Critical Thinking

12 Solid Strategies for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

These are some of the best strategies for teaching critical thinking skills in class and remotely.

Teaching critical thinking skills is a necessity with our students because they’re crucial for living life. As such, every teacher is looking for exciting ways to integrate it into classrooms.  

Thinking critically is more than just thinking clearly or rationally; it’s about thinking independently. It means formulating your own opinions and drawing your conclusions regardless of outside influence. It’s about the discipline of analysis and seeing the connections between ideas, and being wide open to other viewpoints and opinions.

You can use these techniques for teaching critical thinking skills in every lesson and subject. Get creative and find different ways to incorporate them into your teaching practices.

Pro Tip: If you are working remotely, as many teachers and parents are nowadays, you can easily adapt these activities to work within a virtual setting. Read on for more.

1. Begin With a Question

Starting with a question is the most straightforward foray into the subject. What do you want to explore and discuss? It shouldn’t be a question you can answer with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ You want to develop essential questions here, ones that inspire a thirst for knowledge and problem-solving. They’ll support the development of critical thinking skills beautifully.

thinking about questions

When you pose your question to students, either in class or on your chosen virtual platform, it's important to encourage brainstorming. Offer possible answers as a student reference. Having open discussions with students is a big part of defining the problem in Solution Fluency.

2. Create a Foundation

Students cannot think critically if they do not have the information they need. Begin any exercise with a review of related data which ensures they can recall facts pertinent to the topic. These may stem from things like:

  • reading assignments and other homework
  • previous lessons or exercises
  • a video or text, which works great in remote settings

3. Consult the Classics

Classical literary works are a perfect launchpad for exploring great thinking. Use them for specific lessons on character motivation, plot predictions, and theme. Here are some links to explore for resources:

4. Create a Country

This could be a tremendous project-based learning scenario about learning what makes a country. In the process, students learn history, geography, politics, and more. Here are some resources to help you:

5. Use Information Fluency

Students must learn to amass the proper expertise to inform their thinking. Teaching critical thinking skills can be supported by an understanding of Information Fluency.

Mastering the proper use of information is crucial to our students’ success in school and life. It’s about learning how to dig through knowledge to find the most useful and appropriate facts for solving a problem.

IF bright idea

Information Fluency is the ability to unconsciously and intuitively interpret information in all forms and formats in order to extract the essential knowledge, authenticate it, and perceive its meaning and significance. The data can then be used to complete real-world tasks and solve real-world problems effectively.

As teachers of critical thinking skills, it’s up to us to provide guidelines for students to follow when searching for information that’s useful. This doesn’t have to be complicated, although the more queries a learner can make about the viability and credibility of information, the better their chances of finding useful information.

6. Utilize Peer Groups

There is comfort in numbers, as the saying goes. Digital kids thrive in environments involving teamwork and collaboration. Show kids their peers are an excellent source of information, questions, and problem-solving techniques.

7. Try One Sentence

Try this exercise: form groups of 8-10 students. Next, instruct each student to write one sentence describing a topic on a piece of paper. The student then passes the paper to the next student who adds their understanding of the next step in a single sentence. This time, though, that student folds the paper down to cover their sentence. Now only their sentence is visible and no other, so each time they pass students can see one sentence.

The object is for students to keep adding the next step of their understanding. This teaches them to home in on a specific moment in time. Additionally, they learn to apply their knowledge and logic to explaining themselves as clearly as possible.

8. Solve Some Problems

Assigning a specific problem is one of the best avenues for teaching critical thinking skills. Leave the goal or “answer” open-ended for the broadest possible approach. This is the essence of asking essential questions requiring the discovery and synthesis of knowledge through critical thinking. Ultimately, with the correct process to guide you, it's best to teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills simultaneously.

9. Return to Role Playing

Role-playing has always been an excellent method for exercising critical thinking. It’s why actors do tireless research for their roles as it involves inhabiting another persona and its characteristics. Becoming someone else calls upon stretching both your analytical and creative mind.

roleplaying

Pair students up and have them research a conflict involving an interaction between two famous historical figures. Then lead them to decide which character they each choose to play. They’ll each have different points of view in this conflict. Have them discuss it until they can mutually explain the other’s point of view. Their final challenge will be to each suggest a compromise.

10. Speak With Sketch

Though we are inherently visual learners, it can be challenging to communicate an idea without words effectively. Nevertheless, translating thoughts to picture form encourages critical thinking beautifully. It guides kids to think using a different mental skill set, and it’s also a great way to get them truly invested in an idea. There are some resources on the Teaching Channel and Ruth Catchen’s Blog that you may find useful.

11. Do Some Prioritizing

Every subject offers opportunities for critical thinking, so put teaching critical thinking skills at the forefront of your lessons. Check to understand and provide room for discussion, even if such periods are brief. You’ll begin to see critical thinking as a culture rather than just an activity.

12. Change Their Misconceptions

Critical thinking involves intensive work and concentration, but students should practice it themselves for much of the process. That said, it can be helpful to step in partway through their process. Apart from correcting misconceptions or assumptions, you’ll offer more vibrant lessons, more in-depth exploration, and better lifelong learning.

The Best Tool for Teaching Critical Thinking Skills

If you enjoyed this post and the ideas we've shared, you'd love the guide we've put together for teaching critical thinking skills the right way. The Critical Thinking Companion has everything for developing and assessing these skills in your students.

This guidebook and more at our global community that brings together those passionate about the education of young people to engage in joyful curiosity and learn from one another’s stories, experiences, and ideas.

We welcome everyone who shares our passion for transforming education. We learn with, from, and about each other in a fun and vigorous environment of trust and mutual support.

When you join our community you can:

  •   Access exclusive courses though our accredited professional learning deep dives
  •   Connect with a community of your peers from around the world who share your passion for learning
  •   Share experiences, ideas and stories as we support each other in our individual professional learning journey
  •   Find answers to the challenges you face in your practice from the best teachers, leaders and international experts.
  •   Be inspired by thought-provoking conversations and expert perspective each and every day.

Join us, and begin changing everything for the future today.v

Critical Thinking Companion Book Wabisabi LearningCritical Thinking Companion Book Wabisabi Learning

Critical Thinking Companion
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Enjoy dozens of challenging critical thinking activities and worksheets, a rubric for assessing critical thinking skills, and much more.... read more