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4 practical ways to teach critical thinking in the classroom

There’s an often-touted debate in modern education about the nature of the teaching in schools. For a long time, it has been believed that the education system has placed too much emphasis on content and not enough on practical skills.

One skill that is very important is that of critical thinking; the ability to understand logical connections between ideas. This means not acting on instinct, and rather going through a linear process of identification, analysis, and problem-solving.

When children have learned how to think critically they will be much more prepared to teach themselves, learn more effectively, and deal with real world situations.

Here are 4 practical ways to teach critical thinking and enhance learning in the classroom.

1. Ask them to make comparisons and contrast

Making comparisons and contrasting is simply being able to explore in which way two or more ideas or objects are similar, and in which way they are different. On a very basic level, you can ask them to look at the differences between fruits such as apples or oranges, or animals such as cows and zebras.

2. Have them analyse their favourite stories

Once you have allowed the children to understand the basics of comparing and contrasting, you can start to explore different characters and storylines from novels and look into the overlap, themes, and motifs that appear in them. You might even want them to recount a story in their own words. This is a great practice for activating their mirror neurons and beginning to teach empathy.

Ask questions like “Why do you believe the character did that?” and “What would you do if you were in this character’s shoes?”

3. Ask them to observe and draw conclusions

Drawing conclusions based on direct observation is a fundamental pillar of critical thinking. The process is actually incredibly straightforward. If you have a child who is asking “why?” you simply need to prompt them with a question of your own (also known as the Socratic method) – “why do you think?”

Sometimes they’re simply looking for permission to have the authority to answer. You can break this barrier by saying “If you had the answer to that question, what do you think it would be?”

4. Get them to analyse arguments

Teaching students to practice debating on both sides of an argument is another great way to introduce critical thinking skills. As opposed to letting them act on emotion, you can offer a problem such as “whether it’s ok to eat animals” and randomly assign them to different groups and explain why that may be the case.

You can then have them argue for the other side and discuss the credibility of the information in both their initial arguments and the counter arguments. This includes identifying who is the authority of the source, determining why they are an authority, and looking at any biases they may have.

Critical thinking is an incredibly important skill to teach your students. Have you had any experience introducing critical thinking to the classroom? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments

Jim

Ironic to me that the photo chosen to front your article on critical thinking is that of a simple metal and wood table and chair. The kind of project that requires lots of critical thinking, and the kind of project made in tech classes every day.
Yet it is ignored and we are lead back to the subject of "english" for all of your examples.

03 January 2017 13:03
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