What is one thing that is common among Albert Einstein, John Dewy, and Abraham Lincoln? It is their critical and rational thought process. Along with their unique personalities, their unique thinking pattern and view toward the world make these individuals creative and different.
Critical thinking is the ability of an individual to rationally analyze and evaluate arguments and logically reach a conclusion through independent thinking. Critical thinking is a multi-dimensional trait associated with rational, logical, and analytical thinking and is required in multiple domains.
Children are born curious; hence, teaching critical thinking skills from a very young age is super easy and flexible. Books, games, activities, applications, and other fun materials can aid the process. To further assist the parents in fostering critical thinking and bringing it into the day-to-day activities of children, we have curated a lesson plan for parents and their children.
Before moving to the lesson plan, let’s see some necessary skills required for critical thinking.
Skills required to be a critical thinker
A critical thought process is appreciated and demanded in personal, professional, and social life. Critical thinking is different from merely acquiring knowledge. A person can know plenty of facts and information, but that does not make him a critical thinker. Rather, how the person analyzes, evaluates, and concludes facts represents a critical thought process. Additionally, it is not necessary to be a critical thinker from birth, rather the skills required for critical thinking can be developed with time.
Some necessary skills for critical thinking are-
1. Ability to analyze
The ability to analyze requires breaking down the information into small parts and thoroughly assessing every part. The analysis is fundamental to critical thinking and leads to empirically tested and fact-based conclusions.
Observing, rather than seeing, is the core of critical thinking. Observation involves actively using all our senses and viewing the world to understand and perceive it uniquely.
The innate need to ask questions represents curiosity, which should be nurtured and fed throughout life. Curiosity leads to insights that deepen the knowledge and assists in evaluating and analyzing the information.
Keeping an open mind and extensively evaluating every part of the information without letting any bias creep in is at the core of critical thinking. Open-mindedness assists people in focusing on broader aspects rather than dealing with shallow components.
5. Clear communication
Critical thinkers don’t assume; they communicate. Clear communication involves stating one’s facts and actively listening to others’ points of view to objectively evaluate and reach conclusions based on the information from all the parties involved.
Objectivity is super important to be a critical thinker. Critical thinkers keep their personal views, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs aside and consider relevant research-based data, facts, evidence, and knowledge. Critical thinkers keep their subjectivity and personal biases away when analyzing and evaluating things.
7. Ability to inference
Analysis and evaluation are useless if we cannot reach an inference. Critical thinkers ensure that after thoroughly analyzing and evaluating the information, a sound, and valid inference is made for making sense of the information.
Critical thinking lesson plan
The skills mentioned earlier are an important prerequisite for critical thinking. Keeping that in mind, we have curated an in-depth and comprehensive critical thinking lesson plan for elementary school children. The lesson plan will foster the necessary skills for critical thinking and teaches children to use critical thought processes in daily life.
The major objective of the lesson plan is to enhance critical thinking skills and the ability to apply the same in day-to-day life.
The lesson plan begins with a supplementary activity that can easily be performed at home without additional material. The activity focuses on motivating children to brainstorm and engage in decision-making. In the activity, the child is presented with various clothing, accessories, and footwear options, and the child is encouraged to choose one suitable from each category for a birthday party.
Parents can foster critical thinking by asking questions like ‘Why have you chosen this clothing?’ or ‘why the other clothing is not suitable’, and so on. It will allow children to reflect on their thoughts and reach a conclusion.
Activity 1: View Point
Activity ‘view point’ is the perfect blend of enhancing children’s knowledge, refining their reading skills, and nurturing their critical thinking. In the activity, children have to read an age-appropriate book, and once they are done, parents can facilitate a discussion on the book. The discussion will help children critically engage in analyzing the book, reflect on its learning, and reach a valid conclusion.
In place of a book, news piece, hypothetical situation, or any method can be used. You can also refer to the list of critical thinking questions to ask children and hold a discussion. The only necessary condition is a critical discussion on the topic.
Activity 2: Dumb Charades
Cultivating and honing critical thinking skills is fun and engaging with interesting activities children can participate in, such as Dumb Charades. You need some art materials for the activity, such as pens, colors, paints, papers, blocks, etc. Now, without using any words, children have to express themselves with the help of art material. Coloring, painting, acting, building, etc., everything is allowed but words.
Challenges to critical thinking
Critical thinking is characterized by actively exploring different dimensions of arguments, rationally verifying the arguments, and coming to a conclusion. The process seems easy, although it is not that easy and direct in real life. Various factors influence our thought processes and impair our ability to think and infer critically.
Some common challenges to critical thinking are-
1. Personal opinions
An individual holds multiple opinions and beliefs. Though not every person holds the same point of view; rather, there are as many opinions as there are individuals. These personal opinions affect how we think and feel and in a result, impact our ability to think critically.
It is important to keep personal opinions and beliefs aside and objectively analyze, evaluate, and conclude the arguments.
Heuristics are mental shortcuts that make everyday reasoning easy and quick. However, heuristics are also prone to errors resulting in faulty decision-making. While critically analyzing the arguments, relying less on heuristics and more on evidence and facts is best.
3. Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a human tendency to conform to the arguments that support one’s original point of view and avoid the arguments that do not support one’s point of view. It can lead to impaired judgment of arguments and faulty decision-making. To be critical of one’s thought process, it is better to identify one’s confirmation biases and keep them in check.
Strategies to effectively cultivate critical thinking
Some strategies that can tackle the challenges mentioned earlier and foster critical thinking are as follows-
1. Look for evidence
Whenever presented with an argument, look for the evidence that backs it up. Ask yourself questions like, is the evidence relevant? Is the evidence strong enough to support the statement? Or is the evidence authentic? Pondering upon these questions will ensure that judgment is made critically.
2. Find credibility
Critical thinking does not rely on any evidence. It should be authentic and hold some value. Before making an inference, critically evaluate if the sources are authentic and not just the result of personal beliefs and confirmation bias.
3. Reason through logic
Though different, logical thinking and critical thinking go hand in hand. To think critically, you need to be logical in your evidence and inferences. Incorporate sound logic in your analysis and evaluation while thinking critically.
Lesson plans are a great way to make learning fun and engaging. The critical learning lesson plan is a unique and creative learning plan focusing on developing necessary critical thinking skills through fun activities. Children can easily engage in these activities from the comfort of their houses and spend as much time as they wish.
I am Sehjal Goel, a psychology student, and a writer. I am currently pursuing my Masters’s from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. Child psychology has always fascinated me and I have a deep interest in learning about disabilities in children and spreading awareness regarding the same. My other areas of interest are neuropsychology and cognitive psychology. Connect me on Linkedin