A Thinking Process • Sentence Transformation
vocabulary development across languages

Sentence Transformation for Vocabulary Development
a collaborative method to increase vocabulary, fluency and ideas
This method was recently included as part of the leadership training with principals from 33 government schools part of the Initiative Africa All Children Read Grant. The training foundation was using the Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out handbook to provide a framework for whole school change. The 2 day hands-on session (see previous blog posting) including visual mapping (Thinking Maps®), reflective questioning, collaborative learning and structuring environment. In addition specific reading strategies, such as Sentence Transformation, were incorporated into the training.

Description Sentence Transformation for Vocabulary Development is a collaborative method to build vocabulary from prior knowledge, readings, schema connections, and peer to peer learning. Sentence Transformation models and develops reading fluency, vocabulary, parts of grammar (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, etc.), langauge and spelling patterns and collaborative learning. This strategy is applicable for beginning readers through secondary school. The lower grades learning patterns of language, while the upper grades explore expanding on quality writing to develop vocabulary and their own voice from master writers.
download the brief handout

sentence transformation in Amharic, Oromo, English – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – June 2013

Strengths Sentence Transformation is a process that involves the whole class and/or small groups in a very participatory activity that builds vocabulary and fluency. It requires minimal resources – a basic chalkboard and/or a wall painted with chalkboard paint is excellent to use. Students can lead the process in addition to the teacher. For the teacher it is an excellent opportunity to model reading with fluency and thinking aloud with vocabulary development.

When The process takes approximately 5-15 minutes. It is recommended doing the process 1-2 times daily. The sentence can most appropriately connect to content during the day. This method can be used in ALL content areas (language, science, math, social science, PE, etc.).

sentence transformation in English – New York City, USA – 2013

Extensions After developing vocabulary with the sentence for various parts of speech, students can extend this activity by writing sentences from the developed sentence transformation. Additionally, the vocabulary if connected to current studies and content can be used as part of a vocabulary word wall.

Needs A medium or large size chalkboard and/or white board are very effective. This provides sufficient space to write complete sentences (row) and develop a wide range of vocabulary (columns). Chalkboard paint could be used to paint an entire wall.

The Process

  • the teacher writes the sentence on the chalkboard saying nothing with the students watching
  • the teacher chants the sentence while tracking (pointing to) the words in phrases
  • the teacher selects one part of speech (e.g. adjective) and asks for words with similar meanings
  • after adding one word, the teacher chants with the students the complete sentence with each added vocabulary word
  • the teacher continues with this process adding futher words to the part of speech being expanded
  • Reminder—add one part of speech, then chant all the sentences so far. This supports fluency practice and learning the patterns progressively. 

Students as the Facilitators (teachers)
Having students becoming the whole class and/or small group leaders provides an opportunity to peer to peer transfer, observation of students to assess the student leaders as much as the participating students.

Teacher’s Goals of Modeling
It is important to develop students into the leaders of facilitating. It is equally important for teachers to model the procedure throughout the year — assessing student progress to determine needs and ‘changing up’ what is supportive for growth to model to the students.

Precludes, Next Steps and Extensions
The ‘word bank’ of vocabulary in context created with sentence transformation provides a natural progression to using the ‘word bank’ as a framework for writing.  Prior to sentence transformation (or concurrently) visual maps can be used to develop vocabulary in a similar manner.

Connecting with Thinking Schools
Sentence Transformation is about learning patterns collaboratively and as a visual tool – the classification and expansion of the parts of language.

download the brief handout

Thinking Schools International:  www.thinkingschoolsinternational.com

Research: Thinking Foundation www.thinkingfoundation.org


Thinking Schools Ethiopia -> Implemention -> Scaffolding: a Systems Approach

Implementing Thinking Schools Ethiopia

A Whole School / Whole School District / Region Systems Approach

Step 1: Visioning & Planning Transformational Change:
Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out
read more about on previous blog entries

The initial training uses the Thinking Schools International Growing Thinking Schools Guide for the initial two day training with leadership teams. The purpose is to learn through using the Thinking Schools Six Starting Points of Thinking. This begins with learning more about ourselves, our school, our team, and our community.  The training includes hands-on use of the Thinking Schools Methods:

Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out Transformational Design Handbook
  • Reflective Questioning high quality questioning and listening skills
  • Thinking Skills explicit use of cognitive processes
  • Visual Mapping the use of visual tools to map out ideas. read more
  • Collaborative Networking between us in pairs, groups, schools, and global networks that includes collaborative learning; collegial coaching; regional and global collaborations. read more
  • Developing Dispositions characteristics, dispositions, and habits of mind are engaged
  • Structuring Environment considering how the physical space is organize and resources used
  • read more
view an example with the Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE) & Initiative Africa collaboration (click on the image to enlarge)

Step 2:  This training begins with a leadership team. Examples in Ethiopia include:

  • Thinking Schools International and Thinking Schools Ethiopia training of the Addis Ababa Education Bureau Expert Team in November 2012 – this is the team that would play an important role in working with the school leadership teams, leading demonstration lessons at school sites, and facilitating professional development. read more
  • Training principals from the participating schools of a Thinking Schools whole school change process. Thinking Schools International and Thinking Schools Ethiopia training of 33 school leaders part of the All Children Read Initiative. read more

Step 3:  Training School Leadership Teams
The next step after training a team of experts and/or principals, is to train leadership teams from each school including principals, supervisors and lead teachers from the school. These teams are part of a collaborative training with other school leadership teams – optimally from the same sub-city and/or region (kebele / woreda).

Step 4:  Training at schools including demonstration lessons within a collegial coaching (collaborative learning) model for the educators.
This training involves the whole school staff in observing and participating with demonstration lessons in classrooms with students. Thinking Schools methods are used in the demonstration as well as part of the educators in their professional learning communities. Download the brief PDF file outlining an example with Visual Mapping. Any thinking strategy can be substituted in the pedagogical model.

Use of Video of Actual Practices from Demonstration Lessons
During the on-site professional development with whole school staffs, the demonstration lessons are video taped for building a video library for the school staff (Professional Learning Community).

Training of Specific Methods
The school staff continues training (professional development) with specific methods trainings including Visual Tools (e.g. Thinking Maps); Structuring Environment; Collaborative Learning; Reflective Questioning; Dispositions. read more

Collaborative Network
In addition to collaborating with schools locally, regionally and nationally, schools can collaborate within the greater Thinking Schools International network: www.thinkingschoolsinternational.com


Thinking Schools International:  www.thinkingschoolsinternational.com

Research: Thinking Foundation www.thinkingfoundation.org

Bikolos Nur Academy – Transformational Design – Whole School Change

Download the reflective poster (pdf file) of Bikolos Nur Academy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as seen below.

Hannan: I really think that Thinking maps make a big difference in my life because before I really didn’t read my books much because it takes too much time to understand, but now I am interested to open my exercise books make Thinking Maps to actually study and know what I am reading. We can be independent and learn by ourselves, because Thinking Maps are our teachers. They make everything easy so that we can read and remember — it makes you visualize things. Thinking Maps capture our thinking in our mind.
Hannan Abdulfetah, Grade 9 Student

Download the reflective poster (pdf file) of Bikolos Nur Academy,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as seen to the right.

Leadership Training: Thinking Schools Ethiopia & Initiative Africa

Principals collaboratively using Thinking Maps to develop and organize their ideas and thinking at the June 2013 training.

All Children Reading Initiative
In this blog posting:

  • an overview of the initiative
  • reflections from principals at the first 2 day training including video clip
  • specific methodologies being implemented with the initiative

The All Children Reading Initiative focuses on students thinking and reading (decoding, comprehension, thinking methodologies) including educators developing a reflective teaching practice through action research. Initiative Africa is collaborating with Thinking Schools Ethiopia on the implementation of the model project. The initial two day training with Principals from the 33 participating schools from 3 regions in Ethiopia was held in Addis Ababa in June 2013.

  • 11 schools in Amhara
  • 11 schools in Nazeret
  • 11 schools in Addis Ababa Gulele Sub-city

The specific practices that educators will be implementing include:

    • Growing Thinking Schools Ethiopia from the Inside Out approach includes Visual Tools (Thinking Maps), Collaborative Learning, Building Community, Thinking Environment, and Reflective Questioning. These approaches are the foundation of a whole school thinking approach developing a common approach with the whole learning community. The Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out model develops plans that support each schools specific needs in a whole school approach. The guide is currently used in English and Amharic.
    • Specific reading approaches including spelling (phonics and language patterns), language fluency (Sentence Transformation), and writing (sentence patterns and use of visual tools).
    • For educators:  Action Research; Collegial Coaching; Thinking Maps for planning and assessing.
    • Books published in the three key languages: Amharic, Oromigna, English
Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out guide in Amharic.
  • Teacher guides (professional development) published in the three key languages accompanied by a DVD (developed in Ethiopia with Ethiopian educators and students) to see the methods in action.

All methods need only minimal materials – either chalkboard and chalk or sand and drawing utensils are highly effective. The model includes regular professional development led by Thinking Schools Ethiopia trained facilitators including:

  • specific sessions on Action Research, Thinking Maps, Building Community, Spelling and Fluency
  • monthly school site visits to all schools during the school year (2013-1014) for on-site professional development
  • specific School Leadership training
  • collaborative trainings at school sites (two schools joining the host school)
  • use of media for ongoing training between in-person site visits

The Innovation
An Action Research Approach to Improving Student Reading Using Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) for reflective practices while implementing research based methodologies Including specific reading methods, Thinking Maps and others.

The Participants
Leadership teams from three regions representing eleven schools from each region as part of an All Children Reading grant. The first year will focus on the effectiveness of the model, building a body of action research, implementing research based thinking and reading methodologies, and developing whole school change.

The administrators and government education officials representing 33 schools shared reflective insights throughout the two day training. Some of the reflections at the end of the training include:

Thinking Schools Ethiopia Facilitator:
As you are leaders of different schools, I would like to know how this training was useful for your own work.
Atsede Tseheyer, Thinking Schools Ethiopia Facilitator 

The Training:
“What I understand from the two day training was, training can be fun with Thinking maps, experience sharing and reflections.”
Wosen Sileshi, Principal 

Collaborative Learning & Whole School Change:
“The training was helpful for school administrators too, it helps us to work with our staff collaboratively and come up with new ideas.”
Abenet Girma, Principal

Student Centered for Students — Participant Centered for Teachers and School Leaders:
“Starting from the trainers, I have seen how we should treat students and how this will affect their performance and their interest in coming to school.”
Zenebe Nigussie, Principal

Student Prior Knowledge, Thinking Methodologies, Smiles:
“Now I understand that students come to school with prior knowledge, how sentence transformation works and various tools to make class room interactive. The other important thing I notice was how powerful it is to welcome students every day and see them off at the end with smile.”
Tegegn Shimelash, Principal

Quality Education for All Children:
“The Thinking Maps will assist us in solving our fundamental problems by bringing quality education to all children.”

Milkias Bonke, Principal

Sharing, Spelling, Fluency, Collegial Collaborations:
“The main thing I got today is sharing experience from my colleagues and other schools. Secondly, I found different techniques how to teach spelling, fluency, thinking.”
Getasetegn Engida, Principal

“I can see it in two ways, one: it helps us to see what is available in our schools and outside of our school. Secondly; because previously a lack of teaching methodologies, students performance may be lowered. With thinking methodologies we can give them these tools to support the school team and students.”
Abraha Hailemariam, Principal


The Thinking Schools Ethiopia approach has been recognized by UNESCO as a method of modern pedagogy. Read more on an earlier blog posting. Thinking Schools Ethiopia trained the Addis Ababa Education Bureau experts team during a five day participant centered training in September 2012 on the practices of whole school change, Thinking Maps, Reflective Questioning, Thinking Environments, and Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out.

Thinking Schools Ethiopia to support Initiative Africa Project

Thinking Schools Ethiopia (Eminence Social Entrepreneurs) in collaboration with Initiative Africa has organized a two day training on thinking methodologies, reading and spelling. The training will be conducted from June 15-16, 2013 at the 4 kilo Sports and Education Center. Participants are thirty school leaders and six education Bureau officers from selected schools in Addis Ababa, Kolfe Keraniyo and Gullele sub-cities, Boset Woreda, East Shewa, Oromia and Angolela Tera Woreda, North Shewa, Amhara regions.


  • Connecting the All Children Reading Initiative with Growing Thinking Schools Ethiopia Approach for a Sustainable Initiative.


  • Multi-directional development is a belief system and model where all participants recognize their own capacity for aiding the others globally: ideas and innovation originate within and across all places globally.
  • Whole systems change involves ‘whole schools’ in implementation including all students, staff, teachers, administration and parents.
  • People must have an understanding, ‘buy-in’, and develop mastery of methods for change to root and become imbedded in the process of change.


Thinking Schools Ethiopia is a 21st century sustainable model developing educators and children who are innovative thinkers through:

  • whole school training with methodologies – a systems approach
  • training leadership team as leaders using and modeling methodologies to be the leaders and guides
  • creating models of excellence using methodologies that are research based, examples of success in the field and create models of excellence to build upon
  • creating new innovative patterns – the brain seeks patterns and to change how we teach children to be lifelong thinkers starts with the leadership and educators
  • Methods/tools that are lifelong learning tools; across all disciplines; involve and used by all levels of the community within the school and outside the school from students to adults. Reflective Questioning; Visual Tools; Collaborative Networking/Learning; Structuring Environment; Developing Dispositions; Thinking Skills
  • Collaborative training model for developing highly qualified Ethiopian facilitators/trainers
  • Ongoing Action Research
  • Criteria for achieving ‘Thinking Schools’ accreditation
  • Sustainable design

Initiative Africa:  www.initiativeafrica.net

Critically Rethinking Education

As posted online on Capital News paper,March 2012

Despite the impact education has on the values of the young and the role it plays in economic growth, Ethiopia has faced historical and cultural complications that have limited its progress.
According to UNESCO’s reviews, most people in Ethiopia feel that work is more important than education, so at a very early age labor replaces learning. Social awareness about how vital education is, is improving but still not at the required pace.
Like in many parts of the world, quality education is also an issue.
“If you go around the world you will see that education is in the same place, everybody has the same concerns, Dr. David Hyerle, told Capital.
Dr. Hyerle developed the thinking map model in 1980s, a system that nurtures and advances reading comprehension, writing skills and problem solving.
Most students do not know how to turn the information they get into knowledge because most classroom education is content based, and students simply memorize and regurgitate information to pass an exam; which does not help them become creative or think critically.  He says that is where thinking maps come in. Thinking maps are visual representations or diagrams of eight cognitive processes that include cause-and-effect, categorization, sequencing, comparing and contrasting and seeing analogies.
Now Dr. David Hyerle’s ideas are being applied at a new school which will attempt to instill creativity and critical thinking skills in students and parents as well.

Bikolos Nur Academy Director Reflects on Thinking Journey

Fatuma Ahmed • School Owner and Managing Director

By Bereket Aweke

Read the Bikolos PDF file of students, teachers, school director reflections
As the school owner and managing director of Bikolos Nur Academy in Addis Ababa, I am always interested in giving quality education for the children and youth, so I was always looking for a way to guide us to quality education. Our school motto is”we teach how to learn”, so, for us the Thinking Schools approach, especially the thinking maps and the other starting points are our guides to meet our vision. I heard about thinking school from a friend about one year back. When I heard the name “Thinking Schools” I was excited because that is the important aspect of learning, Thinking! Then I met Mr.Bereket from Thinking Schools Ethiopia and we discussed about it back and forth several times. I also checked the website and read some articles about it. The more I read about thinking schools, the more I got interested. The first time I took the training was through our school network with around 15 other schools. By then, I was convinced and believed this is the way to quality education.

After the training, immediately, I introduced Thinking schools to my school. Now, it is a month since its introduction and within this time I have seen a big change. The students are starting to think clearly and improved creativity as well as creating their own way of thinking and simplifying things.

For the teachers, the maps helped in simplifying lessons and able them to teach the students how to learn, as our motto promotes.

When I start the school seven years back we wanted to teach kids how to learn and make them lifelong learners, but we didn’t have or know the way. We know that the lessons should be student centered and active but we didn’t know the tools to do that. But after introducing Thinking Maps as part of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia approach, I can say we are teaching how to learn.

I also use the maps on my weekly meetings for example, we are using the maps to organize a students’ carnival the coming Sunday. On top of that I found the maps useful and practical in my daily activities. I am certain Thinking Maps and other Thinking Schools methods can be applied in many areas.

I have also observed after the training teachers were reflective and discussing about the maps, how they used them and the challenges they faced. This has improved interdepartmental relations and collaboration among teachers and student. We are also planning to train parents to create even a better collaboration.

Our journey has started and I am sure after go through the way, Thinking Schools Ethiopia will help us meet our mission and vision. I think this approach is the best thing for us and I believe that other schools can benefit from it but it needs dedication from leaders and school directors.

Bikolos Nur Academy: Reflections on the Beginning Pathways

click on the picture to enlarge

By Bereket Aweke

Read the Bikolos PDF file of students, teachers, school director reflections
Students and Teachers at Bikolos Nur Academy recently shared their reflections on the beginning pathways of implementing Thinking Maps as part of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE) whole school initiative. Thinking Schools Ethiopia (Eminence Social Entrepreneurs) Facilitators Bereket Aweke and Atsede Tsehayou conducted these interviews during the regular on-site professional development with the Bikolos Nur Academy staff. The on-site professional development supports the implementation including collegial coaching, demonstration lessons with students and building the capacity of the whole school staff.

The reflections below include students, teachers and administrators. These interviews are a regular part of the TSE process to document and assess the implementation of the Thinking Schools approach.

Bikolos Nur Academy Students

I really think that Thinking maps make a big difference in my life because before I really didn’t read my books much because it takes too much time to understand, but now I am interested to open my exercise books make Thinking Maps to actually study and know what I am reading. We can be independent and learn by ourselves, because Thinking Maps are our teachers. They make everything easy so that we can read and remember — it makes you visualize things. Thinking Maps capture our thinking in our mind.
Hannan Abdulfetah, Grade 9 Student

Thinking Maps have helped me a lot in studying. Next year I am taking national exam. I am preparing my summaries using Thinking Maps because it is taking a shorter time with Thinking Maps. It is more effective because by looking at the circles and the other maps, I can remember what is inside and that makes it easier for me to study.
Abdurahemen Kassim, Grade 9 Student

We are using the maps very effectively and the class is now more student centered with everybody participating. The eight Thinking Maps are so helpful because we can do our work easily — for example our book is a huge book so it is tiresome and consumes much time. But you can use a piece of paper and draw maps and easily analyze the things about the subject in few minutes. When we do Thinking Maps in group work everybody is participating on it, so it is going to be fun and interesting.
Hussien Abdulnessir, Grade 9 Student

Thinking Maps are very easy to use and to remember. Before when we work in groups there was not much argument but now we can easily visualize things and remember what you see in pictures in the mind. These maps are like pictures and have different designs and very easy to remember.
Sabontu Ali, Grade 9 Student


Bikolos Nur Academy Faculty

I really want to thank the thinkers who give us Thinking Maps and make us think to ourselves and for our students. Thinking maps are very helpful. I have spent many years teaching chemistry and I have been trying many methods to visualize chemistry to students. The thinking maps made everything clear in these 2-3 weeks after the training.
Adefres Zerihun, Vice Director and Chemistry Teacher

Thinking Maps makes our life easier and help us impart lessons which were difficult to comprehend. The students have accepted Thinking Maps in a very special way and related to the maps. I hope the Thinking Maps will go on so that we can give them what they deserve and we can get from you what we deserve.
Huda Seid, Vice Director and English Teacher

Starting with the Thinking Schools training, I understood that the training and the Thinking Maps is participatory. We were at the training on a Friday and started implementing Thinking Maps on Monday. The training has helped me a lot because before I had hard time delivering my subject to my students. But after learning the Thinking Maps and introducing the eight Thinking Maps to my students, my subject is understood more easily. We are always told about student centered teaching but it is with Thinking Maps I could involve all types of learners in my class. This is also the policy of our country and if we regularly implement them and get reference materials, we can even do better. Both the staff and the students have loved it and we thank you.
Mohammed Awol, Social Sciences Teacher

I have used all the Thinking Maps except the Bridge Map in my grade 3 lessons. I am very excited. My students love the Thinking Maps and are internalizing the maps. The Thinking Maps are helping us to identify the level of the students. For example, some students remain in the circle map and others apply the other maps achieving higher order thinking in Blooms Taxonomy. So generally I am very happy as the Thinking Maps assists us in effective teaching methodology and students. Recent results have shown slight increment of growth from last quarter over a period of three weeks.
Usman Mohammed, Grade 3 Science Teacher

Thinking Schools Ethiopia is very interesting starting from the training. The Thinking Maps makes our minds visualize information. In this short time students are referring to and using the Thinking Maps more than the previous methods. All students are more active than the previously because they can easily understand the topics and remember what they are learning.
Zewdu Hailu, Vice Director and Physics Teacher

Bikolos Nur Academy: A Journey Started

By Bereket Aweke

Read the Bikolos PDF file of students, teachers, school director reflections
Bikolos Nur Academy became the first private school in Ethiopia to start the journey of becoming a Thinking School. The academy, with around 700 students and 54 teachers, took four days of visioning Growing Thinking Schools training in march has decided to implement Thinking School’s approach school wide after wards.

As part of the implementation plan, a full day whole school training on Thinking Maps was conducted on Friday, April 5.The training was part of TSE’s ‘on-site School transformative support” where once schools took part a visioning session, their successive activities/trainings are supported by  regular visitation of TSE Trainers/consultants in person and via technology.

School Network took part in Growing Thinking Schools Training

 By Bereket Aweke

Eminence Social Entrepreneurs, Thinking Schools Ethiopia program, conducted a four day long Growing Thinking Schools Training from February 28-March 2, 2013.The training in collaboration with Crescent School Network, a network consisting of 16 private and public schools all over Ethiopia, covered two day’s Introduction to Growing Thinking Schools and another two days of  visual tools & Thinking Skills trainings.
The trainees mainly consisting of school leaders and owners came as far as Afar and Dessie in the north, Dire Dawa in the east and Bale in the south west parts of Ethiopia. In between sessions the trainees reflected that the training was one of a kind, organized both in terms of trainers and training materials and timely available to solve the many problems of quality education in Ethiopia.
At the end, it was highlighted that Eminence Social Entrepreneurs should continue its effort to further support these schools on their journey of becoming Thinking Schools.
visit www.eminence-se.com for more

Thinking Schools Ethiopia Training
Addis Ababa Education Bureau Experts

“This training is a pilot project (August 2012 training with AAEB expert team), next we’ll go to schools (December 2012). We will train teachers and principals. Gradually the program will be at a national level. Let alone your job or other businesses, it helps even in our day to day life [Thinking Schools approach and methods]…”
Dilamo Otore Ferenje – Head of Addis Ababa Education Bureau (AAEB)

The video clip is from the recent Thinking Schools Ethiopia training for the Addis Ababa Education Bureau Expert team (300+ schools). They will be part of the facilitation team with implementing the Thinking Schools Ethiopia approach across the Addis Ababa Education Bureau school system. Initially there will be 60 schools from the 10 subcities of Addis beginning with the December training. The 60 schools training will start with leadership teams from each of the participating schools followed by ongoing whole school training at each of the 60 schools.

“An education with a great wide base that may be taken as a good practice that can be scaled up in any places…”
Addis Ababa Education Bureau expert

“The training is very good because it goes with the context of our country which has large class sizes…”
Addis Ababa Education Bureau expert

“Thinking School training’s methodology is related with the teaching and learning process… which helps students to understand things easily…”
Fesehaye Nigusie – Addis Ababa Education Bureau expert

“I have gained knowledge that students are not only receivers but they can also be active and reflectors… what I am most amazed at is on how to make complicated things easy for students simply…”
Thinking Schools Ethiopia – Eminence Social Entrepreneurs  

“Growing Thinking Schools is concerned in transforming schools from traditional methodology to a methodology which involves the thinking process…”
Atsede Tsehayou – Thinking Schools Ethiopia – Eminence Social Entrepreneurs  

“We are being trained on methods to let the students exploit their potentials”
Dade Girma – Addis Ababa Education Bureau expert


Reflections from
Addis Ababa Education Bureau
Experts Thinking Schools Training

Addis Ababa Education Bureau expert Sheferaw Teklegiorgis shares his reflections on the five day Thinking Schools training held recently in Addis Ababa Ethiopia.

“The training was so exceptional…

Training is a means to do something… so it can be scaled up…

This implementation needs great commitment… the Minister of Education as already taken steps… the student grouping one to five (already in place) is the best way to coin this Thinking Schools approach… we have an opportunity…

The teachers are the main actors of implementation…”
Sheferaw Tgiorsis
Addis Ababa Education Bureau Expert

More reflections and video clips from the most recent training will be posted in upcoming Thinking Schools Ethiopia blogs.

Growing Thinking Schools Training
Addis Ababa Education Bureau Experts Team
Addis Ababa Ethiopia • 27-31 August 2012

The Addis Ababa Education Bureau (300+ government schools in Addis) Expert Team recently completed five days of training facilitated by Robert Price (Thinking Schools International Global Trainer) and Atsede Tsehayou (Thinking Schools Ethiopia Coordinator). The five day training included:

  • Growing Thinking Schools 2 day training;
  • Growing Thinking Schools – introduction to Facilitators Training for Growing Thinking Schools;
  • Introduction to Thinking Maps® training;
  • Visioning for implementation of Growing Thinking Schools with Addis Ababa Education Bureau: initially with sixty schools, then the whole school system.

In addition to the Experts, the Head of Addis Ababa Education Bureau Ato Dilamo Otore Ferenje shared his vision on the importance of Thinking Schools Ethiopia during the sessions.

Other participating guests included Kebour Ghenna, Executive Director of Initiative Africa; David Makonnen, International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia; Ermias Eshetu, Marketing Director Zemen Bank and others.

All guides are translated to Amharic for the Addis Ababa Education Bureau collaboration with Thinking Schools Ethiopia. The entire session was video taped as a model for use as training tapes for participants to continue their professional development. The next sessions, for the first sixty schools, will be video taped in both English and Amharic.

Growing Thinking Schools Guide – Amharic Edition 

Photographs from the training with Addis Ababa Education Bureau Experts
Click on the right and left arrows next to the photos to see more (100+ photos)

Growing Thinking Schools Training

Growing Thinking Schools Ethiopia is training and an accompanying guidebook, much like a travel guide and/or website that you have closely looked through before visiting a new place, with information about different pathways for investigating a new concept.  Growing Thinking Schools training and guidebook is only used with support of a certified Thinking Schools International trainer who will guide you and your colleagues through a process of:

  • envisioning what a “Thinking School” might look like in your culture and environment;
  • considering the different possible approaches you may take; and
  • beginning the planning stage for the short and long term process of explicitly and systematically integrating “thinking” processes into the existing “learning” processes within your school.

The Growing Thinking Schools Guide is in English and translated into an Amharic edition.

Growing Thinking Schools training and guide offers starting points for the journey toward becoming a “Thinking School” of the 21st century.

  • UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) has written a Letter of Support  to promote the concept and practice of Thinking Schools Ethiopia. Thinking Schools Ethiopia aims to promote modern teaching and learning methods in Ethiopian schools through the Thinking Methodologies and Whole School School and System approach. IICBA, as an Institute engaged in the  promotion of modern pedagogy and support to teacher education institutions in Africa has been participating  in  the  workshops that were organised  to familiarise school teachers in Addis Ababa with the methodology and confirms that the new approach to teaching and learning be very beneficial to students in Ethiopian schools.
  • Addis Ababa Education Bureau (AAEB) head Ato Dilamo Otore  shared at an earlier Thinking Schools session facilitated in Addis Ababa by Dr. David Hyerle,  teaching-learning approach changes that have been made available for [Ethiopian] government schools, adding that a number of trainings have been given to teachers. This however did not guarantee immediate positive outcomes, and hence Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE) would serve as a medium to assist in filling the gaps still troubling the system. As part of the notable success in the new government undertaking, Ato Dilamo said that students are engaged in a group-thinking and working approach that is used both in and out of the classroom. He also pledged support to TSE throughout the coming endeavors and said that starting with leadership being key, the initial spark had been ignited through the diverse pool of decision makers that were present at the workshop. Ato Dilamo has been instrumental in coordinating the upcoming AAEB experts training from 27 Aug—1 September 2012, and the upcoming implementation with 60 whole schools across ten sub-cities in the AAEB school system beginning the end of September 2012.

Growing Thinking Schools Approach  

Below are some excerpts from the Growing Thinking Schools guide to provide insights and understanding of the Growing Thinking Schools process. The first three stages of the journey as presented in this guide are to engage you in reflective questions such as:

  • What is the relationship between “learning” and “thinking”?
  • What is a “thinking” student?
  • How have other schools created Thinking Schools?
  • What are a variety of ways, definitions and approaches to thinking?
  • How do these beliefs fit within your belief system?

Guide Table of Contents

1. Getting Started
To get started, here is a visual mapping process…will support us in getting a view of the school and the environment around the school. Part of the process and guide includes the Working Field Guide for a hands on collaborative process.

2. Exploring Pathways
How does Change Happen?  The research on “change” processes in any organization can be summarized using this sequence…

3. Planning the Journey

  • What are the best ways to approach the teaching of thinking for YOUR school?
  • What do you think is involved in a whole school approach?
  • What transformative steps are necessary for success?
  • How far are you along in this process already?
  • How will you build consistency through a developmental  planning process?
  • Are there clear timelines and actions for training, monitoring and sustaining the plan?

4. Leading the Way

Working Field Guide
The Working Field Guide is part of the guide and Thinking Schools Ethiopia process — practices applied in a practical manner.


Growing Thinking Schools Ethiopia Process and Timeline
The Multi-Flow Map below (inputs -> outputs) provides an insight to goals and inputs to support the goals successful outcomes. The map below is focused on the collaboration with the Addis Ababa Education Bureau and its’ 300+ schools.

Timeline (Flow Map) of Thinking Schools Ethiopia Implementation
The timeline below (Flow Map) provides a sequence of Thinking Schools Ethiopia implementation leading up to the Addis Ababa Education Bureau collaboration and the actual implementation.


 Project Overview
The visual map below provides a general overview of the whole Thinking Schools Ethiopia project focused on sustainability with the initiative.


Reflections from participants of the two day Growing Thinking Schools training…
(English and Amharic with subtitles)

Addis Ababa Education Bureau
Experts Training
27 August—1 September 2012

The Addis Ababa Education Bureau (AAEB) collaboration with  Growing Thinking Schools Ethiopia continues with the training of the whole AAEB experts team. Twelve members of the AAEB experts team previously participated in a Growing Thinking Schools training earlier this year. The training of the experts will be then followed by the training of leadership teams from 60 pilot schools in September. This will be followed by whole school Thinking Schools training with the pilot schools at their school sites. The training includes the Growing Thinking Schools training followed by specific support trainings.

PHASE 1:  from 2009 —2011 over 2000 Ethiopian educators have been through multiple day Thinking Schools Ethiopia training in Addis Ababa and Hosanna Ethiopia. Many of the sessions are documented in the blog.

PHASE 2:  from August 2012—December 2012 the AAEB expert team and 60 schools will be part of the initial pilot project. They will all receive Growing Thinking Schools Ethiopia training.

PHASE 3:  from January 2013—July 2015 the project will expand to the whole AAEB school system. Concurrently there will be projects with rural regions and collaborations with children / youth organizations.

For more information on the upcoming training please contact TSI Global Trainer Robert Price or  Atsede Tsehayou. Contact information may be found clicking on ‘contact’ in the menu.

Thinking Schools Ethiopia demonstration in Addis Ababa Education Bureau Government School.

Thinking Maps: A Language for Whole School Change

Thinking Maps are a key component of Thinking Schools Ethiopia. Thinking Maps Incorporated is kindly providing in-kind support of Thinking Maps in professional development within Ethiopia under the guidance of Robert Price who is a Trainer of Trainers. With Addis Ababa Education Bureau implementation of Thinking Schools Ethiopia starting, along with collaborations including concurrent rural projects, it timely to share more on visual mapping. Recently a school in Northern Ireland captured superbly on video – including the principal, teacher and students – how this whole school language is effectively changing and growing the school:

Thinking Maps and Directing Thinking
Whole School Implementation 

St MacNissi Primary School
Glengormley, Northern Ireland

In this ESaGS TV program video above, you will visit St MacNissi’s Primary School in Glengormley, and hear from the principal, the Thinking Skills co-ordinator and the pupils as to how Thinking Maps are being used as one aspect of the school’s focus on developing and directing pupil thinking.
St MacNissi’s PS Inspection Report (pdf file) 

“children were involved in the development of learning intentions and success criteria… having developed that culture of children having a voice in their learning… a tool to use to develop… Thinking Maps a natural progression…”

Cognitive thinking is universal – and Thinking Maps representing how we think is a universal language. From here in Ethiopia to the above example in Northern Ireland to Thinking Schools International global collaborations including projects in Malaysia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil and more.

Reflective Questioning
Integrative Part of Transformative Design

Reflective Questioning (inquiry) is one of the six starting points of thinking with Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE). The practice of questioning includes the teachers, school leaders and as part of the daily classroom thinking methodologies. Initially this could be through the technique of Powerful Questions which used to build comprehension, inferential thinking, listening skills, understanding, and interest. Upon regularly using Powerful Questions in the whole school (students, teachers, school leaders, school community), the next step could be implementation of Interpretive Questioning throughout the school.

Why Reflective Questioning?
The ability to master the skills of reflective questioning (inquiry) develops the capacities to research and analyze complex problems and to communicate easily and effectively about them – which are fundamental to all disciplines. This includes:

  • The ability to ask good questions
  • The ability to determine what needs to be learned in order to answer those questions
  • The ability to identify appropriate resources for learning
  • The ability to use resources effectively and to report on what was learned
  • The ability to be a listener
  • The ability to self-evaluate

Reflective Questioning integrates within all the starting points of thinking (see previous blog posts). Reflective Questioning is part of all TSE whole school training and implementation of transformative design. Sessions are offered for whole school teams that are specific to developing a deeper level of understanding and implementation of Reflective Questioning.

Additional information on TSE Reflective Questioning:

The Thinking Schools Ethiopia – a collaborator with the Thinking Schools International network – six starting points of thinking methodologies  include:

1. Reflective Questioning high quality questioning and listening skills
2. Thinking Skills explicit use of cognitive processes
3. Visual Mapping the use of visual tools to map out ideas
4. Collaborative Networking between us in pairs, groups, schools, and global networks that includes collaborative learning; collegial coaching; regional and global collaborationsExamples include collaborative learning, collegial coaching, professional learning communities, parent involvement.
5. Developing Dispositions characteristics, dispositions, and habits of mind are engaged
6. Structuring Environment considering how the physical space is organize and resources used

TSE Potential Facilitators Training Underway…

By: Selfago Fuse

The second round of training with master facilitators/educators, on Saturday March 24 morning, was thoughtfully engaging and practically showing the BIG PICTURE of the educational transformation conceived to be realized throughout the City of Addis Ababa and Ethiopia respectively. Master Facilitators/Educators, Thinking Schools Ethiopia Program leader, Bereket Aweke and the international trainer Robert Price (via Skype) were thoughtfully engaged in exchanging their thoughts and expertise on how to knock the needy school doors so as to start the journey to actualized the fore seen big picture by applying the workable theories and its fruitful experiences locally and internationally. The training facilitators were exchanging thoughts and their mind felt professional feelings on how to make the change happen in the nation. More over the insightful professionals had an introductory session on the Six Starting Points for Thinking Schools.

Photos include the collaborative use of Thinking Maps by Robert Price with the potential master facilitators via Skype.

‘Community Building ‘‘Modeling Behavior’ and ‘Reflective Questioning’ were some of the frequently uttered phrases by the professionals in the hall.  

Many Reflections were forwarded and powerful questions were posed by the participants and the training facilitator in Addis Ababa who were gathered in Eminence Social Entrepreneurs. Some of the questions posed were:  

Why starting points for thinking? Why thinking School…

These were ideas based on the training manual (used with Thinking Schools Ethiopia whole school training) titled as “Growing Thinking Schools from The Inside Out”.  The trainer and the participants thoroughly discussed and scholarly reflected on the issues.

Structuring Environment
with Intentionality

Structuring Environment

considering how the physical space is organize and resources used

How the classroom, school, and surrounding area is physically structured has a great affect on teaching and learning. Positioning of students on the floor, seating arrangements in the classroom, and the accessibility of learning materials are all dimensions of the environment. The use of all the resources available within and around the school and wider community is key to engaging students.

A key to the success of Thinking Schools Ethiopia is consideration of Structuring Environment with intentionality. When developing the ‘classroom environment’ consideration is made to what best supports student learning.

The three video clips below Thinking Schools Ethiopia educators and students engage in discussions and modeling of classroom structures. How do the educators and students reflections compare with one another?

Another key component of Structuring Environment is using materials around us to guide our learning which we’ll explore in a later blog posting. Some suggested extensions include the Reggio Emilia approach and The Third Teacher, a recent book from the Internationally know designer Bruce Mau. Both connect and explore the critical link between the school environment and how children learn. The Reggio Emilia approach has a long history of implementation with extensive documentation and research supporting its success.

The images below – from Thinking Schools Ethiopia professional development trainings – models educators part of participant centered learning where they their experiences model approaches they will transfer for use in the classroom.

As with all six starting points of thinking, it is important to implement each area with a goal of mastery in a thoughtful manner, while seeing the big picture of how they interconnect in a systems approach of whole school transformative design change. Structuring Environment is part of the initial 2 day Growing Thinking Schools training where schools initially understand, reflect and vision on their whole school transformative design. Additionally Thinking Schools Ethiopia offers trainings specific to Structuring Environment as part of the whole school transformative design change process.


Ground Breaking Workshop

By: Edda Zekarias

Eminence Social Entrepreneurs corridors were buzzing with the delighted sounds of enlightened education experts yesterday, March 8, 2012.

Except the handful that already had had opportunities to attend Thinking Schools workshops or training, what to expect was clearly vague to some.

The introduction by Dr. Hyerle highlighted Thinking Schools mission and goals supported by demonstrated successes achieved across countries in which the program has been implemented.  Thinking Maps concepts and practical application opportunities were also presented briefly through sharing examples of work done by students starting from Kindergarten right up to the advanced Sciences and even tertiary level education. Moreover, the presentation revisited information accessibility and utility while reflecting on how that factor affects teacher-student relations in contexts where the latter sustain traditional educating systems. This would mean that, teachers and educators in general would have to remember, acknowledge and accept that students have seemingly infinite sources of information at their disposal. Hence instead of seeing that as a threat, use it to their advantage so as not to stifle student quest for learning and earning knowledge.

In seeking to move away from traditional methods of learning—most notably, the lecture oriented, one way learning—Thinking Schools advocates for creating better thinkers, problem solvers, and much more. Rather appealing for Ethiopia considering, Dr. Hyerle had started off his discussion by sharing the infrastructural transformation he had seen upon his arrival to Ethiopia. In linking this transformation with the country, Dr. Hyerle brought focus on the Thinking Schools International ‘more than training…we transform’ approach which left the participants analyzing those capacities in human skill development. Aside from just looking into the functionalities of a whole school system, documentation was another fundamental point that Dr. Hyerle raised. In this he noted that, the bi-directional experience sharing mode that TSI has used internationally would be used within TSE. Accordingly, videos and other documentation would be used to reach teachers in all corners of Ethiopia—an approach he mentioned has greatly encouraged and enriched teachers and learners. For instance, imagine documentation going from successful Ethiopian classrooms as training materials in South Africa or Malaysia.

Dr. Hyerle also noted that Thinking Schools and Maps are not limited to the schooling system but rather have been applied in big corporations around the world.

Ato Bereket presented Thinking Schools Ethiopia (TSE) past achievements, present status (2009-2011) as well as future prospects. Embarking on years of research and successes achieved by TSI, he noted, TSE was modeled under the principles and approaches put forward by TSI but crafted for implementation in Ethiopia according to existing realities. Challenges, the good and the changeable were all covered in the presentation. Trainings and workshops thus far conducted were touched upon followed by brief breakdown of upcoming strategies and partnerships. Mentioning collaboration and support rendered by the Addis Ababa Education Bureau and the UNESCO-IICBA; Bereket thanked the organizations and also explained their interventions. Currently, TSE is working on a selection of 30 schools within Addis Ababa that will participate in the pilot training after which plans forecast summer/ long school break/ teacher training project and an Education Conference. Most importantly, he also added that TSE will consider learning among special needs students as well.

In the discussions that followed, Ato Dilamo Otore (Addis Ababa Education Bureau) thanked Eminence for taking the initiative to partner with TSI in the creation of TSE. He disclosed the teaching-learning approach changes that have been made available for government schools, adding that a number of trainings have been given to teachers. This however did not guarantee immediate positive outcomes, and hence TSE would serve as a medium to assist in filling the gaps still troubling the system. As part of the notable success in the new government undertaking, Ato Dilamo said that students are engaged in a group-thinking and working approach that is used both in and out of the classroom. He also pledged support to TSE throughout the coming endeavors and said that starting with leadership being key, the initial spark had been ignited through the diverse pool of decision makers that were present at the workshop.

UNESCO-IICBA, Program Officer, Dr. Awol shared what he understood as immediate and long term benefits of incorporating Thinking Schools approaches locally, he outlined the disadvantages that come with what he called ‘competition vs. cooperation’ trends that dominate local school setups. Further, he stressed the need to build a common understanding around ‘ideas that matter’. In so doing he noted, diversity, cooperation, value(s), changing roles due to clear understanding and sharing of knowledge, etc would become more integrated and practiced in individual, human to human, human to environment and even national relations.  He also expressed contentment over the evolution of TSE, initially having focused on private schools, but now, the outreach having been extended to government schools.

In the end, concerns about coverage and ensured practical applications were raised for which it was responded that TSI experiences for pre and post implementation monitoring and evaluation would be used as lessons for implementing TSE. For instance, select ‘best’ teachers would be identified for training with the leadership team. These teachers would in turn be expected to train and also monitor implementation so that each school would have in-house expertise as opposed to external periodic supervision and monitoring. School leadership-teacher trainers-curriculum developers- teachers-students have been the foundation of the education system in Ethiopia. Using this as a guiding framework, training would be conducted by TSE to ensure all of the stakeholders understand and own the program and this would include the parents as well.

In the closing, Dr. Awol and Ato Dilamo expressed great support and commitment towards TSE and pledged to render support as would be required. Dr. Hyerle was also thanked and applauded for coming to Ethiopia and sharing his vision for the program. In conclusion, Ato Bereket thanked all of the participants mostly highlighting the support given by Dr. Awol and Ato Dilamo in collaborating the presence of the experts at the workshop.

The workshop was attended by delegates from several sub city education bureaus, AAEB, Save the Children Norway, UNICEF, IICBA-UNESCO.

Dr.Awol Endris Progam Officer,UNESCO/IICBA
Opening the workshop, Ato Tesfaye Alemu CEO& President, Eminence SE
Ato Dilamo Otore Addis Ababa Education Bureau Head