN and G&T boundaries.

You'll probably find that some 'SEN' children are very creative thinkers; some 'G&T' ones less so. Don't expect SEN children to struggle and G&Ts to thrive on these activities. Be ready for a new spectrum of ability defined by the skills that are being used. In all of these activities your open mind is at least as important as theirs.

Why not have G&T Thinkers, Problem Solvers and Idea Connectors in your school? And if you do, maybe you'll also consider the needs of SEN problem solvers who get high quality support to address their weakness...