Updated: Sep 11
Does your child fill your days with questions?
Kids are so curious and questions help them learn, they can also be an important part of learning critical thinking skills.
In this information age, it is very easy to find the answers, to gather knowledge and to fill our mind with facts. But, it is what we do with this information that becomes the important step in our journey.
I taught a class called Myths, Mysteries and Monsters based on my unit study about the Science of Cryptozoology. This is the search for and study of animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated. It covered things like Loch Ness and Yeti but it also talked about why animals remain hidden, animals that are extinct (or thought to be) and even trick photography. The idea behind the class was not to study monsters but to study information. It was meant to help children learn critical thinking skills so that they could analyze the information they pick up and figure out for themselves if it is real or believable.
For example, we talked about the first recorded sighting of Bigfoot when a man claimed he was abducted from his tent in the middle of the night only to find himself surrounded by Bigfoot creatures. We had talked a lot about reports, perceptions etch by this point in the class so I wasn't surprised when one young student asked if the man had actually woken up. The idea that this man might have been dreaming is a perfect example of taking the information and applying critical thinking to it before jumping to any conclusions. The class wasn't meant to define whether such creatures existed but to offer the idea that there may be other explanations and it is important to study information before accepting it as truth.
Thinking it through
Critical thinking allows kids to learn to reason. It helps them learn to focus on the facts and not the emotions that accompany the situations. It creates thought-provoking learning opportunities and it encourages problem-solving skill building.
When we add thoughts to what we read, what we see, what we hear and what we perceive we are better prepared to offer conversation that is helpful and kind. They will look deeper for the truth, learn to recognize other opinions and know that they can differ.
Bright Horizons offers a number of ideas on how to help develop critical thinking skills in children, including:
Provide opportunities for play
Pause and wait
Don't intervene immediately
Ask open-ended questions
Help children develop hypotheses
Encourage critical thinking in new and different ways
One of the most important ways to develop this skill in children is to model it ourselves. Are we encouraging other people's opinions? Do we support different ways to do tasks? Do we verbalize our problem-solving skills so others can see our process? Do we think things through before we act, making sure to understand the situation clearly?
When we think things through we can get a better understanding of the situation, we can take the time to form our own thoughts and opinions and we can see how we can respond in an appropriate and civilized manner.
As part of the Kindness Kangaroo Project I will be working on a series called Robot Rules that will help children understand critical thinking approaches as well as learning about consequences of actions.
These books will be created with the help of groups of children who will offer ideas on topics like procrastination, obstacles in your path, mistakes and doing things differently.
Stay tuned for more updates about this series! Contact us if you have a classroom you would like to participate in this project!
“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”
Unit Studies like this one about monsters are great thematic learning tools to make learning interesting and fun. Read my post about Thematic Learning for more ideas to bring fun to learning.