Top Five Foundational Concepts for Teaching Critical Thinking to Children





Critical thinking, as defined by the Foundation for Critical Thinking:

is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.

Source: (Foundation For Critical Thinking)

Essentially, critical thinking is a human superpower unique to each individual, and like any strength or skill, if we don't use it - we'll lose it. Not a single one of the 7+ billion humans on earth think in the exact same way - not even identical twins. Our perceptual lives are built upon our foundational concept of the world, and from the moment a baby is born onwards, this will continue to be hammered, fixed, and molded by the tools of critical, self-reflective thought. Critical thinking is unique to each of our personal experiences and upbringing; we determine our values, shape our conscious behaviors, and make decisions through critical thinking.


7EDU Impact Academy's educators believe that empowering students to be critically thoughtful - through complex reading, writing, and speaking - is the key focus for educating the youth. One of our lead youth instructors, Aimee Q., emphasizes the significance of critical thinking for each individual student.

"...it is not enough to teach students to regurgitate information or passive reading; students need to actively engage with texts, evaluate information, and critically synthesize sources to form their own individual perspectives." - Aimee Q.

In other words, they should be able to recall, not just recite, what they've learned from their parents, their teachers, and their own thoughts about a topic. Critical thinking should not be limited to just those who are privileged enough to attend private classes and have one-on-one direct attention. Fortunately, it doesn't take a fancy class to encourage critical thinking; it can be nurtured and developed in any young individual who is receiving constructive attention and engaging in productive, thoughtful, and purposeful activities. Here are five crucial considerations that help us advance critical thinking skills in both ourselves and our children.


Before we get started, if you haven't already, sign up for our upcoming family-friendly event on Moral Stories to Read with Kids this Saturday at 6:00pm PDT via Zoom! Find out more details about our read-along & live webinar at http://tiny.cc/7EDU0815FB See you there!






1. One big keyword to watch out for is when children ask:

Why?

We've all seen (and probably been) the child that won't stop asking why to every subsequent explanation to his/her questions. It's as if they are so curious, so deeply invested in discovering the reason for things being, that unless you pause them in their tracks - they will persevere and pester you for a reason why every next answer is. It's like having a conversation with a skeptic who believes no amount of reasoning is sufficient, and the experience can feel infinitely monotonous and annoying.



While it may be bothersome to have your explanations constantly questioned, its also a moment to recognize for what it is - the child's test of your knowledge & patience as well as an expression of their deep desire to understand the world - and a chance to appreciate their intrigue. Understand that they are taking a risk when asking an open-ended question and sounding ignorant and foolish (which many won't care for until they reach school, which then becomes a serious problem with regards to asking for help), and that engaging a child with unbounded curiosity is both an opportunity to expand their understanding of the world as well as your responsibility to nurture them in the right direction. Questions are the key to unlocking one's fundamental understanding the world; don't let that curiosity die.

Why?

Because children will model the world after your behaviors and your answers, and shutting down their persistent but sincere questioning is equivalent to telling them to shut up, to stop thinking, and to leave you alone. Avoiding or discouraging their expressions of interest can have detrimental implications on their development - if your child sees you give up trying to provide a reasonable answer and instead shut them down, not only are they left in the dark with no answer - you're ditching them with no flashlight to find the solution for themselves. Give them the right tools & they'll figure it out for themselves.


2. After a dozen or so "Why" and "How" questions, ask them to repeat what they've learned before taking any more questions.


Many times, they won't, and then they may be embarrassed - rightfully so. If they're not building concepts into long term memory, then answering a million mild questions won't bring them any closer to building a solid foundation for operating in the world.

Teaching your child to reflect on their own memory and curiosity will encourage honest self-reflection and can put an ease to the barrage of higher-order questions for at least a few minutes at a time. Memory is the operating system of the brain, a flashlight to see in the dark, the search engine to be optimized within the brain's archive, and teaching them to practice memorization in the form of recall is just as (if not more) important as answering their questions.


3. When they've asked "why?" too many times for your personal sanity, challenge them to seek the answer using indirect methods (ask somebody else, read a book, search the internet, or formulate an experiment).



Better yet, with an answer in mind, invite them to come up with an answer better than your own - just make sure they have the tools required to do so. Not only is it more effective when they must focus on a single question for longer than it takes for you to give an answer, this exercise will force them to think critically & creatively to solve problems independently.


Directing them to seek other answers will also enable other points of view to play a role in their realm of understanding. If they find answers that contradict the ones you've provided, you'd best be ready to reason why you're right or to admit that you were wrong. Children shouldn't see you as an all-knowing God anyway, or they're destined for disappointment. You were once a child trying to figure out the world as well, and now you're just a bigger, older, less curious son or daughter with better answers.


5. When too many a difficult question keeps battering your brain what do you do?

For example, after giving a hundred followup answers and still hearing "Why do you not know everything?" or "Why can't you answer my last question?" or "Why haven't you figured it out?", oftentimes parents feel too worn out to even bother trying anymore. This fatigue isn't fake, but its also a test of what you will decide as a parent. When this happens, ask yourself


What kind of example am I setting for my child?

Do you value being a consistently patient role model more than letting fatigue tell your kid to shut up? If so, then give them your most critically thoughtful solution. Perhaps that solution is to say, "I don't know, why don't we go figure it out?" Or maybe its to tell them "I wish I had the answer, but I'm still trying to figure it out myself. Can you help me?"


Whatever it is, patience is one of the key virtues to signal to a child, and practicing patience when dealing with others is an undeniably important value to demonstrate to your children, no matter the situation. With patience, children learn to delay gratification and to value critical, retrospective thought as a precursor to decision-making.


One of the best strategies to teach children how to think critically is to show your exact step-by-step process for arriving at a conclusion. Illustrate a vision of your stream of consciousness and reasoning, what perspectives and interpretations come to mind, how much weight you give to each consideration and why, and how your values, contextual perceptions, and schematic understanding of the world ultimately shape your final decision.

It is during this process that "the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it" (The Critical Thinking Foundation). Teaching children to think critically is to give them the power to make smart decisions and to equip them with the tools to solve for complex problems in their future. With that in mind, it can be reasoned that teaching critical thought is an essential seed of life that parents need to build a foundation for, water daily, bring light to, and ultimately nurture the seed of potential that will grow upon that soil for the rest of their lives.


It is upon this premise that our "Critical Reading & Writing" series has been designed and is a shared philosophy among 7EDU's expert team of educators. Teachers, like parents, are responsible for equipping their students with indispensable tools for navigating through life's problems. It is upon this premise that our "Critical Reading & Writing" series has been designed and is a shared philosophy among 7EDU's expert team of teachers.


In 2020, it is more important than ever before that educators leverage strategic distance learning technology with adaptive & interactive teaching to educate our students.


Critical Reading & Writing with Aimee Q. & Team (K-G10)

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." - Joseph Addison

Critical Reading & Writing is a long-term series of foundational comprehension courses designed to confront students with critically thoughtful material, challenging (but not overwhelming) opportunities for growth, and data-driven tools to optimize progress.


CRW is separated into 4 different levels, each with a Regular section & an Honors section, and spans from Kindergarten age all the way until the 10th grade. Students work in small group classes for 10 weeks at a time, read a variety of different source texts, and write three complete, revised essays by the end of each section. Check out this sample below between Aimee & one of her fifth-grade students.

"...if I'm giving my students the tools to know how to read accurately, how to write well, and how to analyze information, they should then be able to apply those skills to a variety of other things including standardized tests, essays, or even just writing for fun or for publications. - Aimee Q.

If you'd like to learn more about 7EDU's K-12 Enrichment, Foundation, and Test Prep programs, please leave us a message at info@7edu.org or give us a call today!

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