#ELTCHAT Summary for November 30th 2011 How to Improve Speaking Skills using Critical Thinking (CT) without Spoon feeding.

Am I just feeling stressed?

#ELTCHAT Summary for November 30th 2011

How to Improve Speaking Skills using Critical Thinking (CT) without Spoon feeding.

Hi everyone,
I’ve been trying to keep up with the fast flying tweets on #eltchat recently, despite rather too much work. This is the group that meets on Twitter on Wednesdays to discuss the topics we vote to discuss (all related to teaching). Each discussion is followed by a summary like this one, which are stored at the above #eltchat site, so that there is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of ideas, insights and resources there for any elt teacher. If you would like to take part just download a programme like Tweetdeck and do a search for #eltchat on Wednesday at 12.00 noon or 9.00pm (UK times) and join in the fun :-).

Do you communicate or do you parrot?


This week’s discussion of critical thinking kicked off with a request for a definition of CT (critical thinking). There then followed quite a few references to parrots (Largely my fault as I was in a rebellious mood, I’m afraid :-() but underlying this is actually something quite serious: Critical thinking leads to logical thought and communication of well thought out ideas that are not simply “parrotting” someone elses’s words and ideas. The wikipedia definition was a good one:

Critical thinking is the process or method of thinking that questions assumptions shared by @cerirhianon

Some noteworthy ideas were:

@Shaunwilden Critical thinking – the ability to interact with a subject, & question & debate its foundations with considered ideas. I guess questioning assumptions/norms /givens – not being spoonfed are key factors.

@shaznosel: CT – maybe to encourage SS to elaborate, be flexible, original,creative and to think for themselves..diff between us and parrots??

@hartle reading between the lines and then discussion everyone’s different destinations

@sandymillin: CT – encouraging students to explore and play around with ideas, rather than accepting them without question

So, basically we are asking students to think for themselves, question things and become more independent (less spoonfeeding)

We also discussed the difference between CT and Creative thinking. I personally said that I think you need a certain amount of creativity to be able to think outside the box, and therefore to be able to think critically:

@Marisa_C Very diferent to creative thinking -perhaps we shld draw distinction here? Critical thinking may be more logical & analytical (but then in reply to my ideas she added)
Agreed, critical thinking is related to analysis, creative thinking to ideas.

@cerirhianon RT @hartle: #eltchat treat stds like other adults. Listen to them and really talk to them… > works for kids too 🙂


Critical thought can take us in unexpected directions

We then moved on to consider ways in which we encourae CT in our classrooms and whether this is a good thing or not. Most of us thought that is was a good thing as getting students to think for themselves and communicate intelligent will produce fairly natural language use as a type of by-product, but there were a few reservations. People were worried that learners might ask why they were doing “this” and not concentrating on “new language” etc. These are legitimate concerns and were discussed quite thoroughly.

Some noteworthy ideas were:

@shaznosel I think it begins by having high expectations of our Ss. Ask the questions that they haven’t been asked before.

@hartle say opposite opinions to encourge them to prove their point of view

Some people were asking how using CT skills differs from “normal” speaking activities, and the general opinion was that the skills of speaking are the same ones but the thought befind what people say differs so that there is more brainstorminsg, debate, preparation before activities, rather than just “diving straight in to the speaking activity”

@e_d_driscoll certainly some Ss feel this sort of thing is a waste of time- how is it diff from any other free speaking practice?

@MrChrisjWilson I think interest in topic makes a difference. If you don’t care then why bother to think critically?

@cerirhiannon: might be helpful to share some specific activities and evaluate them for CT ?

@EnglishOutThere  #ELTChat true..maybe let them research at home a topic and then bring ideas to class??
@hartle Speaking skills improve as natural by product of engaged discussion, + LA and feedback

@ElindaGjondedaj RT @Marisa_C: @e_d_driscoll Another good question – should ELT Ts act as educators or just as language dispensers?

This discussion continued but in the end there was a general concensus that encouraging students to think critically would lead to better communication skills.

The mask you choose is the identity you adopt


At this stage of the evening the ideas really started to flow in thick and fast, and it was hard to keep up with everything: so much creativity :-). So, here is a list of the types of activity that we use:

  1. @Marisa_C Simulations and Case studies…alibi games, problem solving, improvise from pics, build on each others ideas
  2. @cerirhianon ask high school ss to  think (but really think) about the relevance of their education system as prep for real world @sanymillin @cerirhiannon great example Ceri. So this perhaps requires collection of data from other countries, analysis of diff views
  3. @aggaridodiez Strategies such as talk to partners allow students to have opportunities to develop such critical thinking, even at survival levels
  4. @eflresource Ethical dilemmas can be a good way in, too – esp.  removed from religious points of view and esp. if they have comic overtones
  5. @Marisa_C Decision making activities which involve evaluation – e,g. candidates for a specific job brief Ss must choose. There used to be an excellent section in Management Magazine callse Dilemma & Decision – i have tons of great lessons from those
  6. @shaznosel critical thinking with lots of speculation..show a pic which is unusual and speculate why/how /what etc @hartle replied: Ads gd for this too.
  7. @annabooklover I have a game which wasn’t meant for ELT use, called SCRUPLES. Canadian people may know it. Great fun for older students @Marisa_C replied to this: Great game – an ELT version of it in T’s Guide In HEadway Advanced OUP
  8. @cerirhianon read texts about students’ culture written by outsiders – ss as experts criticise and correct the misrepresentations @Marisa_C replied: ss as experts criticise7correct the misrepresentations @eflresource added: Yes, and also science/tech developments – life elsewhere; aliens view of us; etc
  9. @theteacherjames Use fiction/movies/tv as a way of promoting the disc. of opinions. Lots of useful lang can come from this eg disagreeing politely.
  10. @ElindaGjondedaj using breaking news (see link to the website I added below for more on this.
  11. @Marisa_C Games from the Philosopher’s Magazine (See link below, which I have added. I hope it’s the right publication, but even if it isn’t it looks interesting and could well be used in class.)
  12. @Marisa_C: Read news items and rewrtite them from own country’s local viewpoint . Engage with literary text – always a great springboard for critical discussions.
  13. @NikkiFortova @Shaunwilden information gap activities, debates, dictogloss , for example, can be good collaborative tasks And from @Nikkifortova: … our Ss are intelligent, thinking human beings – challenge them with tasks that require higher level thinking
  14. @theteacherjames Compare two opinion pieces from newspapers of opposite views Which is right?
  15. @antoniaclare dictation sentences, but sts need to change the content to be true for themselves, then compare, include controversial opinion. Or…Watch documentary, then Imagine you’re making documentary about this topic, what view will you represent, why etc?
  16. @hartle doing opposites activity.  Dictate something like  “Poverty leads to crime” & ask for opposite. Discuss in grps
  17. @cerirhianon ask ss to debate subjects from the opposite position to their own ( e.g. boys argue that girls are stronger)
  18. @Wiktor Good 4 low levels:”alien interview” -pretend U R an alien, ask ss to explain / define things clearly – annoying & effective as hell….Also: an alien comes to earth, does (insert bad things) but they’re normal in his culture. Shld we punish him?

There was a little aside about questions with “no right answer” which was interesting. Some said their students were frustrated by this type of question, but others felt that they help students to be more engaged. In any case the ideas (as you can see) flew fast and furious and hopefully will be very usfeul to all of us. #eltchat has done it once again, going from strength to strength!

References and links:

Definitions of CT:

http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 by @cerirhianon and @EnglishOutThere

http://www.slideshare.net/MarisaConstantinides/language-development-for-teachers-ldt slideshow shared by @Marisa_C

Ideas and Lesson Plans

https://cerij.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/plan-b/ good lesson plan by @cerirhianon

http://shartle.edublogs.org/2011/11/23/the-future-of-communication/ pre discussion work designed to foster crticial thinking prior to discussion posted by @hartle

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/ “Information is beautiful” to simulate thought and discussion, posted by @cerirhianon

http://languagesoutthere.podomatic.com/entry/2011-10-20T08_12_14-07_00 podcast showing “small successes” of some students after working on FB and Skype activities, posted by @EnglishOutThere

http://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/sets/72157626599491389/ Every Picture Tells a Story on #eltpics (Look for user of this name on Flickr) posted as a prompt for discussion activities by @sandymillin

http://www.folj.com/lateral/ Lateral thinking puzzles posted by @Wiktor_K

http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/ The Breaking News website with great lesson plans posted by @hartle

http://www.thephilosophersmagazine.com/TPM/ The Philosopher’s Magazine posted by @hartle

http://p4c.com/p4c-library/stories-storytelling Useful stories to make students think, posted by @eflresource

http://www.thunks.co.uk/Default.aspx A great site with deceptively simple questions that lead to discussion, posted by @Shaunwilden


9 thoughts on “#ELTCHAT Summary for November 30th 2011 How to Improve Speaking Skills using Critical Thinking (CT) without Spoon feeding.

  1. After reading this blog post I was immediatly reminded of “When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” — Napoleon Hill

  2. I think that is a good ways for improving speaking English. I can use some of these activities with students in my practical . Thanks very much

    1. I have some advice to improve speaking English like :
      1- It’s important to build your confidence
      2- practice speaking as much as possible
      3- Read more in English. as much as you read, your English speaking skills will be better
      4- Don’t speak too fast!
      5- Listen as much as possible to native speaker in radio or watch TV

      1. Mona – I really like your five advises . i think these are very useful for improving speaking English. Thank you this additional

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