Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Five Techniques to Cultivate Critical Thinking
Here are five practical teaching techniques that will nurture your student’s ability to become a successful learner who is filled with confidence and a discerning mind; a child who can apply critical thinking skills through future situations and experiences.
1) Steward opportunities to explore
“Mommy…MOON!” Each of my children have lit up with wonder and excitement as they discovered the moon in the sky for the first time. Each time one of my children showed me their exciting new discovery, my heart filled with joy seeing the sparkle in their eyes and the thrilled expression on their faces. When you watch a young child play, you often see their eyes light up with wonder and excitement as they discover new things. The world of discovery is magical, isn’t it? Wonder triggers motivation and action. It inspires dreams, creativity, and imagination. As your child discovers new information of interest, they often light up with excitement like a toddler discovering the moon in the sky for the first time. Discovery of new and interesting information will motivate your child to learn more, develop new perspective, or spark new interests. As you challenge your child to explore deeper into a topic or a small facet of a lesson, he will learn more about what is unfamiliar to him.
When the opportunity arises, whether during class, during a meal, or at bedtime, ask your child if there was an element of information that they would be interested in learning more about. Make a commitment to help him research the topic on the internet, watch a documentary or YouTube video that tells more about the subject of interest, or visit the library and check out a book. Another way to delve deeper into a facet of a lesson your child finds interesting is to visit a museum, business, or national park.
As your children advance in their studies:
Expand their knowledge and increase their resourcefulness by assigning them a research paper. A research paper requires your student to create an introduction that summarizes their main point, research and review literature, analyze and interpret data, organize their findings, and develop a conclusion.
Increase your child’s assertiveness and reasoning skills by assigning them a persuasive essay. In a persuasive essay, your child will need to form an opinion, plan their argument, find supportive and contradictory information, and logically defend their position.
2) Let your child learn from experience
Everyone has planned an adventure that just didn’t work out. Sometimes we are filled with disappointment or sadness when it doesn’t. Reflect on an experience you had that didn’t work out and think about what you learned from it. Achievements are made up of all the experiences you had and everything you have learned from them. Teach your child to look at each experience, whether it worked out or not, as a warm-up exercise designed to help him achieve greater things. Have him study what didn’t work and review answers on his assignments that were answered incorrectly. Rest assured that your child will remember what he learned from his mistakes better than what he answered correctly! Lessons learned from mistakes become the building blocks that will help him succeed in the future.
Walk alongside your child and help them learn from experience by encouraging him to:
Accept that the experience or solution might not work
Assess how the experience or solution is working
Review the outcome
Try again, applying what he learned
Encourage your child by providing constructive criticism, helping him see ways in which he can improve. Help him reflect, learn, revise, and try again. This will encourage persistence and a will to persevere. The important thing is to always let him know that you believe in him.
3) Have your child apply what he has learned
Real life applications challenge students to apply the skills they have learned to new situations. When your child applies what he has learned to a real-life situation, he will solidify his understanding and better retain information. Help him take what he has learned and apply it to a project, game, or other tangible work. This will challenge him to dig deeper and come up with creative solutions.
I am amazed at those that can take a situation and compare it to something familiar to help others understand. Role playing often achieves the same thing in a fun way. Role play scenarios that incorporate what your child has learned in math, writing and grammar, and history. Make up a skit and act a scenario to practice money exchange, or better understand a historic event. Whether age three or forty-three, role playing situations can help a person solve problems, develop solutions, and think with greater clarity.
Math isn’t just about learning facts. Qualities that are nurtured by mathematics include logic and reasoning skills, abstract thinking, perseverance, problem-solving skills, and more clear communication skills. As your child works with new concepts, he is also learning how to apply the processes and applications previously learned to develop solutions. For young students, incorporate hands-on items in math like colored cubes, dominoes, and dice. Make up real life story problems and play games like Sudoku and Yahtzee. For older students, incorporate charts or graphs. Challenge them with complex problems used for figuring out the cost of borrowing money, managing business, and creating workable architecture. Have them learn how to figure out distance, time, and cost for upcoming travel plans.
Laboratory investigations help students develop a growing understanding of the complexity and interpretations of our world. Your child will sharpen troubleshooting and observation skills as they perform labs.
Your child learns spelling, grammatical rules, and organizational writing skills during their lessons, but they apply those skills as they write research papers, short stories, and more. Through this practical application, they will sharpen their ability to communicate more clearly. Over time your child will instinctively use his writing and grammar skills through all forms of communication. Writing and grammar skills will prepare your child for college entrance exams, job applications, and communication with coworkers. A good curriculum will not only encourage your child to write and speak with clarity, but also encourage him to align his words and heart with God as he communicates with others (Psalm 19:14).
4) Give your child responsibilities
Responsibilities are more about what you learn than what you accomplish. Like all of us, children need to feel like they matter to the world and their lives make a positive contribution. When kids help at home, they are more likely to assess and respond to what needs to get done and are more likely to offer help.
A willingness to help others
A sense of fulfillment in contributing to their family, their community, and their world
As your children grow, they can manage their responsibilities more on their own leading to improvement of life skills such as:
If you can provide your child an opportunity to collaborate with others in a group, whether that is with others in your home or the community, his ability to work with a team will strengthen. Teach him to recognize the strengths of members within his group and identify how best to effectively use their skills. Teach him how he can adjust his own methods to work more efficiently with the various skillsets, personalities, and ideas of team members. Teach him to listen, share ideas, compromise, and encourage others to contribute. All these skills gained will help him successfully manage his household and professional aspirations.
5) Help your child reflect
Have you ever lost sight of your goals or reasons for working on a task? When this happens, you are more likely to lose focus and interest. You may set the task aside or give up altogether. Like us, children also need to be reminded of their goals and reasons for completing a task.
Help your child see that a little progress each day adds up to a lot of progress over time. As your child learns new information, he can connect it with the other facets of information he has learned and achieve greater understanding. As you increase your child’s awareness of what he has learned and how he can apply it, he will realize the significance of what he has learned and begin to think about ways he can apply what he has learned to better the world around him. You will retain his interest and inspire his desire to learn more. He will exhibit a positive attitude toward learning.
1) Share your thoughts and encourage debate.
Creates an atmosphere of openness
2) Have your child keep a reflective journal.
3) Have your child communicate what he has learned by:
Having him perform a demonstration
Having him perform an oral presentation of his written work.
There is a lot of intellectual work that goes into this engaging yet conversational method of learning. It is well worth the effort because a critically reflective person is better able to communicate his beliefs and the rationale behind it. The act of reflection will sharpen your child’s communication skills and inspire him to identify and work toward a knowledge-oriented goal, a skill-oriented goal, and eventually a career-oriented goal.
Teaching your child with greater breadth and depth will cultivate your student’s ability to become a successful learner who is filled with confidence and a discerning mind. If you incorporate Bible study throughout the critical thinking process, your child will gain ever-more confidence in his decisions as he compares his everyday situations with God’s word. With a strong foundation of values and beliefs, your child will be known as a trustworthy, responsible individual who is filled with integrity.
Homeschooling yields plenty of opportunity to disciple your child, encourage critical thinking, and help him understand concepts with greater depth and clarity. Trust that God will weave together each moment to equip your child to serve others throughout his personal and professional life. (New International Version, Ephesians 2:10)
Review: The advantages of multi-sensory learning in Homeschooling with Greater Depth (Part 2)
Review: Questions encourage deeper thinking and understanding in Homeschooling with Greater Depth (Part 3)
Review: Teaching techniques to cultivate critical thinking in Homeschooling with Greater Depth (Part 4).