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Which hat are you wearing?

November 10, 2006

A useful idea for structuring a discussion

Hello again,

Do your classroom discussions deterioriate into an unstructured slanging match? If so, perhaps you would like to try this approach. Edward de Bono’s book, Six Thinking Hats, offers a problem-solving model whereby people look at an issue from six different angles, wearing, as it were, six different hats. I think this ...

.. is an excellent idea that can be adapted for discussions in the ELT classroom.

The teacher (use the class as labour) needs to make six hats: white, red, black, yellow, green and blue. These can be made by folding newspapers into ‘boatshape’ hats and painting then the appropriate colour. You will need a complete set for each group of six in your class. If you have a smaller group, then one set will suffice.

First choose the topic for discussion. Let us take, for example, the problems of pollution and congestion caused by the private motor car. Put each hat on a separate desk and beneath each hat place a sheet of paper explaining that hat’s significance:
• when wearing the white hat, you must look for information; supply as many facts about the problem as you can;
• when wearing the red hat you must express your feelings about the topic; let your emotions really show;
• when wearing the black hat express all the negative aspects of this topic; think of all that is bad about it;
• when wearing the the yellow hat, think about all that is positive and good about the topic; be positive;
• when wearing the green hat, be creative about the problem and think of as many solutions as possible without worrying about how realistic they are;
• when wearing the blue hat, you take charge of the group and check that each one is coming up with ideas. The blue hat can also have vocabulary sheets and fact lists to supply to the others if they need help.

When the hats and the sheets of paper are in place, ask each student to go a hat at random and to follow the instructions they find beneath it. The blue hat should be asked to take the chair, to monitor the work of the others, supply help from the information available and to exercise time control. When the time is up, each hat should report on their findings and the person in the hat should note them on a chart that can be displayed on the wall (several groups) or direct to the white board if there is only one group. If you have only three or four students, they will have o wear more than one hat to complete the task.

In this way each student gets to use the vocabulary associated with their particular stance and concentrate on a single point of view that may be different to the stance they normally take. At the feedback stage they each learn form each other.

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