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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?