>Critical Thinking Skills in the Classroom
The other day one of my students overheard me speaking with a colleague about encouraging the development of critical thinking skills in the classroom. This student later pulled me aside to ask me about the conversation. She told me that she was confused. She understood “critical” as something “bad or scary” (her words). I realized in that one moment that while I was trying my best to encourage critical thinking skills in the classroom, I had never really talked to my Grade 5 students about this concept. Well, I resolved to do just that the following day: Friday.
Every Friday we conduct a “Class Meeting”. Class Meetings are a time for us to gather together at the carpet to talk about successes, questions and concerns. We talk about things like friendship, academics, problems on they playground, goals, society, etc.. The students set the agenda, and I don’t so much lead as facilitate the meetings. Anyway, this meeting time provided the perfect opportunity to discuss the concept of critical thinking skills as a group. Needless to say it was a successful and personally rewarding experience. (I have included some notes from the meeting below.)
To follow up, on Monday I asked my students to record what they had learned from the experience in their Learning Logs. The entries were amazing! Their entries were in the form of webs, lists, diagrams, comics, illustrations, journal entries, etc.. If you had been a fly on my classroom wall that Monday you would have seen a smile on my face as I read through each entry. Only time will tell if their experiences in the classroom will be any different as a result.
P.S. I have included points from our discussion below. I’d love to know whether anyone has had similar discussions or experiences with their students and the outcome(s).
Critical Thinking Skills in the Classroom
(A) The Environment: As Teachers:
… Provide love & structure.
… Be firm but fair.
… Provide an environment in which students feel safe and secure; free to explore, make mistakes & share outcomes.
… Always plan three lessons in one: 1. To inform & engage the class; 2. Activities for those who “get it” right away & want/need more; 3. Additional activities for those who require further review & repetition; additional support.
… Encourage critical thinking.
(B) Critical Thinking: Encourage students to …
… Observe; experience.
… Explore; explain.
… Asks questions.
… Take risks.
… Be open to new ideas and ways of looking at things.
… Communicate: Practice active listening – listen openly & optimistically.
… Communicate: Speak up & take action.
… View challenges as opportunities for growth & development.
… Take responsibility – for successes & failures.
… Acknowledge individual/group assumptions and biases.
… Acknowledge motives; be honest with themselves.
… Be open-minded, active learners.
(C) Provide opportunities for students to … play, create, identify, question, analyze, build, construct, test, question, lead, follow, share ideas, listen to others, learn from mistakes, share accomplishments.