Thinking outside the box

One of the things that I’ve been doing lately with my online groups in Palestine is telling puzzle stories. By this I mean stories which end with a question where the students have to work out the solution.

There are a number of reasons why I like this kind of story :-

  1. They push the learners to listen to the story in a lot of detail.
  2. They encourage the learners to ask a lot of questions. Often it’s teachers who ask all the questions in class but turning things around can give learners a stronger sense of control over their own learning.
  3. As these questions come out they involve a lot of retelling and revisiting of the story which I think is often necessary if any new language items are going to be retained by learners.
  4. They develop imagination and promote critical thinking – what we often term ‘thinking outside the box’

Sometimes these puzzles carry on between sessions and I ask them to try to work out the answer before the next session. And sometimes the students tell me their own puzzle stories and give me this homework task. The other day I was sharing some of the Palestinian kids’ puzzle stories over dinner and my 11 year old nephew, Zac, told us his own one.Ā  It’s probably the hardest puzzle story I’ve ever heard.


In the video below you’ll see Zac’s puzzle story being used with a group at Mamounia girls UNRWA school in Gaza city. (you’ll see that this one is quite literally ‘thinking outside the box’ !) My challenge for you is to watch the video and try to work out the solution. The first person to write the correct solution in the comments here on the blog will win a copy of my second book Memory Activities for Language Learning (CUP 2011)

I’ll post a video of the solution, explained with the same class, next week. (see the solution in the comments below)

Astute followers of the Hands Up project’s work will notice that some of the girls in this video were also the runners up in the HUP playwriting competition, with their play ‘Window onto the outside‘. If you haven’t already seen it, you should. It’s a great piece of theatre and I imagine it involved a lot of thinking outside the box to make.


6 thoughts on “Thinking outside the box

  1. Great example of engagement in the classroom – Nick this is WONDERFUL to see & Iā€™d like to include parts of it in my next teacher training course.

    Liked by 1 person

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