I cannot recommend this book highly enough. In it, Daniel Willingham shares 9 principles about how our mind works and relates them to teaching. Each chapter deals with a different principle in which he outlines the science in an engaging way, using examples that all teachers can relate to. He then provides implications for designing activities. Some of these ideas have been really influential in planning my lessons this year. Below I share a couple of highlights. His first chapter asks ‘why don’t students like school?’ and was really helpful as it explained that although humans are naturally curious creatures, we are not naturally good thinkers and will even avoid thinking unless the conditions are right. This simple fact made me understand more why students can so quickly stop thinking when they don’t have to. The implication here is that well framed questions and sufficiently challenging activities can help students to think more about the task. This relates to his third chapter called ‘why do students remember everything on tv and forget everything I say?’ in which he shares the principle that ‘memory is the residue of thought’. This may well be obvious but it made be realise that if my students are passive and not thinking about what I want them to, they are unlikely to remember what I want them to. It’s made me more conscious of what students might be thinking about in my lessons. Is a complicated activity with lots of resources making them think more about the resources, or more about the question or topic in hand? This is a really well-written, thought provoking read by a well respected expert. It will certainly make you think about your teaching, which makes the book so memorable.
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