Critical thinking is, by definition, the intentional application of higher order thinking skills. These higher order thinking skills include analysis, evaluation, and creation as well as problem solving. Something you don’t typically see included critical thinking skills are regurgitation and memorization of information and facts. In this post, I will examine ways I facilitate the development of critical thinking skills in my classroom.
One way to develop critical thinking skills in my classroom is by using a variety of different questions. While “yes” or “no”, “black or white” questions are great, and easy to think of, I think that it is extremely important to ask questions of varying difficulty of all students.
Following a classroom observation a few years ago, I was given the suggestion by a facilitator to have a document like this on hand during lessons. I started trying to choose more questions from analyze, evaluate, and create instead of remember, understand, apply. I realized that by asking higher order thinking questions, my students were had to think more critically. In turn, they were learning more.
In addition to asking students more difficult questions, you can also teach your students to ask these questions on their own. They can become Question Masters, tasked with asking and answering questions about topics and texts that they have read about. Kathy Bumgardner (www.kbumreading.com) has an activity posted on her website where students use “Bloom’s Bucks” and earn points, or money, based on the complexity of the questions they ask. You can find these “Bloom’s Bucks” here.
A more intentional way of developing critical thinking skills in the classroom is through Socratic seminar discussions. Prior to a Socratic discussion, students are exposed to a text, piece of music, or art. After multiple exposures to the seminar piece, a teacher leads the students in a discussion. The questions the facilitator asks are open-ended and require students to think critically prior to answering.
Another way to encourage students to think critically, and to think about their thinking, is to have them reflect on their own learning. Thinking about their learning doesn’t just mean that students say “I learned _____ today” or “I had a hard time with _____”. I try to have students share their answer to a question in addition to why they feel that way or how got that answer. This “why” and “how” is something that my second graders have struggled with. So often, I have found that they know the answer to a question, but have no idea how to verbalizing how they found the answer.
One way to work on this reflection is to have students practice explaining how they know to a partner. By implementing this turn-and-talk strategy, students grow more comfortable with sharing their thinking. This makes it a little easier when they have to make the transition to sharing their thinking with the entire class!
Critical thinking is an integral part of 21st Century education. It is imperative that we find ways to incorporate it into our daily teaching!
Raegan Cassady is a second grade Learning Immersion teacher at Irwin Academic Center. Mrs. Cassady believes that all of us are lifelong learners and that the only way to get better at what you do is to learn more about it. Mrs. Cassady has a Masters in Reading and is working towards her AIG Certification. You can connect with Mrs. Cassady on Twitter at @mrs_cassady or through her website .