To be perfectly honest I hate that in my profession they keep inventing new buzz words for age old ways of working and interacting with young children. It feels to me that it is a way to make some feel superior in their understanding to others. If you don’t quite get what it means it is quite likely something you are already naturally doing, but without giving it a name.
‘Sustained shared thinking’ occurs when two or more individuals ‘work together’ in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate an activity, extend a narrative etc.
Both parties must contribute to the thinking and it must develop and extend the understanding. It was more likely to occur when children were interacting 1:1 with an adult or with a single peer partner and during focussed group work. The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project (2004)
If you are engaged with a child’s play, if you are working together, listening and sharing ideas, if you are helping a child to understand something, you are likely engaged in sustained shared thinking. Imagine blowing bubbles for a toddler, they watch the bubbles and watch you blow them. As the bubbles blow away, the bubbles pop and the child continues to look for them. You might blow a bubble onto their hand so the child can feel it pop or show them how to pop it with their finger. The child engages in a new game, popping the bubbles for fun. This is sustained shared thinking.
I often see questions asked about suitable activities to promote sustained- shared thinking. Any open-ended, creative activity will lend it self to sustained shared thinking – the key is the level of engagement and nature of interaction between teacher and child. Also any genuine discussions you have with the children when you are learning from one another and discussing in depth opinions, thoughts and ideas are examples of sustained shared thinking. Take time to listen and understand what the children are thinking, before jumping in with our own ideas.
It might be helpful to think of these questions. If you can use these questions in your interactions with the children then you will be engaging in sustained shared thinking.
That’s really interesting, can you tell me more?
So you think that…..
You started with…..
Offering own experiences
When I was little I thought that….
I like to listen to music when I am busy.
So we think that the sugar will dissolve in hot water?
I think I understand let me just check what you said.
Can I show you another way?
How about if we try this?
Perhaps we need to think about it?
Don’t forget that you said the sugar would dissolve in warm water
Let’s just go back to what you did/said/thought.
You thought really hard about where to put the door, now where could you put the windows?
If we try this what might happen?
What other ideas might work?
Are there any other possibilities?
Do you think the 3 bears would like Goldilocks to be their friend?
Asking Open Questions
How did you…? Why does this…..? What happens next?
What do you think? Where would you?
Offering Alternative Viewpoint
Let’s pretend we are…… What might we do?
Perhaps Goldilocks didn’t think she was being mean when she ate the porridge?
Disclaimer: these questions came from training delivered by North Somerset early years team but may originate from another source.