If you want to stimulate critical thinking in your students, give them opportunities to generate ideas and analyze. Class discussions are great for stimulating creativity and an open mind. Teach them to ask "why?" as much as they can and to recognize patterns. Critical thinking is also partly about knowing how to distinguish the good sources of information from the bad ones.
Part 1 of 3: Encourage Students to Have an Open Mind
Step 1. Start a class discussion by asking an open-ended question
Open questions are questions that have more than one answer. Make sure to emphasize to them that there are no right and wrong answers. Tell them that there are only opportunities to learn and some answers may work better than others. This will allow them to think critically and creatively without fear of being wrong. Show your enthusiasm if they give unconventional answers to encourage them to expand their minds to different possible ideas.
- For example, ask open-ended questions like: "How could we get more people to recycle at school?"
- Whether it's realistic or not, compliment a clever response like this: “We could start making a giant sculpture out of recyclables in the middle of school. Everyone will want to contribute something and, at the end of the year, we can take photos and then take it apart to take it to the recycling plant. "
Step 2. Give your students time to think things through
Limited thinking is often the result of rushing to provide an answer. In discussions or class assignments, give them a few minutes to think clearly before they come up with ideas. For best results, ask them to sit back and put down their books and pens while they reflect.
Try to include a short creativity exercise at the beginning of class to help stimulate their minds. For example, you can ask them to identify 5 uses for shoes in addition to wearing them
Step 3. Make a list of the pros of two opposing ideas
To get your students out of the mindset that there is only one “right” and “wrong” answer, they can see the good in two opposing ideas. Make a long list on the board or on a large poster that has a column for each idea. Ask them to list positive things about both ideas to think of a third option that makes use of both.
For example, make columns for them to list the pros of camping and hiking in the city. Then ask them to think of a middle ground between the two
Part 2 of 3: Helping Students Make Connections
Step 1. Ask them to look for patterns and connections
Across various topics of study, encourage your students to look for patterns and connections to the real world. This will help them relate individual classes to more general trends or concepts. It will also help them apply them to their day to day. Encourage them to point out topics or ideas that they have seen before in their studies.
- For example, environmental topics may appear in science, history, literature, and art classes.
- If you are teaching geometry, you can ask if they have ever seen a building that looks like the geometric shape you are going to teach. You can even show them some pictures yourself.
Step 2. Show them an inaccurate picture so they can think about their own assumptions
Show them a photo of something a little imprecise and ask them to guess what is happening in the photo. Then ask them to point out the clues that led them to make that assumption. Finally, ask them to discuss how some of their beliefs or experiences may have influenced their conclusion to the photo.
- Explain to them how the clues and their own personal influences have shaped their final photo takeaways.
- For example, show them a photo of a man and a woman shaking hands in front of a house that has a “For Sale” sign. Ask them to explain to you what they think it is and little by little break down the things that led them to that conclusion.
Step 3. Discuss the statements by asking “why?
"5 times. It is important to encourage students to think and explain the reasoning behind their answers. Play a brainstorming game asking "why?" 5 times. You can do it in almost any class you give, especially in literature or history. Encourage them to do it alone to get to the root of problems and think more deeply.
If you are going to study a book or a play, you can ask a question like this: "Why did Rafael go to the train station?" and breaks down the answers as follows:
- "I take the train".
- "To go to the city."
- "To meet his friend."
- "Because I missed him."
- "Because he felt lonely."
- At a more advanced level, students will benefit by asking these questions about their research and work in order to determine its relevance.
Part 3 of 3: Teach About Trusted Information
Step 1. Teach your students the difference between opinions and factual statements
Teach them that what they say will be considered an opinion until they can provide supporting evidence. These tests can be an experiment they perform or reliable information published by experts. In class discussions and projects, remind them to back up everything they say with supporting information.
For example, if a student says there are fewer libraries than there used to be, ask them to provide real statistics to support their claim
Step 2. Remind them to be open to opposing points of view
Your students are likely to focus on sources that align with their views, but this will limit their ability to think critically about a topic. Instead, encourage them to learn from both sides of the debate and to be open to both. This will allow them to learn the most about a certain topic before deciding which position to take.
Step 3. Help your students detect advertisements that pose as information
Passing off a product placement as neutral information is a very common powerful advertising tool today. Show them a simple paid article or subtle business segment to get them to think more critically about the information that is presented to them on a day-to-day basis. Ask them to consider the sources of that material and the motivations someone had for posting it in the first place.
- Encourage your students by asking a simple question: "Who published this material and why?"
- For example, an advertisement for a low-calorie product may pose as a special interest television segment about how to lose weight on a budget.
Step 4. Ask your students to rate a website
In the age of electronic information, it is important to know which websites offer reliable facts and which ones do not. Bring up the topic in class or give them the task of looking at a website on their own and having it evaluated. They have to observe the following factors:
- The date of publication, if it has been updated and what the information is current like. Tell your students where they will find this information on the website.
- The author's credentials, such as an article on medicine, should be written by a doctor or other healthcare professional.
- If the author's argument has supporting evidence. Sources should always have supporting information, especially if the source is on the Internet.
Step 5. Encourage them to question sources of information
It is important that you teach them to analyze their sources on a deeper level. This will help them to identify any conflicts of interest that may exist and to critically analyze their sources.