Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Critical Thinking

Such an important concept to teach our kiddos and unfortunately not always easy to incorporate into daily activities. Just some ideas of ways to help our students develop logical thinking skills:

1) Give them a realistic problem to solve. The electricity went out in the school for the day-how do they make lunch? The traffic on this certain street is horrible; what could the city planners do about it? Map out the solution.

2) Take a shape or line and create something knew with it-in the beginning this is a tough one. Using a triangle, you will get 15 mountains. But the more you do it and the more you make your expectations clear that you want them to come up with something creative-something no one else came up with, the more you will be amazed at what they can come up with.

3) Invent something new-invent a new holiday and the customs that go with it, a new kind of transportation, a new kind of pet. The key is to get them to describe the components and why they chose them.

4) Put out 3 photos (I do this in small group instruction) and ask them to identify which one doesn't belong and why. A banana, a clock and a pizza---be open-minded-sometimes again they come up with an answer you didn't even think of. I did this once and they said you use a clock and banana to measure-we had just talked about measuring with non-standard things and if they could use their feet, they could use a banana! :)

5) Compare 2 photos or things. The crazier the combination the harder it is to complete. Compare a dinosaur and a car-they can do it, they come up similarities!

6) What's missing? Put out 5 objects/pictures-have them close their eyes and take one away. Can they name what's no longer there.

7) Create a new game. This is also a hard one until they get started. It can be a board game or game like tag. They make the rules and objectives and by the way love to play it when they are finished. Some kids do this naturally-I've written before about the kiddos playing "zombies" at recess!

8) Make new signs-we have signs everywhere-create a new sign that means "STOP" or "Yield"--what could it look like?

9) Make and compare 2 lists of things. Healthy snacks and non-healthy snacks, summer clothes/winter clothes-analyze what criteria is used to decide what goes on what list. Are there more of one than the other? Why?

10) Comparing amounts. This is a tough one for the younger kiddos. Sort magazine pics-what costs less than a dollar/more than, less than $100/more than (they often think cars and cereal both cost $100). Use containers to see what holds more? Let them figure out how to do that. My mom recently bought me 2 water bottles for school (she still does school shopping :). I was very surprised at which one held more because of the appearance-the one that looked smaller actually held more. Let them figure out a way to solve that instead of just telling them.

11) Old-time sayings. I LOVE using these with young kids because often they haven't used them before. What does "it's raining cats and dogs" mean? Why does "an apple a day keep the doctor away"? Encourage them to be creative in their responses. They have to analyze the words and then come up with a meaning applying what they already know about those things. It's educational and often hysterical! :)

12)  Take an invention that exists today and make it better. How would you improve a video game, a screwdriver, car, backpack? People do this for a living every day-always a better mousetrap being invented out there (or an Iphone 32). I'm always amazed at the things people come with on the infomercials-that bowl that never spills is just genius!!!!

13) Create something out of trash. Ok, well, maybe not trash out of the trash can-but have everyone bring in something that would have been thrown away-cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, etc. Assign them to groups and have them use their materials to create a new kind of bug or mammal or transportation.

14) After teaching them sink or float-split them up into teams with various materials and have them create a "boat" with the goal that it will float. Hopefully they will shy away from heavier things in favor of the wood, etc. Test the boats.

15) Which kite will fly? I haven't done this activity in awhile, but when we did it the kids loved it. I had several different stations-wrapping paper, newspaper, construction paper, cardboard, etc. They had to make a kite out of a material they thought would fly and of course, we tested them-fun, fun spring activity!

16) Analyze the ways people communicate. How could you communicate with others if you could not speak. Make them be really creative with this!

17) How would you change it? How could you change a plane into a boat? A high heel into a sneaker? What would you need to keep, what would you need to add?

18) Your friends disagree about who is the better writer, runner, student-how do you decide? Have them go through the logic step by step.

19) Give them a scenario having to do with a job. You are a teacher and everyone in the class scores 100% on a test-what does that mean? What should you do? You are a firefighter and 2 calls come in at the same time-you have one truck-what do you do? How do you decide which home to go to? These are 5-minute activities-but are teaching them to analyze situations.

20) Using logic to persuade. You want to keep a dinosaur as a pet-convince your parents. What's your argument. What are the pros and cons?

Even the young kids can do this. It may take some time and repetition--but they will start to get it. Sometimes too much. I had a parent complain once that she was becoming to logical. "I told you so" wasn't working as an answer anymore! :)
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  1. Thanks again for some great ideas!

  2. Thanks for your ideas... I love it and can't wait to try some out on my new students!

    Colleen Patton
    Mrs. Patton’s Patch