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Thinking habits and maps – how to understand and analyse literature easier

Thousands of gigabytes of new information reach our brains every day, but it’s almost impossible to absorb it all. Although children are more receptive, they still need help that allows information to be analysed, understood, and not give up when it seems too difficult. Thinking habits and maps are used for this, about those benefits and use talks Angelina Lapinskaitė, a teacher of Lithuanian language and literature at “Erudito licėjus”.

Thinking habits are not learned in a few days

Learning Lithuanian language and literature is one of the areas where the repetition of factual material is not effective, and it is necessary to learn the ability to interpret and understand. “When solving complex tasks, student is expected to be able to think strategically, to be insightful, persistent and creative. Not only what student knows becomes important, but also how he or she behaves when he or she does not know anything. It’s in such situations that thinking habits acquire special significance,” says A. Lapinskaitė.

According to the teacher, it’s not easy to develop thinking habits, because consistency is needed – it covers many areas, and it is necessary to reflect on previous learning experiences. Still, by mastering these skills, the learner can consciously choose which behaviour would be most appropriate in each situation. Thinking habits relate to appreciation, inclinations, sensitivity, opportunity, and commitment. This means developing the ability to choose or adjust your behaviour, to find a more productive path, and to pay attention to reflection, which helps not only to reflect on what has happened, but also to choose a more useful path in the future.

Erudito licėjus distinguishes 16 different thinking habits and it’s rare for them to be developed separately from others. However, according to the teacher, it’s useful to spend a few weeks in lessons developing a specific thinking skill so that students can notice and develop it. These habits are also encouraged in every subject of Erudito licėjus, so that education becomes coherent and systematic.

What do perseverance, impulsiveness, and listening have in common?

In literature lessons of Erudito licėjus, reading in a general sense is inseparable from thinking – from seeking to understand the meaning of the text to concepts of identity, culture, creativity, communication, perspective, transformation, and representation. With students, it’s helpful to explain what is understood as literature, why people create stories, how individual reading experiences determine comprehension, and even why a text is (not) liked. A. Lapinskaitė reveals how certain thinking habits are reflected in the specific activities of the “Erudite Lyceum” lesson.

Perseverance. It’s related to students’ decision not to give up the started task, the ability to achieve a result, the determination to overcome obstacles. At the same time, the ability to analyse the problem and create a strategy to achieve the goal is developed. “The habit is developed when students have to perform more complex, more patient tasks, the planning and sequence of which must be taken care of by the students themselves, such as gathering information about the author’s biography, creative context, reading the work and writing an interpretation or answering questions,” says the interviewee.

Impulse control. Associated with students’ ability to stay calm, think well about their answers, be attentive. To make it easier to apply, teacher at Erudito licėjus shares her advice – “Before giving answers, students create a map of circle’s thinking, writing down the most important thoughts in it and concentrating prior knowledge in one place.” When students must describe the historical, cultural context, gather, or remember information about the author’s biography. This method is suitable for involving the whole class in the learning process – students can fill in the thoughts of friends, advise on what they may have missed and come to certain conclusions together.

Sincere and empathetic listening. Associated with trying to understand the ideas, thoughts, attitudes, and feelings of others. It’s important to distinguish when a person is listening to the other, and when they’re repeating their answer in the mind then the other is talking. “In order for students to be able to look at the phenomenon not only from their own perspective, but also from their own attitudes, it’s important to develop the ability to” incarnate “into a different position. This does not mean that student cannot have an opinion, but rather it’s related to understanding what the other person is saying, ”the interlocutor opens.

The concept of meta-cognition and flexibility

According to A. Lapinskaitė, it is worth mentioning two more thinking habits, which make you pay attention to your thinking and individuality, and which are applied in Lithuanian language lessons of Erudito licėjus.

Flexibility of thinking. Relates to individual’s ability to change attitudes, opinions when evaluating new facts. This helps to solve the problems that arise by choosing either a more general approach to the situation or a detailed analysis of the situation. Having developed this habit, people think about alternatives, are able to understand the situation from different points of view, process various sources of information. “In lessons, students can be given tasks to look at the same phenomenon from different perspectives, such as describing past, present, future, telling a story as an egocentric, allocentric personality, concentrating on a piece of history or looking at it more generally, focusing on sounds, images, movement. This is useful because it helps students get rid of the idea that there is only one right (basically, their chosen) path,” advises the teacher at Erudito licėjus.

Thinking about your own thinking (metacognition). Helps to understand your thoughts, strategies you choose, identify feelings, actions, and their impact on others. Also assess what they don’t yet know, reflect on possible ways to pursue that knowledge or skill. In developing this habit of thinking, it is important to pay attention to ability to plan, regularly review the plan, and change it according to the situation. “A very clear example of applying this habit would be this: when you read, thoughts go astray, we look at words, but we don’t understand what meaning they create. Realizing that we are detached from the text, we return to it, find a place where we were still focused and continue reading,” A. Lapinskaitė shares her experience.

The most important thing is to systematically continue the educational process

As mentioned earlier, thinking habits do not form during the day, it requires constant and systematic work. Of course, this isn’t a theory and students will not try to repeat it after lessons, so teachers often need to be reminded not only during the tasks but also about the work and behaviour in the lessons. According to A. Lapinskaitė – “when reading literature, thinking habits help to combine different texts, reading experiences – we move from talking about the context, ideas of the author, work to talking about how we perceive absolutely different things, how to manage our strategy to become an intelligent learner “. Developing thinking habits requires a strong understanding of what teacher is doing at the time, what tools to choose, and why.