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Developing Essential Habits of Mind

Weekly Update from the Director – April 5, 2024
Dear GISC Community,
Teaching children throughout their early years of school, we focus on subject-specific skills such as basic math operations and language arts mechanics such as spelling. 
But as teachers, we also spend significant time in encouraging students to develop certain habits of mind that potentially set the course for successful studies and outcomes in middle school, high school, and higher education. These habits of mind can also be reinforced at home.
Please allow me to outline a few yet important habits of mind:
  • Persistence: Should answers or solutions not be found immediately, it is really important for students to not give up, but rather discover that problems can be solved in a multitude of manners. Some educational scholars refer to this attribute as “task commitment.
  • Take an extra second: Some students may be well served to manage impulsivity when answering a question, especially a question requiring a degree of analysis. Students who blurt out answers quickly (they often do so with joy) may find themselves disappointed.
  • Listening: This can be taught by having students paraphrasing another student’s ideas. Research shows that listening is the least taught skill – surprising in the sense that in communication, we tend to spend more time listening than talking.
  • Flexibility: It is advantageous to tolerate a certain degree of confusion or ambiguity in processing several pieces of information. Fully engaging with all pieces of information or additional data may lead kids to an understanding that changing one’s mind is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Metacognition: Giving students the opportunity to “rehearse” their thinking prior to an actual test or performance gives children an excellent insight into understanding their own thinking.
  • Being accurate and precise: When a teacher asks a student to double- or triple-check their work, they are teaching that student to strive for accuracy.
  • Asking insightful questions: In an inquiry-based approach such as our IB PYP and MYP pedagogy, students may discover that asking the great question actually solidifies their understanding even if they do not know the answer to their question.
  • Application of knowledge: Teaching students to rely on what they already have learned often helps them figure out what appears to be new material.
  • Clarity: If we want students to become great writers and thinkers, we should encourage them to speak with clarity. Fuzzy language leads to fuzzy thinking.
  • Responsible Risk-Taking: We have to help students understand that confusion or uncertainty and even failures are great opportunities to learn.
  • Imagination: Teachers who encourage their students to ponder the possibilities on how to solve a problem are teaching students to consider issues from alternative points of view.
  • Interdependent thinking: This quality is fostered by group projects or group work. Students learn that several people working on the same problem will result in more data and points of view being brought to the table – more than one could generate by oneself. Sometimes it is worthwhile to forego one’s own ideas and instead work with someone else’s ideas.
Two concluding thoughts: Firstly, please know that you as parents can model these habits of mind for your children. Secondly, I cannot help but think that children who are bilingual or multilingual develop greater habits of mind – comparing and contrasting the languages one has mastered is – in my opinion – a most positive attribute in developing these and other habits of mind.
All the best,
The German International School Chicago (GISC) is an IB World School that prepares students to become well-rounded, creative, and responsible global citizens. We provide students with a rigorous German-English bilingual education in a supportive and individualized learning environment. GISC graduates will be prepared academically and socially to succeed in an increasingly global world.

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