do_action( 'wprev_pro_plugin_action', 1 );

By Nicola Killops

About two years ago, I left the classroom to embark on a new adventure as a writer and education consultant. While I love the new challenges that my new role brings, I will always be grateful for the treasured time I spent engaging with a roomful of kids who were all mine, all year long. I often stroll down memory lane, recalling the vibrant chatter and unexpected conversations. And it very often serves as food for thought. How can my new role add value, inspire teachers and parents and continue contributing to the big picture?

I recall a particular day with my grade 4 class that stands out. We had delved into a heated discussion on climate change, a topic that, even at their young age, seemed to elicit strong reactions from them. Each student had a lot to contribute, their little faces full of determination and conviction as they voiced their opinions.

On the surface, this was fantastic – kids who were engaged and wanted to share their perspectives. That should be a cause for celebration, right?

But as I listened more closely, something started to bother me. It became apparent that much of what they were saying felt…recycled. The passion was theirs, yes, but the words and arguments? They seemed to echo what they’d heard elsewhere, perhaps from their parents, the media, or even other teachers. There was a sense of parroting rather than genuinely understanding or analysing the information they discussed.

It was then I realised the crucial role we play as educators. It’s not enough to just fill our students with facts, figures, and information, expecting them to accept it at face value. Yes, we need to provide them with knowledge, but we must also teach them how to engage with that knowledge.

Ever peek into the pandemonium of social media platforms or, worse, a family WhatsApp group? Misinformation is passed around like hot potatoes, often without a moment’s pause for scrutiny. Despite questionable sources, you’ve got uncles forwarding every conspiracy theory they find, treating Tweets and memes as gospel truth.

People mistrust their GPS suggesting an unfamiliar route, yet eagerly forward an article to the extended family about how rubbing an onion on your head will cure baldness.

We must arm the next generation with a reliable B.S. detector in this digital whirlwind. Teaching our kids critical thinking is crucial, helping them question, evaluate, and make sound judgments amidst the noise.

Understanding Critical Thinking

Critical thinking may seem like a vague, complicated educational buzzword, but it isn’t. It’s about assessing, analysing, interpreting, and drawing reasoned conclusions from daily information. It’s a life skill that extends beyond acing exams, influencing how our children perceive the world around them and engage with it.

Teaching children how to think critically, question everything, and evaluate the source is more crucial now than ever.

Parents, you are your child’s first and most influential teachers. The intellectual environment you create at home significantly influences your child’s cognitive development.

Fostering critical thinking at home might seem daunting, but here are some practical tools to help:

Encourage Curiosity

Spark their interest by asking thought-provoking questions. Encourage them to remain open-minded and explore different possibilities.

Promote Problem-Solving

Allow them the freedom to brainstorm solutions to their problems. This fosters creativity and a sense of independence.

Incorporate Reflective Thinking

Encourage post-activity reflections. Discuss what worked and what could have been done better.

Make Reading a Habit

Encourage a broad range of reading topics to help them explore different perspectives and broaden their horizons.

Cultivate Resilience

Teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes. What’s more important is what they learn from them.

Need some Help?

Developing critical thinking isn’t confined to your home. Schools and the wider community play a pivotal role, too. Engage with your child’s school and community groups to ensure a consistent focus on nurturing these skills. Teaching our children to think critically is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. Embrace this journey, tap into the available resources, and watch your children grow into confident, independent thinkers ready to make their mark on the world.

Here are some other resources that can help you along the way:

Books

Critical Thinking: The Playbook by Dr. Kwame M. Brown

This is a comprehensive and accessible guidebook for parents and teachers who want to help their children develop critical thinking skills.

The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn

This fun and interactive book teaches children how to identify common logical fallacies.

How to Think Critically: A Concise Guide by Jeff McLaughlin

A bit more advanced, suitable for teenagers.

Mind Benders: Deductive Thinking Skills by Anita Harnadek

A series of workbooks with puzzles designed to improve critical thinking skills.

Apps

Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens

This logic puzzle game encourages children to use their critical thinking skills. Available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Mystery Math Town

This app provides math problems within a fun and engaging game, which promotes logical thinking and problem-solving. Available on the App Store.

Brain It On!

A physics puzzle game that challenges kids to solve each level in various ways, encouraging creative thinking. Available on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Websites

BrainPOP

A website that provides animated movies on topics in math, science, social studies, English, art, music, and health, which can stimulate critical thinking.

Khan Academy

Offers a wide array of topics in video format that can prompt critical thinking discussions.

NASA’s Kid’s Club

Features games and information on space topics that promote critical thinking.

Games

Chess – The classic strategy game can help develop critical thinking and strategic thinking skills.

Rush Hour

A popular logic game where players must move cars around a grid to get a specific car out of traffic.

Clue

This classic board game helps develop deductive reasoning skills.

Settlers of Catan

This strategic resource management game can help develop decision-making and planning skills.

Remember, asking open-ended questions and encouraging curiosity is the key to teaching critical thinking. Practice patience and listen to your child’s ideas to support their critical thinking development.