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Teaching children to think critically can be incredibly challenging yet rewarding.

Critical thinking is a versatile tool to have no matter which career path your students may end up venturing down, and so it’s well worth the time, resources and effort. To think critically isn’t just to simply scrutinize every little fact that you come across – it’s far deeper and more intricate than that.

It encourages thinking with rationale and independence; to create your own opinions based on a selection of facts given, irrelevant of external influences. To effectively teach your students how to think critically, you must discipline them into the natural mindset of analyzing viewpoints, statistics, opinions and arguments.

Here are six tips and techniques you can use to teach critical thinking to your students:

1. Begin with a solid foundation

Before you get started with any other critical thinking lessons, it’s essential that your students firstly understand:
  • What critical thinking is
  • Why it’s important
  • How it can be utilized in their everyday lives

Setting a research task either in the lesson or as homework will encourage students to find these things out – and you can make it as creative as you like. It will also help you to find out any misconceptions the students may have about critical thinking, which you can challenge in a later lesson.

2. Challenge misconceptions

Challenging misconceptions is meant in two ways:
  1. Firstly as just previously mentioned – set straight any qualms that your students have about critical thinking and why they should be studying it. This will create a positive learning environment.
  2. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you should be aiming to set frequent tasks that surround a selection of data, recent news stories, or a widely held opinion. Get your students to identify flaws within these, as well as biases, opinions and other influences to the objective truth.

3. Start a debate

One of the most effective ways to get students to learn about the importance of viewpoints is to split them into opposing sides and form a debate. The students don’t have to agree with the side that they’re on – they’re learning about objectivity, after all.

It’s also a great way for students to learn about taking turns and being respectful of one another.

4. Role-play

Similar to starting a debate, role playing is a creative and active way to teach critical thinking. Create a scenario and appoint students as characters to argue out their viewpoint. The rest of the class can then assemble all of the given information and reach a conclusion. This is an engaging way to get your students invested in the process of critical thinking.

5. Allow longer to answer a question

Typical classroom environments need a fast-pace to get through the syllabus in time.

However, where possible, when teaching critical thinking, allow your students a bit of extra time to thoroughly assess all of the potential factors to take into consideration. This will encourage thinking rationally without the worries of working to a time constraint.

The more they get used to it, the quicker they’ll get too.

6. End each lesson with a Q and A

In order to really optimize each lesson, you should end it with a Q & A session to allow students to ask any questions they may have about what they’ve learnt that day. This allows consolidation of the course content, as well as another opportunity to voice things they enjoyed learning about.

Remember to tell students that if they feel embarrassed to ask a question in front of their peers, then they can linger to ask you in private. Students will learn better if they feel there’s no shame in asking a question!

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