A little late, but I wanted to link up with Ms. Patton over at : http://pattonspatch.blogspot.com in her linky to share teaching strategies.
Now you know I work with the young kiddos, and the one thing I notice Day One is that they will answer a question, but not really be able to give you the why. For example-we'll be doing a graph of their favorite foods and they will choose pizza, but when I ask why pizza I will just get a blank look. If I'm going around the room, most will just answer what the person before them did.
So we have a daily activity where they are to come up with an opinion to answer a question, but then also be able to explain that stand. I will put a question on the Smartboard--is it better to be an only child or to have siblings? What's more important trees or flowers? What's the most important job a person can have? They turn to a partner and discuss and then turn back to the whole group and share some of their ideas. I model for them as well.
In just a few months, they are not only able to answer a question and explain why but sometimes it goes beyond that. In May I actually had another teacher observing my class and I asked the question: should there be a woman President? They discussed among themselves and then were sharing their opinions. One little boy said that men are stronger and more responsible, so they would make better Presidents. The girl behind him raised her hand and said "can I ask 'Johnny' a question?". She said to him-but Johnny, all the teachers you have had so far have been girls, aren't they strong and responsible? It was a champion moment for me, because not only is she questioning and thinking about an opinion, but she is able to very civilly extend the discussion. It helps with their writing as well. They start justifying answers-not just the Grinch was wrong, but the Grinch was wrong because and will give a reason.