Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thinking about Thinking: A Key Process to Effective Learning

I blogged about metacognition, the process of thinking about thinking, back in Nov 2009 when I wrote extensively about Teaching a child to question and fostering curiosity in young minds.

Metacognition refers to higher order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning. Activities such as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature. (source)

Why do some children and students learn better than others?
While many will be quick to point out factors such as higher IQ (intelligent quotient), exposure to better resources (including better teachers, lessons, schools etc) or having nurturing environment, one important factor that is often overlooked is the child's ability to think about his thinking process.

This self-awareness of one's thoughts helps children become more effective learners as they learn to focus on what they still need to learn to achieve the learning objectives. Research shows that this self-awareness evolves during childhood and that this metacognitive ability improves with age. In fact, most growth of this metacognitive ability happens between ages 12 and 15. 

However, for most children, the development of this ability may not happen as early or efficiently, especially if they were not taught or shown how to think.  In fact, given the way Singaporean students are taught in schools from age 7 onwards, it is probably fair to say that by the time they are in Secondary schools, many teenagers still do not fully realise they possess this metacognitive ability, let alone learn to utilize it to become a more effective learner.

It is definitely less common for kids under 6 to develop this self-awareness, since most parents and educators are most likely unaware of what they can do to nurture this self-awareness.

But it is also not impossible. First, we need to understand how children gain a deeper understanding of how they think, feel and act. But this alone, is still not enough.

As I have seen in my own children and students in my Bright Minds Lapbookers classes, kids under 12 can be taught how to think through the systematic introduction of metacognitive exercises.

Every lapbooking activity that we do in class (and at home with my own kids) is coached in a manner that trains the child's metacognitive ability, in addition to honing their skills (such as fine motor, eye-hand coordination, listening, problem-solving, critical thinking, creative imagination etc) and developing their key executive functions.

In classes where kids under 4 years old attend with parents, I explain the rationale of how and why I introduce certain activities, so parents can learn from observation of their children's performance and practise coaching tips straightaway with their kids. This precious transfer of knowledge to parents empowers them to reinforce continuous learning in the intended manner, which is another reason why students who were with us for extended period all developed this cognitive ability early enough.

Our K1 and K2 (age 5 & 6) students get to put their metacognitive ability to practice at every lesson as they are coached through the inquiry process.


Like most skills, the more practices we do, the better we get. The abilities to think critically and creatively begin with the nurturing of metacognitive ability and these skills improve exponentially with structured training.

As children's metacognitive abilities increase, research suggest they also achieve at higher levels. Just like how the rich gets richer more easily, widening the income gap between the rich and poor; children with such abilities and skills also learn at accelerated pace with ease, hence widening the achievement gap between the advanced learners and the masses. It is simply a fact of life.

Needless to say, the benefits also extend way beyond academic learning into life experiences.

What I find fascinating too, is how neuroscientists had gathered at an international workshop in 2014 to discuss how self-awareness and this higher order thinking strategy actually changes the structure of the brain, making it more flexible and open to greater learning.

In a few days, we will begin Term 4/2016 classes. I cannot wait to share my knowledge and method with parents of my students, and empower them to effect amazing changes to their children's learning journeys.

Founder, From Tiny Acorns

This post originally appears in the Our World. My World blog. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Bright World Thinkers

This exciting programme is a natural extension of our highly popular Bright Minds Lapbookers, suitable for ages 6 to 9.

Through our literature-based lapbooking process, combined with our immensely effective trans-disciplinary thematic coaching approach, we will seamlessly introduce our students to current affairs and global issues.

Every lesson will be an engaging and experiential session that heightens your child's awareness and deepen her understanding of the world she lives in. Every activity is carefully designed to spark your child's interest in current affairs and guide her to explore her own feelings and thoughts, as well as to be open to alternative perspectives.

Through speech and drama, group discussions, debates, creative games that stretch their imagination, students will be guided to analyse, evaluate and reflect, as they hone their higher order thinking skills of critical analysis and creative problem-solving. Weekly challenges and team games will further strengthen students' abilities to express and present ideas while they also learn the power of persuasion.

Our first weekly class will begin in January 2017. To register a place for your child, please check out  Term 1/2017 Class Schedule. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Nov/Dec 2016 Holiday Workshops

Don't miss our joy-filled, action-packed holiday workshops!
Registration opens on 1 October 2016.

Tiny Acorns 
Suitable for 2 to 3.5 years, a parent-accompanied class

Accompany your toddlers as they explore and discover a world filled with colours and textures. Observe how little fingers create their own interpretations of a colourful world through play-based activities that stimulate their senses in a language-rich environment.  Allow us to open their eyes to the wonders of Science through experiments that delight and surprise.

Workshop 1: 
Dates: Sundays 6th, 13th & 20th November
Time: 9am - 10.30am

Workshop Fees: $168 per parent/child pair (includes a Totbook and all materials)
Bring-a-friend/sibling and get 5% off per child. Group of 4 pays $630.

Curious Explorers
Suitable for 4 to 6 years old          

Do animals play hide-and-seek? As we embark on a journey into the animal kingdom, we invite our curious explorers to discover the secrets of predators and preys in their natural habitats. Through hands-on activities, dramatization and crafts, our explorers will hone their problem solving skills to complete their adventures.

Workshop 2: 
Dates: Saturdays 26th November, 3rd and 10th December
Time: 9am - 10.30am

Workshop 3:               - LAST place!
Saturdays 3rd, 10th and 17th December
Time: 3.30pm - 5pm

Workshop Fees: $170 per child (include lapbook and all materials)
Bring-a-friend/sibling and get 5% off per child. Group of 4 pays $630.

Creative Thinkers           
Suitable for 6 to 8 years old

Through the tale of an endearing spider's life journey, our 6 to 8-year-old participants will be treated to an exciting and experiential three sessions where we introduce current affairs through speech and drama, group discussions and games that stretch their imagination. Participants will put on their thinking caps as a team to solve scenarios that test their ability to think critically and creatively. For some, the writing challenges will be all it takes to ignite the writing spark in them as they discover the power of words.

Workshop 4:           - FULL!
Dates: Sundays 13th, 20th and 27th November
Time:  afternoon
Workshop Fees: $178 per child (include lapbook and learning pack after workshop)
Bring-a-friend/sibling and get 5% off per child.

To register, please click here.   Confirmation of places are on a first-come-first-served basis.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Class Schedule: Term 1/2017

Classes are open for registration on 5 October 2016.

For 2.5 - 3.5 years old (parent-accompanied)
Saturday 10.30am - 11.30am
Sunday 9.15am - 10.15am      
For 3 - 4.5 years old (parent-accompanied)
Saturday, 1.15pm - 2.30pm    
Sunday 4pm - 5pm

For 4 - 5.5 years old
Sunday, 1 - 2.15pm           - two places left 

For K2/Pri 1 level
Saturday, 11.30am - 1pm
Sunday, 2.15pm - 3.45pm

For Primary 1 to 3   - Bright World Thinkers
Sunday, 10.15am - 12.15pm (6 lessons only)              - two places left 

Term 1/2017 begins on 7 January 2017. For term dates, please click here. 

Limited Period promotions:

1. Join-with-Siblings: Second child gets 5% off term fees, third child gets 10% off term fees
2. Bring-A-Friend: Both students get 5% off fees of the same term (need not be in same class)

Each student is entitled to one promotion. One-time non-refundable registration fee of $30 applies to all new students.

All current students (of Term 4/2016) will get priority registration for Term 1/2017. New students will be placed on wait list. All registrations are subject to availability, on a first-come-first-served basis. For all terms & conditions, please refer to FAQs.

To register your child, please click here

Hundreds of children between the ages of 2 and 7 attended our Bright Minds Lapbookers classes since 2009. Many appreciative parents have sent us testimonials via emails, SMS and handwritten notes. To read what other parents said about our classes, click here.