We’re excited to have Sydney from Love, Laugh, Teach guest posting for us today! Her post includes helpful insight and advice for developing critical thinkers in the classroom. As teachers, we all know how important critical thinking is, but sometimes it feels like an abstract concept to teach. Read on to learn Sydney’s suggestions!
Developing critical thinkers in the classroom is essential to creating a classroom full of excited and motivated learners. What exactly is a “critical thinker”? Critical thinkers don’t just think clearly or rationally; they use skillful analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing to make decisions every day. When we develop critical thinkers, this happens seamlessly. According to Educational Psychologist Dr. Linda Elder, “Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way. People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically…”
Students who master their critical thinking skills will be able to differentiate between which influences will shape their personality and which influences will not. But how do we develop critical thinkers in the classroom? All you need are a few simple strategies to develop critical thinkers in your classroom.
#1 – Questioning Techniques
Questioning is an essential tool for developing critical thinking skills. This is the simplest and easiest strategy to start implementing in your classroom right now. Develop questions that require students to dig deeper. Ask open-ended questions instead of “yes” or “no” questions. For example, instead of asking students, “Is learning important?” ask, “WHY is learning important?” Open-ended questions give students an opportunity to examine their own knowledge on the topic in question. I like to ask my students “why” multiple times during a lesson to help them dig deeper. Sometimes they get frustrated, but by the time I’ve asked my last “why,” I can tell if a student understands the concept well or has barely skimmed the surface. When thinking of questions to ask, it’s helpful to take a look at Bloom’s Taxonomy.
#2 – Student-Led Discussions
Student-centered learning environments promote critical thinking skills by requiring students to reflect metacognitively. In a student-centered classroom, students rely more on their peers for answers to their questions than on the teacher. One activity I like to use in my classroom is a mystery game. In this game, students rely solely on their classmates to solve the mystery of who stole the Mona Lisa from La Louvre museum in Paris. Read more about it here! It is amazing to see students engaged in their learning. They are so focused throughout the entire lesson, they barely even know I’m in the classroom. The whole group discussion at the end of the lesson is very powerful and an excellent way to get students collaborating.
#3 – Inquiry-Based Learning
We want our students to be interested in what they’re learning. Inquiry-based learning is an excellent strategy to get students involved in the learning process and to engage critical thinking skills. Inquiry-based learning is more than just asking what students want to learn; it’s about activating interest and curiosity. The first step in successful inquiry-based learning is to get students to develop questions they want answers to. We want our students to ask and answer higher-order thinking questions. To read more about inquiry-based learning, click here.
#4 – Collaboration
One of the most important aspects of critical thinking is the ability to ask questions and analyze the answers. When students collaborate with their peers, they take ownership of their work, which promotes independence and critical thinking. Give students time throughout your lessons to converse with peers and share ideas. Oftentimes, students will learn from each other, which can eliminate confusion and misunderstandings. Collaborating also expands students’ thinking by demonstrating that not everyone has the same thought process.
#5 – Problem-Based Learning
Problem-based learning, or PBL, is a strategy that encourages students to use critical thinking skills by providing a structure for discovery that helps students deepen their understanding. The steps are simple and can be repeated for each new topic:
- Explore a specific issue or problem – Give students a problem and have them gather information to form a solution.
- Research and brainstorm – Have students research their problem and brainstorm possible solutions. Consider and discuss every solution presented.
- Develop a solution and present it to the class – Students learn from each other, and it’s a very powerful teaching tool.
- Create a call-to-action and steps to be taken – Students should explain the steps that need to be taken in order to solve the problem.
Looking for more information on classroom strategies? Check out my most popular post on 5 Strategies for Differentiated Instruction in the Primary Classroom. Also, check out all the fun and engaging mystery games in my Teachers Pay Teachers store to develop critical thinkers in your classroom!
Sydney currently teaches kindergarten but has experience with 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade. She loves to promote critical thinking in the classroom with engaging and exciting resources. She loves to share ideas and resources on her blog and Teachers Pay Teachers store. Connect with her on social media: Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.
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