Promoting Critical thinking, Questioning and Discovery in Young Learners

The main aim of these blog posts is to promote critical thinking, questioning and discovery learning in primary learners. Each blog post starts with a question that teachers will use as a springboard with their learners. Activities will cover a range of types, interactions and outcomes. The ideas will be practical and do-able, regardless of whether the learning is taking place online or in blended or face to face contexts. Each post will follow a simple format with a warm up, some ‘thinking’ activities and an optional ‘find out’ research task. Teachers will also find a free worksheet which they can print and use to provide extra practice in some of the key language covered in the lesson.

Start with a question that lends itself to many different answers – age appropriate so children have lots of answers

How can we use our hands?

Here is an example, using an image from Look as a springboard and to illustrate

From Look Level 1

Here is a structured lesson plan with a logical sequence of activities. Each stage do-able in both a face to face context and online – if a variation is needed, it will be explicit.

Warm Up

Revise parts of the body with your learners.

Play a miming game, with instructions.

E.g. Put one hand on your head.

Show me three fingers.

Stand up and touch your knees.

Step 1: Thinking about the question

Write this question on the board or on a slide and give learners a couple of minutes to think of an answer.

How can I use my hands?

Ask learners to write complete answers by completing this sentence:

I can use my hands to …

Collect learners’ answers and write them on the board or on a slide.

Suggested answers:

I can use my hands to make a sandcastle.

I can use my hands to wash the dishes.

I can use my hands to wave goodbye.

I can use my hands to play a guitar.

I can use my hands to paint a picture.

Display all of the answers and add some of your own.

Step 2: Thinking from a different perspective

Ask learners to help you make a list of people and write them on a board or slide.

E.g. a baby, a mother, a builder, a doctor, a teacher, a farmer, etc.

Ask learners to imagine they are a teacher and to complete the sentence:

I can use my hands to …

Ask for their ideas and write a list on a slide/the board.

Do the same with a few more people from the list.

Step 3: Thinking further

(A) We can communicate with our hands

Demonstrate to learners how you can use your hands to communicate. Hold up one finger to indicate ‘one’. Ask What am I saying?

Then ask What other things can we say with our hands?

Give learners time to think. Then ask for their ideas. If necessary share a few more ideas.


Say goodbye by waving

Say ‘you’ by pointing

Say ‘I love you’ by making a heart shape with fingers and thumbs of both hands

Say ‘Can I ask a question?’ by raising your hand

Say ‘Be quiet’ by placing your finger over your lips

Say ‘Come here’ by beckoning with a finger

Say ‘good luck’ by crossing your fingers

Say ‘well done’ by clapping

Say ‘Stop!’ by placing your palm upright

(B) We have one dominant hand

Demonstrate to your learners which hand you use to write. Say: Look! I’m right/left handed?

Ask What about you?

Give all learners an opportunity to answer.

Draw a simple picture while learners watch. Then ask them to copy the picture in their notebooks.

Try to draw the same picture using your non-dominant hand! Learners watch. They should find this amusing.

Finish by asking learners to do the same. They can show their pictures to each other.

Optional homework research task

Find out:

  1. How many bones are in a hand?
  2. How can you say ‘hand’ in three other languages?
  3. How long is your hand from the top of your middle finger to your wrist.

[A/K 1. 29 2. Learners’ own answers 3. Learners’ own answers]

Free worksheet

Print one copy of the worksheet for each pair of learners. Organize learners into pairs, A and B. Explain that they have to ask and answer questions to complete the crossword. They must not show each other their crosswords. Before learners do the activity, write some model questions and answers on the board for support. Underline the sections they can use again and again:

What’s two down? This is a part of the body. You use this to walk.

What’s three across? This is on your face. You use this to smell.

Author: Katherine Bilsborough

Katherine has been creating ELT materials for 30 years, for her own students and for some of the top ELT Publishers. She has written more than 30 course books and many online courses. . Katherine also writes monthly lesson plans for the British Council/BBC website and blog posts for National Geographic Learning’s In Focus blog. She is the author of ‘How to write Primary materials’, a training course for ELT writers and is the Joint Events Coordinator for IATEFL’s MaWSIG (Materials Writers’ special interest group). Katherine is a co-author of Look, a seven-level primary series from National Geographic Learning.

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