On the first day of school, I tell my students that the hardest thing I am going to ask them to do during the year is to THINK. I don’t want them to repeat my words or recite from a textbook, but rather to give me mindful answers that they have thought about. I often start the day with a “Question of the Day.” Some examples are: Why are most barns painted red? Why do dalmatians have spots? What is your favorite day of the week? I am never disappointed with their answers. Actually, my students often think of things I didn’t, and I find great joy in sharing their responses with parents and my colleagues.
Debates, math games, and focus questions are wonderful ways to promote critical thinking in the classroom. “Why do you think” questions are a great way to start a conversation or a writing assignment because there is no right or wrong answer, it immediately takes the pressure off and allows students freedom of expression. Classroom discussions, where my role is more of facilitator rather than teacher, is where I find my students most comfortable communicating. This kind of social interaction among peers allows children to take risks in familiar surroundings.
How can a parent teach critical thinking skills at home? I found as a parent that giving my children choices made them more aware of a situation and to think it through before committing to an answer. We all lead busy lives and sometimes it is just easier to answer for your child or make the decision for him/her. I have been guilty of this myself, however, it denies the child the opportunity to have any input into something that may directly affect him or her.
Problem-solving is another way to allow your child to think about situations or experiences. Figuring out a solution to a problem is critical for all children. DOGOnews is a wonderful website that has age-appropriate current events. Exposure to the world we live in (that is relatable for young children) is a great opportunity to ask questions and explore the new and unknown. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” ~Albert Einstein
The goal of critical thinking is to create independent learners that will inspire lifelong learning.