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Methods Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

25 Of The Best Resources For Teaching Critical Thinking

by TeachThought Staff

The Stanford University Center for Professional Development recently developed a course of effective classroom in the classroom, and asked us to let you know about it.

This online course consists of three online sessions, three weeks in a row. Each session includes expert video screencasts, classroom video clips, readings and resources, and assignments that will prompt participants to strengthen the curricular foundations of communication the first month of school.

Session 1: Establishing a Classroom Culture of Conversation (August 2-8) – This session provides models and suggested activities for cultivating classrooms that value learning through constructive conversation.

Session 2: Creating Effective Conversation Prompts & Tasks (August 9-15) – This session focuses on how to look at a lesson, envision the conversational opportunities, and craft effective prompts for back and forth conversations between students.

Session 3: Preparing for Effective & Efficient Formative Assessment of Conversations (August 16-22) – The session prepares participants to (1) set up an assessment plan for assessing and reflecting on observations of paired student conversations, (2) provide right-now feedback to students during their conversations, and (3) reflect on conversation assessment to improve teaching and assessment.

See Also:10 Team-Building Games That Promote Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

As an organization, critical thinking is at the core of what we do, from essays and lists to models and teacher training. (You can check out What It Means To Think Critically for a wordier survey of the intent of critical thinking.)

For this post, we’ve gathered various critical thinking resources. As you’ll notice, conversation is a fundamental part of critical thinking, if for no other reason than the ability to identify a line of reasoning, analyze, evaluate, and respond to it accurately and thoughtfully is among the most common opportunities for critical thinking for students in every day life. Who is saying what? What’s valid and what’s not? How should I respond?

This collection includes resources for teaching critical thinking, from books and videos to graphics and models, rubrics and taxonomies to presentations and debate communities. Take a look, and let us know in the comments which you found the most–or least–useful.

25 Of The Best Resources For Teaching Critical Thinking

1. Course: Effective Conversation In The Classroom by Stanford University

2. A Collection Of Research On Critical Thinking by criticalthinking.org

3. The TeachThought Taxonomy for Understanding, a taxonomy of thinking tasks broken up into 6 categories, with 6 tasks per category

4. The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Test (it’s not free, but you can check out some samples here)

5. It’s difficult to create a collection of critical thinking resources without talking about failures in thinking, so here’s A Logical Fallacies Primer in PowerPoint format.

6. 4 Strategies for Teaching With Bloom’s Taxonomy

7. An Intro To Critical Thinking, a 10-minute video from wireless philosophy that takes given premises, and walks the viewer through valid and erroneous conclusions

8. Why Questions Are More Important Than Answers by Terry Heick

9. A Printable Flip Chart For Critical Thinking Questions (probably easier to buy one for a few bucks, but there it is nonetheless)

11. A Collection Of Bloom’s Taxonomy Posters

12. 6 Facets of Understanding by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

13. A 3D Model of Bloom’s Taxonomy

14. Helping Students Ask Better Questions

14. Examples Of Socratic Seminar-Style Questions (including stems) from changingminds.org

15. 20 Questions To Guide Inquiry-Based Learning, a 4-step process to guide learning through inquiry and thought

16. Socratic Seminar Guidelines by Grant Wiggins

17. How To Bring Socratic Seminars Into Your Classroom, a 7 minute video by the Teaching Channel

18. How To Teach With The Socratic Seminar Paideia Style, a PDF document by the Paideia that overviews

19. Using The QFT Model To Guide Inquiry & Thought

20. Create Debate, a website that hosts, well, debates

21. Intelligence Squared, Oxford-style debate hosted by NPR–and in podcast format, too

22. 60 Ways To Help Students Think For Themselvesby Terry Heick

23. A Rubric To Assess Critical Thinking (they have several free rubrics, but you have to register for a free account to gain access)

24. 25 Critical Thinking Apps For Extended Student Thought

25. Debate.org, another “debate” community that promotes topic-driven discussion and critical thought

And for something in the way of specific training for staff, there’s always Professional Development on Critical Thinking provided by TeachThought (full disclosure: we’re TeachThought).

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated us via payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will be good for our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

25 Of The Best Resources For Teaching Critical Thinking

Critical thinking has been an important issue in education, and has become quite the buzzword around schools. The Common Core State Standards specifically emphasize a thinkingcurriculum and thereby requires teachers to elevate their students’ mental workflow beyond just memorization—which is a really good step forward. Critical thinking is a skill that young minds will undeniably need and exercise well beyond their school years. Experts agree that in keeping up with the ever-changing technological advances, students will need to obtain, understand, and analyze information on a much more efficient scale. It is our job as educators to equip our students with the strategies and skills they need to think critically in order to cope with these tech problems and obstacles they face elsewhere.

Fortunately, teachers can use a number of techniques that can help students learn critical thinking, even for children enrolled in kindergarten. Here are some teaching strategies that may prove immediately effective:

Teaching Strategies to Encourage Creativity

Traditionally, elementary teachers prepare templates for art projects before they give it to their students. By doing so, it levels the creative playing field and can, in some ways, help the classroom run more smoothly if every child’s snowflake looks the same.

I know it may be a bit unnerving to relinquish a bit of control, but rest assured that not having everything prepped in advance is a good thing. Instead, give students all of the supplies needed to create a snowflake, and let them do it on their own. This will allow students to become critical thinkers because they will have to use their prior knowledge to consider what a snowflake looks like, how big it is, what color it is, etc.

Do Not Always Jump in to Help

It’s too easy to always find a solution for a student who needs your help. Kindergarteners especially will get very upset when they can’t find their crayons or scissors. The easy way for a teacher to answer is “It’s OK, you can borrow a pair of scissors from me.” Instead of always readily finding a solution for your students, try responding with “Let’s think about how we can find them.” Then, you can assist the student in figuring out the best possible solution for finding their lost item.

Brainstorm Before Everything You Do

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get young children to think critically is to brainstorm. Regardless of subject, have students think about what they’ll be doing, learning, or reading— before actually starting each activity.  Ask a lot questions, like “What do you think this book will be about?” Or “Tell me three things you think you will be learning in this lesson about space?” Give students every opportunity you can to be critical thinkers.

Classify and Categorize

Classification plays an important role in critical thinking because it requires students to understand and apply a set of rules. Give students a variety of objects and ask them to identify each object, then sort it into a category. This is a great activity to help students think and self-question what object should go where, and why.

Compare and Contrast

Much like classifying, students will need to look closely at each topic or object they are comparing and really think about the significance of each one. You can have students compare and contrast just about anything—try this out with the book your class is reading now. Compare and contrast the weather forecast for today and yesterday. Compare the shape and color of a pumpkin to another vegetable. Compare and contrast today’s math lesson with last week’s—the ideas are endless.

Make Connections

Encouraging students to make connections to a real-life situation and identify patterns is a great way to practice their critical thinking skills. Ask students to always be on the look for these connections, and when they find one to make sure they tell you.

Provide Group Opportunities

Group settings are the perfect way to get your kids thinking. When children are around their classmates working together, they get exposed to the thought processes of their peers. They learn how to understand how other people think and that their way is not the only route to explore.

When this valuable skill is introduced to students early on in the education process, students will be capable of having complex thoughts and become better problem solvers when presented with difficulty. It’s important for students to possess a variety of skills, but it’s just as important for them to understand the skills and how, and when to use them.

How do you teach critical thinking in your classroom? Do you have any teaching strategies that can help students learn this important life skill? Feel free to share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.

Improve your Back to School ideas with TeachHUB.com’s Ultimate 5-Week Prep Guide! Each week, you’ll get tipstricks, and ideas that will enhance your classroom! 

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators

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