Students need to develop higher-order thinking skills such as inquiry, evaluation, and analysis to be successful in the classroom, on assessments, and in the real world. But how do you incorporate critical thinking activities into your already stuffed curriculum? Here are a few ideas that will challenge your students to use critical and creative thinking skills — and not overwhelm your schedule.
1. Extend Your Lessons with a Question
One simple and quick method to incorporate critical thinking activities into your day is to extend your lessons with a question. Questions should move beyond recalling and understanding of content into application, analysis, evaluation, and creation of learned skills. Here are some sentence starters incorporating Bloom’s Taxonomy levels of analysis, evaluation, and creation.
- Analysis: How would you categorize…
- Analysis: What could you infer from…
- Evaluation: How would you compare…
- Evaluation: Which do you think is better…
- Creation: What might have happened if…
- You can design your questions from lessons taught the previous day, using Webbs Depth of Knowledge wheel for keywords that require your students to think deeply. Students may record their responses in a journal or on a separate paper. (Levels three and four in the DOK wheel provide the most in-depth evaluation.)
- Evan-Moor’s Daily Higher-Order Thinking classroom resource provides 30 weeks of daily challenges that focus on a behavioral verb. Students are required to use information they already know and apply higher-order thinking skills to solve a problem. These challenges can be completed independently or in small groups.
3. Critical Thinking Task Cards
Create a task card box for center activities or early finishers with assignments that develop students’ higher-order thinking. Develop one concept/question for each task card with a focus on analysis, synthesis, inference, and application. Topics should include a diverse array of subjects spanning the curriculum and connect thinking skills with real-world situations.
These task card sample topics are from Daily Higher-Order Thinking, Grade 3:
- Fill in the blank: I was carved by a river. I have very steep sides. If you speak to me, will respond with an echo. I am a _ _ _ _ _ _.
- Unscramble the sentence: I wind blows the my fast hair run when
- Use four digits to create three 2-digit numbers that can be rounded to 40. (Do not use a digit more than once in a number.)
1, 4, 6, 3
- Generate a word problem with these facts
The blue whale is the largest of all the whales. It grows up to 100 feet (30 meters) long. The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest whale. It grows up to 9 feet (3 meters) long.
- Imagine you are a sea creature on the bottom of the ocean. What sorts of adaptations, or body features, would you have that would make it easier to survive in the deep?
There are many different ways to encourage your students to think critically and creatively about the world around them. How do you incorporate critical thinking into your school day?
Heather Foudy is a certified elementary teacher with over 7 years’ experience as an educator and volunteer in the classroom. She enjoys creating lessons that are meaningful and creative for students. She is currently working for Evan-Moor’s marketing and communications team and enjoys building learning opportunities that are both meaningful and creative for students and teachers alike.