10 Strategies for Building Critical Thinking

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"Top 10 Strategies for Building Students' Critical Thinking" (online article) outlines activities to get students " analyzing, questioning and challenging situations, issues, and information of all kinds" -- activities that will both "change classroom dynamics and have a profound impact on learning." 

1. Socratic Seminars

  • "Students are asked to read and respond to a text assigned by the teacher and then prepare themselves for class discussion."
  • "Students are expected to listen to and respond to their peers, and each student participates in the conversation while the teacher facilitates discussion and remains neutral."

2. "Simulations"

3. "Encouraging Creativity"

  • "Rather than providing detailed directions for students to complete an activity, simple make available any necessary materials, then step back and allow [students] to use their creativity."
  • "Teachers might be surprised at the quality of work that students can produce when they control their own learning."

4. "Depth and Complexity Icon[ic Prompts]"

  • "Sandra Kaplan introduced 11 depth and complexity icons, including big idea, details, ethics, unanswered questions, rules, patterns, trends and the language of the discipline."
  • "These icons help stimulate in-depth analysis."

5. "Compare and Contrast"

6. "Literature Circles"

  • "When discussing the text with others, ... people are motivated to delve deeper and think critically about issues they may not have considered on their own."

7. "Debates"

  • "Debates sharpen students’ ability to persuade an audience regarding a given stance on a topic."
  • "[They] must be prepared for rebuttal, which means they’re always 'thinking on their feet.'"
  • "Debates force students not only to think critically, but to listen carefully and speak articulately."

8. "Instant Challenges"

  • "Working as a group, students must complete a challenge within a short amount of time, then present their work to the class, which judges their performance."
  • "Small groups get basic task parameters, but not specific instructions on how to complete their challenge."

9. "Open-Ended Questioning"

  • "Students are accustomed to hearing questions that have only one possible answer."
  • "Asking students open-ended questions will enable them to think at a higher level and should also foster more intriguing conversation."

10. "Reciprocal Teaching"

  • "Break students into small groups of four, where each has a role as a summarizer, question generator, clarifier or predictor. Students will also take turns as the guide."
  • "The purpose of reciprocal teaching is encouraging students to participate in discussion and think deeply about what they are reading."