You have an overflowing curriculum and not nearly enough time to get to it all. But you also know the value of Creative and Critical Thinking. Here are some fun ways to sneak more of them into your day without sacrificing much-needed time.
- Start with a Question Put a “Would You Rather…” or poll-type opinion question on a corner of the white board each morning with a space for each of the choices. As your students come in, each one moves a magnet with his or her name on it to one of the choices. Your students have started the day thinking about something interesting and you know who is here for attendance.
- Wake Up their Brains Always have an activity waiting for kids as soon as they walk in. Many teachers don’t and many more choose to use this time for review, which might be useful for you, but is not very inspiring for students. How about a brainteaser, intriguing journal prompt, or challenging logic puzzle instead? Not only does it wake up those sleepy brains, but it also gives your students something to look forward to when they get to school and sets a positive tone to the day.
- As an “I’m Finished” choice In most classrooms, students may read silently or write in their journals when they are finished with their work. Consider adding a Critical Thinking Center to your room where kids to find puzzles, brainteasers, etc. Call it something fun like “The Puzzle Place.” You might also want to use Task Cards that students can use at a center or take back to their desks.
- On the Back of a Bathroom Pass They are just sitting there anyway, you might as well give them something to think about. A mental word problem or intriguing quote, perhaps. If possible, related to something in your current curriculum. Change them often. If your bathrooms are private to your classroom, put them on the back of the stall doors.
- On the Wall Where Students Line Up Seems like kids line up an awful lot. How about posting brainteasers on the wall near the door or drinking fountain? Change them often!
- In those Extra Few Minutes Waiting for everyone to come in from recess? Finished a lesson a few minutes before the bell? Have something ready to use during that time. Read a Two Minute Mystery or a lateral thinking story. Ask a question from the Kids Book of Questions. Do a Madlib, or solve some Word Picture Puzzles.
- At the Bottom of a Worksheet Add an extra question that gets your students thinking in a different way. For example, if you are having them do a worksheet on vocabulary words for a social studies pioneer unit, add a question asking them to write a sentence about pioneer life containing exactly 9 words. Or throw in a little logic puzzle with a pioneer theme: Mary churned the butter before she got the eggs. She got the eggs after she brought water in from the well. She brought water in from the well before she churned the butter. List the order in which Mary did her chores.
- Try a Graffiti Board Put up a piece of butcher paper on the wall each Monday morning. Write a thought-provoking, open-ended question on it. It could be about your class read-aloud book, a current event, an opinion question about something you are studying, or just an interesting random question. Invite kids to contribute to the paper throughout the week.