Is it easy to make your students think?

1st November 2022

 by Shoghig Keoshkerian  

It has been said that we cannot make our students learn but we can make them think. If you agree with this statement, therefore, it is worth shedding light on learning strategies.

Language learning strategies are self-directed specific actions, techniques that the learners intentionally use in order to improve their progress in developing L2 skills and retain the newly acquired knowledge or language. I have implemented some behavior-changing strategies in my classes, which were extremely helpful for my learners. The good news is that the strategies can be taught as they expand the role of educators, they are usually problem-oriented but flexible, and finally, they go beyond the cognitive aspect to stimulate metacognition in teaching and learning.

“Think aloud” strategy is one of the techniques that I have  used for my students to answer questions aloud to the class before, during, and after reading. I usually demonstrate the technique by answering the questions myself for example, “What do I know about this topic?”, “This reminds me of …”, “I got confused when …”, etc. Once the questions are introduced and demonstrated by the teacher, students read parts of the text and start answering aloud the questions about the text or their background knowledge of the topic. Needless to say, the teacher should facilitate the discussion based on students’ responses. Additionally, it is always a good idea to let students choose questions randomly from a basket or box.

Moreover, the task could be conducted differently for more fun and for the sake of giving students multiple opportunities to share as they can rotate partners in a circle for activities with multiple questions.  This socio-affective strategy, entitled  “Think-Pair-Share” enables students to respond to questions aloud to the class before, during, and after reading. In this case, teachers ask students to think about the given topic independently, after that, students are paired out, and share their thoughts and ideas about the topic with their partners. It is worth mentioning that teachers can group students creatively - students could be given the flexibility to choose which partner shares the information. Toward the end of the activity, it might be a good idea to expand the share into a whole class discussion and record students’ responses in a graph or mind map on the board. However, if the topic is sensitive, consider giving your students a chance to answer questions anonymously.

As you can see, the think aloud or self-reflect technique requires readers to just stop for a while and reflect on what they do or do not understand when they listen or read. Therefore, the teacher’s modelling of “think aloud technique” can definitely ease the process by making their own comprehension process visible. It is of high importance that students are taught to respond using some sentence starters or prompts such as “I got stuck on the …”, “I would like to learn more about …”, and “I wonder if …”, etc.

As for some practical ways to enhance metacognitive strategies, it is always crucial to incorporate them into daily lessons. Always make sure to highlight the usefulness of strategies so that your students take the ownership of their own learning process and see the strategies as an added value. Moreover, help students to monitor their own use of strategies by using checklists or exit tickets. Additionally, you can always follow some fundamental steps to ensure you cover all the components of metacognition, which are planning for learning, selecting appropriate learning strategies, monitoring strategy use, and the learning itself.

As long as you are eager to involve learners in taking an active role in their own learning process, you might consider using some of the following reading strategies such as relating the text to themselves and to the world, making inferences or predicting what happens next, creating mental images and visualizing of what was read to make their thinking process visible to themselves and others, summarizing and synthesizing texts, interacting with the text by thinking aloud and finally by making them aware of their mental processes and own learning strategies.

It is important to develop the 21st-century skills such as critical thinking and problem posing/solving skills by repeatedly exposing students to higher order thinking tasks and assessments, providing sufficient wait time for them to think and process both the ideas and the language. It is useful to practise self-reflection and employing metacognitive strategies at the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation rather than activating only the lower levels of cognition, understanding and remembering.

Be a successful teacher and enable your students to acquire effective learning strategies which will facilitate their learning, secure their success, understand the world around them, and make good and deep connections between theory and practice thus taking an active role in their own learning.

Anderson, N.J. (2002). The role of metacognition in second language teaching and learning, Eric Digest, April.


About  Shoghig Keoshkerian  

Shoghig has been teaching English at different institutes for a long time. She holds a master’s degree MA in TEFL. Shoghig is an EFL instructor at the American University of Armenia.

She is also a trainer of trainers, mentorship support specialist and instructional designer. She has been awarded a certificate of Teaching Excellence and Achievement from Claremont Graduate University in California.



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