How to think correctly in class and at home 

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 14:43:20 +0000

By Ednar Kazonga
Consider the following scenario. A 5 year old boy from the city is at the village for Christmas holidays (Different physical orientation).It is entertaining but sad when pupils in class attempt to answer questions without thinking at all! For example I once asked an absent minded 10th grader to name the side opposite the right angle in a right angled triangle. He shouted out his answer cheerfully and politely as HIPPOPOTAMUS instead of HYPOTENUSE! I had a good laugh but was sad inwardly.

Some goats enter the grandmother’s kitchen and the boy is asked to help take the goats out. The boy asks, Grandma, where is the remote?

I found this incident very amusing because the boy wanted to use a remote control to shut down the goats so that they could stop troubling his grandmother. He thought that it was as easy as pressing the on/off or in/out button and grandmother would have her peace back.

This boy is in formal schooling at pre-school, hoping to go into grade 1 next year. Was this boy thinking?

Let me rephrase the question, was this boy thinking correctly or properly? Perhaps something was lacking in the boy’s thinking. This brings us to today’s topic. What is thinking? Why and how should we think? Can we improve our children’s thinking? What are the benefits of correct thinking for school going children?


What is thinking?

According to my small Oxford Mini School Dictionary, thinking is using the mind to form connected ideas.

It is the highest mental activity in human beings and in fact all achievements, advancement and progress are attributed to thinking. In other words, our deliberate actions are as a result of our deliberate thinking.

We can safely say that our actions and our thoughts are related and sometimes inseparable.

It is therefore important to get concerned with what our pupils think about and how they think because it affects their day-to-day way of doing things eventually affecting their academic performance.

A human being tends to think, imagine, visualise and act almost all the time. We must encourage our school going children to think positively and cultivate each of all the following:

Creative thinking-developing ideas that are unique, useful and worthy of further explanation. Let the child explore.

Critical thinking- reflecting, assessing and judging all assumptions in all our (and other people’s) ideas and efforts. Self discipline is clearly cultivated. The child must have no room for bias.

Logical thinking-clearly moving from one related thought to another. Encourage the child to use straight facts and make ideas flow and make sense.


Why should pupils think?

In the simplest terms, thinking is like a tool which the pupils use to sync with their surroundings whether it is in form of a physical, social or even spiritual environment. In normal circumstances, thinking starts with a problem and ends with a solution.

The quality of the solution is of great concern because it may depend on the pupil’s upbringing and orientation. It is important to find ways of improving our pupil’s thinking abilities.

Can we improve our children’s thinking ability?

It is very possible to improve the thinking ability of our children because thinking is a skill like any other.

I have always told the youth and children whom I interact with that among others, the best way to improve the quality of the solution that results from the problem is to have a clear mind by emptying themselves of unnecessary things. It is called letting go, forgiveness and many other names.

I usually illustrate this with a large rectangle (child’s mind) where I ask the children to write the things that disturb or trouble them. See the diagram below:

I tell the children that there isn’t enough space in the rectangle for storing information from school. This means that it is very difficult to think properly resulting in poor class performance so they might fail their examinations and not make it in life.

I ask the pupils to rub off the unnecessary things from the rectangle. Apparently, all the things inside this rectangle are unnecessary learning distracters which will disturb their thinking. Simple as this may look, it helps a lot.

The point that I am driving at is that meaningful thinking can only take place in a relatively peaceful and clear mind. Adults, youths and children are advised to keep their minds clear of hatred and scorn in order to come up with balanced unbiased and reasonable thoughts. It does not pay to hold on to unnecessary things.

Let us give the children a short memory verse from the Bible in Proverbs 17 vs 22 A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones.


Why should we improve thinking skills of our pupils?

Have you ever witnessed the following incidences?

  • A university graduate burning a tyre in the middle of the road
  • A grown man putting gum on a church bench
  • A grown woman beating a little baby who is obviously innocent and not responsible for her actions yet due to age
  • A teacher who helps her pupils to cheat in a test
  • A politician who wants to bring the country down
  • A grown man urinating on a tree publicly

What happened to correct thinking? It is said to note that formal education on its own does not always improve one’s thinking. In fact, formal education distracts creative thinking because of emphasis on a paper (certificate). Having a high Intelligent Quotient (I.Q) does not necessarily mean that one will be a good thinker.  If a child has a high IQ, he will still need to be helped to think correctly. We must sharpen our thinking skills.

Let us take care of our little ones now by improving their thinking skills so that they don’t do things

similar to the above examples.




Improving our children’s thinking skills will help them to attain social, emotional.

spiritual and economic maturity. This will help them to achieve, succeed and be well balanced in society.

According to Dr de Bono, research shows other benefits including a total transformation from bad tempers and aggressive revengeful behaviour. The children will be able to accommodate other people as they are, without being in unnecessary competition with them. Selfish behaviour will slowly diminish and the child is sure to find his feet in the classroom and eventually in the adult troubled world.

It is gratifying to note that religion and psychology have a lot in common in as far as correct thinking is concerned. Fr Vincent Sakala (OMI) always reminds us to think outside the box! We now look at what practical things can be done to improve thinking.


Thinking Aids

Aims Goals Objectives (AGO)-we must encourage our children to have a sense of direction. Teach them to set goals in their own little way.

Consider All Factors (CAF)-teach the children that all factors in a problem are important and must be considered when thinking. This helps to avoid biased thinking.

Plus Minus Interesting (PMI) The child must consider all positive (Plus) things and all the negative (Minus) things in a given situation and thereafter write down the interesting aspects of the matter. This helps in the quality of the solution.

Other People’s Views (OPV)-If an issue involves or affects other people, we must teach the child to consider these other views in his thinking.

Alternatives Possibilities Choices (APC)-We must encourage the child to generate as many alternatives and possibilities as possible and then choose the best solution.

The above thinking formula was adopted with modifications from Dr de Bono.


Brainstorming in Creative thinking

Brainstorming is a technique in which the mind creates new ideas. It is one of the best techniques of creative thinking. The child must be encouraged to use the What If type of questions.

As we encourage our children to brainstorm lets tell them to be strong and not to be discouraged by their peers who will want to change the brainstorm to only a braindrizzle which is of low quality.

Let the child watch out for braindrizzle causes such as the following comments: you are too young for that, it cannot work, you are wasting time, we don’t do that at this school, that is dangerous, we all fail in this family,  you will end up at Chainama etc. We end here for now lest we fill up the whole newspaper!



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