i-Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Thinking Skills

How to Get Your Child Thinking in English

When learning a language, it’s great to focus on the four key skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. But in order to make really good progress, it’s essential to add one more skill to the list: thinking.

When I speak to the parents of my students, I always give them ways to help their children practise thinking in English. This is a great way to improve a child’s accuracy. Once a learner can think in a new language instead of translating from their first one, they can get rid of a lot of their mistakes.
Soon they’re able to read English texts with new words, express themselves clearly and write error-free sentences.

Try these steps at home with your child:

1. Reading
Reading is the best way to pick up a language and build a natural sense of it. Not only is it a superb way to expand vocabulary, it also makes it easier for children to think in English. Our brains are a pattern making machine, therefore by repeatedly looking at words in context and how words are structured in sentences, children unconsciously build up a sense of English. This makes them feel comfortable with thinking and expressing themselves in English.
Be mindful to choose books suited to your children’s abilities and encourage younger children to take time to read the words instead of just looking at pictures.

2. Daily Life Narration
At the end of each day, ask your child to narrate their day in English. At first, children may be hesitant to do so as they have no idea what to talk about. In that case, offer some prompts to get them started: ‘What was the first thing you did in the morning?’ ‘Did anything interesting happen in your classes?’ ‘What did you play with at your friend’s house?’ As your children get more at ease with talking about their day, try to encourage them to tell you what they were thinking about and their emotions as well.
By narrating their daily life in English, children get a chance to practice speaking in full sentences and grow comfortable with commonly used words. Your child will find it easier and easier to think in English as they reflect on each day’s events.

3. Using an English to English dictionary
As your children get more comfortable with processing knowledge in English, you can also switch their English to Chinese dictionary for a fully English dictionary. This reduces the translation process and consolidates their language sense. Fully English dictionaries often have sample phrases or sentences that demonstrate each word’s use in context.
This is an excellent opportunity to learn vocabulary in natural phrases and gives children a chance to make those words part of their active vocabulary. It also makes it easier for children to memorize the newly learnt words as our brains are hardwired to remember patterns and words in context instead of individual words with no connection.