Some of today’s teachers read word for word from their school books, regurgitating everything they once learned from their own teachers. Although this strategy can play a roll in shaping tomorrow’s learner today, teaching students how to think instead of what to think has value also. Here are a few ways we can teach the How vs. What:

Model The Thinking Process Out Loud For Students.

  • Think through a particular issue in an organized way. Allow students to see many perspectives and reasons and provide them time to discover the why behind the process.
  • Test those perspectives and determine which works best for the situation. Then ask why!
  • Draw inferences. If that way worked, then what other way could work? If I were to change this variable, would it fail or work?

Discuss Meaningful Topics Out Loud With Students

  • Want instant engaging conversation to allow them to practice their why thinking? Find a topic about which they care deeply and you will be amazed how meaningful the conversation is! “If you observe students, they will teach you how to teach them.” – Dr. Jawanza Kunjfu

Analyze the Literal vs. Metaphorical

  • Are there concrete details which provide literal understanding or metaphorically speaking?
  • Allow the students to interpret their understanding of text. Value their thoughts as they make their own connections. You CANNOT manipulate their thoughts like Dolly is trying to do with PJ. (See picture).

Share Personal Stories and Analogies

  • Use stories which allows students to reflect upon their knowledge
  • Provide them time to make connections to their lives, their world, their text or to media. John Dewey stated, “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.”


  • Students love to doodle and draw. Use that to your advantage!
  • Model the use of diagrams, drawings, pictures, videos, etc. to help students connect their ideas
  • Provide opportunities where students can create mental movies, then allow them to sketch their ideas and understanding

Finally, once those ideas become grounded, gradually remove the supports and allow students to use those models. Just like early childhood teachers slowly move away adding/subtracting with fingers or manipulatives (tally marks, coins, blocks, etc.), ween  students away from modeling by removing those strategies (above) and supports they use to facilitate thinking.

Education is in a great age of learning. We have the opportunity to shape the minds of tomorrow’s learner by helping them how to think and not just what to think! I dare you try some of these strategies with your students!


Picture selected from the Amazing Bill Keane and www.Familycircus.com

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