Blog of Mr C

Educational ICT links and musings….

Experienced a Thunk lately?

Last Friday, the staff of Shrewsbury High School enjoyed a thought provoking, stimulating and entertaining training day delivered by Ian Gilbert of Independent Thinking Ltd.  I thought I had better jot down a few things before I forget – it’s a bit random but here goes;

  1. Pre-starter starters
    • This focuses on the whole idea of limbering up the brain before starting any work.  In the same way you would stretch muscles before exercise the brain needs a gentle wake up before getting used.  Pre-starters should have no right or wrong answer but should be simple, low-stress and fun.  How many words can you make from another word, one thing I didn’t know before about bonsai trees….
  2. “It’s better to seek forgiveness than to ask for permission.”
    • A quote from Tom Peters, business guru – let’s be a bit more adventurous with what we do in the classroom.
  3. Don’t spoon feed, use the 4Bs.
    • When they are stuck, encourage pupils to use their Brain, their Book (or web), their Buddy and then the Boss.
  4. Following on from that, “Intelligence is what you use when you don’t know what to do”.  In response to the question, how do you distinguish between all the A grade candidates?, an Oxford admissions tutor replied, “simple, I ask them a question they haven’t been asked before”.
  5. Some pupils may think better while doodling or fidgeting
    • how many times have I taken what I think are distractions away from pupils so they can concentrate.  A fine line this one, it will take some time to work out who is being distracted and who is not.
  6. As energy levels dip in the middle of a lesson, have a two minute break with maybe some brain gym exercises.
    • Good old rubbing stomach / patting head
    • left hand chopping, right hand sawing
    • right thumb tracing infinity left thumb writing your name (in the air)
    • right hand drawing numbers 1-10, left hand drawing letters a-j
    •  writing where you went on holiday
  7. Use stories to remember things.
    • If a concept has 8 points, make up a story to incorporate those 8 points.
  8. Choices – give pupils a ‘sense’ of being in control.
    • Choose one of these five questions to answer
    • This is what we need to cover today, what do you want to do first?
    • Do one question from each section
    • From these ten questions, identify the 2 hardest and the 2 easiest
  9. Thunks – questions that make your brain hurt and encourage independent thinking.  A whole list of these can be found here, but here are some we grappled with;
    • What is a tree?
    • Is a broken down car parked?
    • Is there more future than past?
  10. “A leader is a dealer in hope” – Napoleon, at the end of the day, a pupil who may not be able to achieve high academic grades can still have hope of succeeding if they are able to think for themselves.

I would highly recommend Ian – he came up with plenty of relevant and practical suggestions which I will try and use next time I am in a classroom, moreover, he made us all laugh – just what teachers need for a training day at the end of term.


October 26, 2006 - Posted by | Thinking Skills


  1. another V quick idea – themed registers. Get you into the lesson quickly and in an entertaining and/or educational way. Instead of the dull “yes Sir/Miss” response, answer a question. eg ‘if you were a cartoon character, which would you be?’ We get some really radical themes too, – kitchen appliances, colour, weather system etc. This can tell you more about someone’s mood, personality, and learning style than some of the convoluted tests we carry out! (The educational bit – use it for revision – respond with the name of an input device, etc). More fun still – anyone absent provokes a group resonse – shout out the item of choice – colours theme – absent people are Puce or Taupe – serves em right! My lot ask for themed registers quite often – guess they haven’t sussed the psychology links yet!

    Comment by Jude | October 30, 2006 | Reply

  2. […] On The Blog of Mr. C the other day was a mention of something called a Thunk. A Thunk is basically a pilosophical question with no right or wrong answer – is a broken down car the same as a parked car? If I read part of a comic book in a shop, am I stealing? […]

    Pingback by I Should Be Marking » Thunk! | November 3, 2006 | Reply

  3. Further to the pingback (still trying to figure out how those things work) I’ve been using these with my tutor group on a morning with great success, so thank you very much for that.

    I’ve also set up a Thunk blog and would encourage anyone and everyone to use it and post a comment.

    I was going to shamelessly plug my own blog now, but as I’ve automagically done that already I’ll just plug the Thunk blog:

    Comment by HappyHippy | November 3, 2006 | Reply

  4. Glad you are putting these ideas to good use!

    Love the register/psycholgical profiling idea – will share that with the world if that’s OK.

    Keep up the good work.


    Comment by Ian Gilbert | January 23, 2007 | Reply

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