Critical Thinking skills are vital aspects of elementary education because this is the stage where students are, best, equipped for life. However, teaching them can often be a challenge for elementary school teachers. From what critical thinking is, how to integrate it into everyday lessons, we will discuss several ways to help students develop critical thinking skills in primary and secondary schools.
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking goes beyond memorization; it largely involves encouraging students to differentiate concepts, solve problems, think creatively, and apply knowledge rightly. Despite popular myths that critical thinking skills are only necessary or applicable to science subjects, the reality is that these skills—which centers on the evaluation and application of knowledge—are not only vital for academic success but also everyday life. In other words, students who get acquainted with critical thinking skills in elementary school are more susceptible to having a seamless academic journey and have more advantages in the employment market.
Hence, here are few tips on how to teach young school children critical thinking skills. Note that teaching tips are endless and are most times subjective. So do not limit your strategies to this article; utilize a wide range of techniques.
- Ask questions
- Encourage teamwork
- Facilitate decision-making
- Inspire creativity
- Encourage brainstorming
Asking questions, especially open-ended questions, give primary and secondary school students a chance to apply what they have learned. It also allows them to find real-life scenarios for every topic or subject. Thus, making it easy for students to express themselves.
These questions could be rhetoric and thought-provoking, but at the same time, it helps them to be less gullible. As an educator, do not bombard them with questions. Instead, give them the chance to ask questions among themselves and provide answers when/where necessary.
Group projects and discussions are unique ways to teach critical thinking skills in elementary school. Collaborative learning does not only expose students to the thought processes of their classmates; it also expands their thinking and world-view by demonstrating that there are different ways to approach a problem.
One of the very best critical thinking exercises for elementary school students involves exploring a concept from multiple perspectives. This tactic does not only establish that an idea should be assessed from different points of view before having an opinion; it gives students a chance to share their viewpoints while listening to and learning from others.
Since a large part of teaching critical thinking skills revolves around applying knowledge and evaluating solutions, elementary school teachers should encourage decision-making as much as possible. This enables students to apply what they have learned to different situations—weigh the pros and cons of available solutions—then decide which idea works best. For example, students can learn how to make healthy financial decisions by teaching them how to spend and save their ‘pocket-money’ at an early stage.
In addition to that, you can ask students to connect different ideas. For example, you can ask students if they know anyone who has travelled by bus, and if yes, why it would be necessary to have an alternative airplane schedule. Questions like these help them consider different scenarios—like delayed buses or traffic—and potential solutions—like booking a flight ticket immediately.
Promoting creativity is one key to teaching critical thinking skills in elementary school. As an educator, it is advisable to motivate students to create something new after each lesson. They could ‘play’ with the topic and come with new ideas—via illustrations, paintings, or a written piece. However, do not limit them to the topic or subject of discussion; allow them to explore different areas like science, art, and technology.
Brainstorming is a renowned learning tool and a tradition in elementary education. It is also an excellent critical-thinking exercise that helps students broaden their horizons, especially when combined with visual elements that bring classroom discussions to life.
As an educator, these tips are intertwined. That is, you need your students to work together, brainstorm, ask questions as much as you need them to be decisive and creative. And the best way to teach critical thinking skills is to ensure that you implement these tips simultaneously.
We also advise educators to have different teaching approaches, which will enable them to carry everyone along during lessons.