Tag Archives: critical thinking

thinkLaw

thinkLaw is a curriculum that aims to teach critical thinking skills through the use of real legal cases.  The program’s founder, Colin Seale, won the “Shark Tank One Day Challenge” in 2016.  thinkLaw is aligned with US standards for grades 5-12, but some of the lessons can be used with younger students.  To purchase the full curriculum, you will need to contact the company.  However, you can download a free sample and purchase other segments on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.

When looking at the free sample that is offered, “The Chair,” I realized that it fit in beautifully with an ethics discussion my students and I conducted last week about Tuck Everlasting.  In the story, one of the main characters (spoiler alert!) hits another character over the head with a shotgun.  At the time, we talked about whether it was ever okay to hit someone and, if so, under what circumstances is it acceptable?  “The Chair” walks students through a real legal case from the 1950’s, in which the aunt sued her 5-year-old nephew for pulling a chair out from underneath her.  Students learn legal terms such as: plaintiff, defendant, liable, and battery.  They find out the four criteria for the legal definition of battery, and weigh the evidence to determine if the nephew should be held liable.

When it comes to Depth and Complexity, this thinkLaw lesson incorporates many of the icons: Multiple Perspectives, Big Idea, Details, Ethics, and Trends, to name a few.  Students are polled a few times throughout the lesson to see how their thinking changes as they get more information.  After learning the outcome of the case, they are given a similar case to analyze using their new skills.

At first, I couldn’t quite gauge the interest of the students.  The conversation was hesitant, but everyone seemed to be absorbed in learning more. (There are 7 students in this class.)  It wasn’t until recess time that I learned the impact of the lesson…

Me:  “Okay everyone.  It’s recess time.  We are going to have indoor recess because of the weather.  You can play foosball, Osmo, or one of the other games.”

They moved toward foosball, and then one student said, “Let’s have court!”

Suddenly, furniture was being moved, parts were being assigned (judge, attorneys, plaintiff, defendant, witness), and a new scenario was proposed.  For the entire recess time, with no input from me, the students applied everything they had just learned to their imagined court case.

Voluntarily.

Instead of playing foosball.

Kind of funny when you think about it.  Holding court during a recess.  (very bad legal pun – sorry)

Experienced teachers know that we often don’t know what has made a real impression on our students.  If we do find out, it may be years later when a student visits and says, “Remember when…?”  This time, however, I received immediate proof that this lesson is likely to stick.

Want to find out who won the real legal case?  Download the free sample for yourself here!  Also, check out some of their other lessons (not free, and I haven’t reviewed them) that could be great for this time of year, including an MLK Jr. one, Valentine’s lessons, Superbowl, and Winter Olympics.  (I’ll be doing, “Always Watching” with my 5th graders next week because it ties in so well with The Giver.)

justice-2071621_1280.png
image from Pixabay
Advertisements

Critical Thinking Cheatsheet

The Global Digital Citizen Foundation has a page of resources on its website that includes the free Critical Thinking Cheatsheet.  The downloadable PDF has excellent question stems that students can use when trying to analyze a topic more effectively. You can see a sampling of the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions stems in the image below.

You will need to register on the site before you can receive your download.  However, there are several other free resources that you can also access once you login, so it is well worth taking 30 seconds to sign up.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 5.57.04 PM
from Global Digital Citizen Foundation Critical Thinking Cheatsheet

I plan to give this sheet to all of my students so they can use it to understand current events better.  A great site this could be “smashed” with is Newsela.

Common Mythconceptions

Did you know the Great Wall of China is not visible from space, you can’t kill someone by dropping a penny from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or any other building), and bananas don’t grow on trees?  These are some of the “Common Mythconceptions” you can find on Information is Beautiful.  The visualizations on this page are just a snippet of what you can get in the infographic book titled, Knowledge is Beautiful, but they are fascinating to read.  There are different colors to represent various topics, such as science and sports, and the size of the circular icon for each fact denotes the “virulence of the idea.”

You might not want to set younger student loose on this site, as it does include some sensitive topics.  As an elementary teacher I would use it as a resource for some google search challenges to give my students.  It would be fun to develop a “how certain are you” quiz a-la Russel Tarr with some of the information on the site.

In a world where tsunamis of information overwhelm us every time we turn around, one of the best things we can do for our students is to help them learn how to distinguish the facts from the “mythconceptions.”

The_Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa_SB
image from: Wikipedia

Integrative Thinking

I first read about “Integrative Thinking” in this article by Katrina Schwartz on Mindshift.  The article outlines three thinking/problem-solving tools that are taught through the I-Think Initiative at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management: Ladder of Inference, Pro/Pro, and Causal Models.  Integrative Thinking involves using these tools and others to consider solutions for problems by thinking about other perspectives as well as metacognition.

What fascinates me about the examples in Schwartz’ article is that these methods are being taught to students as young as first grade, and the students are applying them in productive ways that could be useful to many adults.  By becoming aware of how our own experiences can funnel our inferences and assumptions, and deliberately trying to reach outside of these, we are able to think more creatively.  It seems like a monumental task, especially for students who are still learning how to read, but it can be done.

You can view an interesting Ted Ed video on the “Ladder of Inference,” embedded within Schwartz’s article, that gives a great example of how we often use the ladder to our detriment.  Teachers who have been trained by through the I-Think Initiative give other examples of how the thinking tools have made dramatic differences in their classrooms.

As we continue to prepare our students for the future, I think that it’s imperative that we teach them metacognition and offer them critical thinking methods that will help them to be problem-solvers who can adapt to the fast-paced world in which they will eventually become the decision-makers.

image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/13970275618
image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/13970275618

Making Tough Choices

Decisions, decisions.  Some are certainly easier to make than others, as many people are discovering on this 2016 Election Day in the United States…

Kid President just released a timely video for the occasion.  Happily, it doesn’t just apply to election decisions. In fact, my 2nd graders have been discussing “Thinking Hats,” and “Making Tough Choices with Kid President,”  was the perfect supplement to a lesson on the importance of thinking about your thinking.  “Be thoughtful,” Kid President advises, after warning against impulsivity, doing nothing, and following along with everyone else.  Pretty sage advice from someone who isn’t even old enough to vote yet.

screen shot from, "Making Tough Choices with Kid President"
screen shot from, “Making Tough Choices with Kid President”

I will be adding this video to my “Inspirational Videos for Students” collection.  Here is a free printable of my Thanksgiving Thinking Hats Review if you are interested!

Also, if you haven’t seen the campaign projects from Joelle Trayers’ Kindergarten class, and need an election day smile, you must click on this link!

Oh, and by the way, looking for gift suggestions?  Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome is one of the many recommendations you will find on my “Gifts for the Gifted” page!

Halloween Activities from Minds in Bloom

Rachel Lynette, over at the “Minds in Bloom” blog, offers some fun Halloween activities for critical thinking.  One of them is a Halloween-themed list of “Would You Rather?” questions.  For these, I would recommend that you encourage your students to justify their answers, and possibly have a contest for who can give the most unusual reason for his or her response.  (For another way to use “Would You Rather?” questions, check out this post.)

Rachel also has a free “GHOST” Scattergories-type game that you can print.  As an extension, you could have the students make their own spooky versions by changing the letters on top and the categories.

And, finally, incorporate some disgusting math into your Halloween plans by giving your students some “Witches’ Brew Math.” Boiled eyeballs, anyone?

Eyeball Punch - image from Flickr
Eyeball Punch – image from Flickr

How to Encourage Students to Question

In my latest article for Fusion Yearbooks, I offer some practical ideas for encouraging questioning in the classroom.  If we want future generations of students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, they must learn the importance of questioning – which is sadly a skill often discouraged by educators.

image from Flickr
image from Flickr

Here are links to some of my other Fusion blog posts: