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Developing Children's Critical and Creative Thinking Ability
- Developing Children's Critical and Creative Thinking Ability
- NAM, YEONJU
- Issue Date
- 외국어교육특수대학원 TESOL학과
- 이화여자대학교 외국어교육특수대학원
- Warren Euwon Chung
- Many young learners in Korea join the English program of private English institutes, which are generally called English kindergartens, instead of enrolling in regular Korean preschool, or kindergarten programs. The majority of the learners who go to English kindergarten, however, are lacking not only in critical and creative thinking ability but also comprehension ability compared to the expected language level in spite of having had an early start on English education and long period of exposure to an English environment. They seem to have difficulty in coming up with their own ideas to the given questions and also in expressing their thoughts and opinions as autonomous learners. It is understandable for young learners not to be able to answer questions that are too difficult given their background knowledge or cognitive development, but such inability more likely reflects a lack of critical and creative thinking ability as well as comprehension ability. Such lack might be a factor of educational approaches used in classes.
Furthermore, the result of a research conducted by Woo (2007) shows that children who went to English kindergarten are less creative compared to the children who went to general Korean kindergarten. The lack seems to be caused not by children’s capabilities but the curricula used by English kindergartens. This supposition justifies the need for English kindergartens to improve the current curricula for developing children’s critical and creative thinking ability.
I have, therefore, chosen as target learners those who attend private English Kindergarten and who are in need of improving comprehension ability as well as critical and creative thinking ability. The specific learners I seek to address are 7 years-old, Korean age, Korean children who have been attending private English kindergarten for three years. The language level of the target learners is level 3-developing of grade 1-2 based on the WIDA’s English Language Proficiency Standard. The target learner’s educational situation is as follows. The class consists of 8 to 10 students with similar language levels and the same years of educational experience in English kindergarten. Learners are scheduled to attend the program from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. during weekdays. The program includes classes like science, math, art, music, physical education, and language art as well as lunch time, snack time, and recesses. Each class is for 45/min. and recess is for 15/min. Two language arts classes are scheduled from Monday to Thursday.
The common curricula used for language art class of English kindergartens are mostly based on a phonics approach. Halvorson (1992) defines a phonics approach as an approach which teaches the relation of the letters to the sounds the letters represent to teach reading (p.19). Despite the success of the phonics approach in teaching children to decode and read words, it seems less successful at fostering creativity and comprehension in young learners. Therefore, combining a complementary approach with a phonics approach is needed to develop learners’ comprehension ability and their critical and creative thinking ability.
The limitation of the phonics approach can be addressed by using it together with the whole language approach. Lapp and Flood (1992) argue that a whole language approach focuses on constructive, meaning oriented process using authentic reading materials. In a whole language approach, the learners should participate actively to investigate meanings of the text with the teacher’s guidance. Purposefully designed activities based on a whole language approach would also activate the learners’ creative and critical thinking ability as well as comprehension ability.
In my textbook I will use the whole language approach which can be adapted to language art classes which are mostly based on a phonics approach. I will use authentic picture books and non-fiction books related to the chapter’s theme. In each chapter, I will create activities which can be used before and after reading aloud due to activate the learners’ creative and critical thinking ability based on the whole language approach. I will divide the activities into three sections, before reading, while reading and after reading activities. For before activities, I will create activities to build up prior-knowledge related to the story’s concept and theme. Before-reading activities will not only stimulate children’s interests but also help their understating the content of the story. For while-reading activities, children will interact with the teacher about picture and content of the story and also they will be asked to predict the certain scenes of the story. While-reading activities will encourage children to participate actively in the process of reading and develop critical thinking ability. Lastly, activities like making story map, building a story sequence map, making my own story, etc. will be used for after-reading activities. With after-reading activities, children can develop comprehension ability as well as critical and creative thinking ability. Furthermore, recommended picture book lists will be included in teacher’s guide. Teachers can introduce them and put them in class so that children can read the related books of their choice during the free time. When children are encouraged to read joyful books, they will be able to know the pleasure of reading and enjoy reading. This will be the foundation of developing comprehension ability as well as critical and creative thinking ability.
While studying with my textbook, students should be able to comprehend the story as well as to come up with their thoughts and express them, based on the process of critical and creative thinking.
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