My definition of “Critical Thinking” is the ability to make students see beyond the obvious, to think about their thinking, to reflect about what they know and about what is going on around them. Critical Thinking is not an opinion about something it goes way beyond that. To think critically about something it is necessary to have some knowledge and ultimately it will instigate the desire to search for more knowledge and to finally realize that there is still a lot we do not know.
Critical Thinking is not a lesson we do in a set date or something we do with older children only. Critical thinking is an integral part of our daily school life; it is part of the classroom culture. It is the culture of “but why, how come, explain”?
There is a lot written about critical thinking but what I find really teacher user friendly are four questions from the Thinking Routines developed by the Project Zero in Harvard.
- What is going on here?
- What do you see that makes you say so?"
- Where have you seen it before?
- What else would you like to know about it?
You can make a poster with those four questions as a reminder for yourself to cultivate the culture of Critical Thinking in your classroom.
Parents can do the same at home. Do not give simple shallow opinion base answers to your child. Make them think critically and look for knowledge together. It is a fun path to becoming a more complete individual.
An example from today:
Here is part of a dialog that happened today when we were exploring living and non-living things a discussion used to launch a unit about life cycles. We had sorted living and non-living things on a table, a moth (alive in a jar) a plant, a rock, a marker and an eraser.
STUDENTS' VOICES ARE IN CAPITALS
- How do you know this is a living thing? (I was pointing to the moth)
- BECAUSE IT'S MOVING
- How about the plant, is it a living thing?
- What makes you say that?
- BECAUSE IT IS ALIVE
- How do you know it is alive?
- BECAUSE IT IS NOT DEAD
- But you said living things move, do plants move?
- YES BECAUSE OF THE WIND
- But then it is the wind moving the plant …
- PLANTS MOVE UP WHEN THEY GROW
- And they move down?
- Are you sure?
- WE CAN'T SEE
- Why not?
- THEY ARE INSIDE
- THE ROOTS
- What if we find a way to see the roots?
- THEN WE WILL SEE AND WE WILL KNOW
discussion went on a little longer
We wrote three characteristics of living things on a poster paper and we will keep adding as we investigate the unit.
The students decided that we needed a person in the living things ring and so we did it.
What else do you want to know about critical thinking?
I hear you ... then go to http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766 and never stop goggling it, talking about it, reading about it and whatever else you want to do with your desire to learn.