Elementary Activities for Critical Thinking Skills

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Although it may be easier to grade tests that require a standard memorized answer, teaching critical thinking helps students think creatively and generate new ideas. As children grow up, they become part of the workforce and are faced with ever-changing problems and must be able to formulate new solutions. Teachers can facilitate critical thinking skills by creating in-class activities that teach children to brainstorm solutions and evaluate them.

Open-ended Questions

  • Teachers can promote critical thinking by asking students questions that do not have one correct answer and instead encourage students to evaluate viable answers and explain the one they choose. Children will naturally begin to weigh the pros and cons of their answers and develop a greater understanding for why their answer works. Open-ended questions can be used for class discussion, tests and group work.

Critical Reading

  • Reading often involves interpretation. When children read, they are encouraged to seek meaning in what they have read, but multiple readers can draw different interpretations out of the same passage. Discussions that encourage students to make inferences, draw on their past knowledge,and share their own interpretations can facilitate critical thinking and help enrich the literature or passage. Students can write their own interpretations of the reading and share their ideas with the class.

Odyssey of Mind

  • Odyssey of the Mind is a program designed to promote the competition of school teams as they answer problem-solving questions or build various projects as a team to resolve a problem. Questions can be as simple as brainstorming what to do with twenty pieces of shoelace licorice other than eat it to more complex thought-provoking questions. Although only a small number of children compete in Odyssey of the Mind, a similar competition could be creating in the classroom. Small groups of children can be divided into teams and posed critical thinking questions. A teacher can give the groups set amount of time to solve the problem. Answers could be shared and children could vote on the best answers without being permitted to vote for their own answers. Additionally, children could be given materials and asked to use them to build a tent, reach an item that is difficult to obtain or solve some other problem. The activities will promote cooperative learning and critical thinking.

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