Critical thinking is a skill our children will certainly need throughout their lives. As educators, it is part of our job to equip young minds with the ability to analyze situations, solve problems, and to question what they see and read.
All of our students have a tremendous capacity! But, to tap into this capacity requires a gradual process that involves hard work and lots of patience. So how can we do what is necessary to help our students develop critical thinking skills? Keep on reading for some suggestions and strategies that you can start implementing at home or in the classroom today.
1. Open-Ended Questions
Ask questions that inspire a quest for knowledge and problem-solving instead of questions that are just to recall memorized facts. Give students a chance to have an opinion on topics and challenge them to think from different perspectives. For older kids, make them debate on a hot topic from the point of view opposite to their current stance. The first time I did this, it was a real eye-opener and made me better understand why someone else may have a different opinion on a topic than I do.
A simple strategy to get young children to think critically is to brainstorm before beginning a lesson or new topic. Ask lots of questions, see what they already know about the topic, what they think they will be learning, and what they want to know.
3. Do not always provide solutions
Sometimes it's tempting to jump in and find a solution for a child who needs your help; especially when the younger ones become very upset when they can’t find something or do something for themselves. The easy way out is to go ahead and provide a solution for the little one. However, in the long run, this sort of 'help' doesn't truly help kids develop
problem-solving skills. So instead of providing a solution, try asking a question or (with some patience) a series of questions to guide them to the solution.
4. Don't always 'over-prep' your lessons
This can get messy, and for many teachers feel uneasy, but by not always giving students every single template, instructional step and tool to do a task from time to time will benefit them so much in the long-run. For example, instead of showing your kids how to build a bridge, give them some supplies and see what they can come up with on their own. This sort of strategy requires the teacher to facilitate while students engage in 'messy' learning that is unguided and encourages young minds to draw conclusions on their own. STEM/ STEAM tasks are fantastic for this sort of learning, and there are plenty of amazing resources out there to get this into your classroom.
5. Encourage Project-Based Learning
Several studies have proven, that if done well, Project-Based Learning also helps foster critical thinking skills. Give kids tasks to complete and ask them to present their solutions and how they arrived at them. Allowing kids some choice in the topics or problems to explore will set them up with a better chance for success.
6. Logic Puzzles
(You can find some free ones here, and I will link some at the end of this post.)
Logic puzzles can activate different parts of the brain and provides students an opportunity to hone their critical and analytical thinking skills. Sprinkle these puzzles into your classroom as part of some brain exercise throughout the week, or provide them as an early finisher task.
7. Category Sorting tasks
Giving your students a task to classify and sort things into categories will encourage them to think and question what object should go where, and why. As students think and question, they develop an ability to apply a set of rules to the process.
8. Observation Tasks to Compare and Contrast
There are so many opportunities to help kids compare and contrast any topic from the early years all the way up! Some suggestions to help your kids build these observation skills is to set up a Venn-diagram, two poster papers or a table to write notes. Then, carry out a discussion or group task that encourages your kids to look closely at something. For example, read a book and watch the film version of it. Then, set the task to write what was similar between the book and the film, and what was different.
9. Detective Work
By turning your students into detectives, they are honing in on multiple skills at once! Mysteries are not only fun, but are a fantastic resource to help students make observations, understand content, analyze, discuss, critically think, and use deductive reasoning to solve the case. You can find some ready to solve resources here that also incorporate math and ELA curriculum content.
10. Teamwork Tasks
Being able to think about different ways to a solution is a huge part of developing critical thinking skills. So, by giving your students the opportunity to work with their peers, it exposes them to the thought processes of others which may be different from how they think.
After completing tasks, give your students a chance to reflect on their learning experience. It may help to give them a journal or some paper to jot down their thoughts. Encourage thinking about what worked and why? As well as what didn't work, and why they think that is?
Students will benefit from practicing critical thinking. You’ll offer richer lessons, deeper exploration, and better lifelong learning.
What are some of the ways you encourage and help develop critical thinkers in your classroom?
Grab some of these free logic puzzles to get those brains exercising today!
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.
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