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Reinforcing Critical Thinking Skills

Updated on July 3, 2013

Ideas needed to reinforce critical thinking skills???

As educators and parents, we are at times at our wit's end to find new ways to reinforce critical thinking skills or as we call sometimes, higher order thinking skills. Here let me compile some ideas which might be useful in your classrooms or at home with your children.

Company logos


Using Static Visuals

One of the best ways to reinforce critical thinking skills in children of all age group is by using static visuals. Static visuals may include photographs, graphic, cartoon, comic strip, advertisement in a magazine or newspaper, graph, logo, slogan, chart, table etc. You may choose from a wide range of static visuals and pitch your lesson at the right level depending on the need of your children. When reinforcing the critical thinking skills, you must ask questions which will streamline the thinking of your students and encourage them to delve deeper into the minute details of the visuals. The answers they come up with need not be right or wrong, but they should definitely be possible solutions to a particular problem.

For example, looking at a company logo, you may ask these questions:

Why do you think the shape of logo is so chosen?

Why do you think the company had chosen this colour or colour combination?

What message is being conveyed when such a logo is being launched, which is actually the identity of a company?

In your discussion let them realize how each logo of a company is well researched and has an inherent message to convey, how every colour they choose, each stripe or stroke they choose is well thought out and holds some meaning.

Diagrams of an experiment


Another example, looking at a diagram of an experiment, you may draw their attention to:

  • The apparatus
  • The reactants or components
  • The phenomenon demonstrated
  • The purpose of the experiment

Additionally, you may ask:

What are the flaws in the diagram?

Explain the phenomenon you see in the experiment in the form of a flowchart.

How would you label the diagram to make it self-explanatory?

Try to ask open-ended questions which can bring different answers to the table, which will tap the thinking skills of different learners and make the discussion fruitful and engaging.

Diagrams of an experiment


Using Dynamic Visuals

Another very useful tool to reinforce critical thinking skills is dynamic visual. Dynamic visuals may include videos, movies, TV shows etc. Make your students watch a 3-4 minute or even 8-9 minute long video clip and frame questions to elicit higher order thinking skills.

In our school, we have an international film week, when students are made to watch various movies, in regional and foreign languages on a wide range of themes, followed by an intense discussion session and reflection of what they have seen. You may do the same, watch a good movie with your children and then discuss, but you should have planned some thought-provoking questions for discussion, as probing their way of thinking is the crux of reinforcing thinking skills.

After watching any dynamic visual, you may draw their attention to:

Setting and time period of the movie

The characters with their varied personalities - probe into the psyche of the characters and how they react to various situations

Ethical or moral issues addressed by the video or movie

The economic, social and political relevance of the events or characters

The impact of the events on the environment

The impact of the events on the culture, beliefs and religion of a community or a country in general

How would you have liked the ending?

Justify the course of action taken by your favourite character

Evaluate the presentation, photography or characterisation of the movie or video

In this way, bring out the purpose of making any film or dynamic visual, the thought process of the creator of such dynamic visuals and how effectively that impacts the minds and thinking of the viewers.

Asking questions is the right way to probe thinking!


In summary:

Above I have mentioned just a few ways to reinforce critical thinking by using static and dynamic visuals. Visuals are like gold mines and has the potential to dig into various aspects of thinking, which can be tailored according to the needs of your class or your children or the subject or topic which you want to teach. You may show them a picture and ask them to compose a poem or a song on what they see in the picture; write a picture composition and give it an appropriate title; you may watch the movie or video clip on mute, with subtitles and then listen to the audio and compare whether that caused any difference in the perception of the viewers; foreign language teachers can ask the students to create the subtitles and practice translation in doing so. In this way you can come across lots and lots of variations of how you will effectively use static and dynamic visuals to elicit critical thinking in your children.

Please let me know your views in the comments section below:


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    • kerlund74 profile image

      kerlund74 3 years ago from Sweden

      Really interesting, whit great suggestions.

    • sriparna profile image

      Sriparna 4 years ago from New Delhi

      Yes, you are right, Dan. Especially in this fast changing world, when access to any information is a matter of a click, we must inculcate the ability of thinking critically in our children, which will help them in the long term.

    • Dan Barfield profile image

      Dan Barfield 5 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Great stuff - this is an area of some importance to me. I went into teaching in primary schools following my Philosophy degree because of the 'philosophy for primary schools' movement. Apparently a philosophy lecturer in an American university was so sick of the poor standard of critical and analytical thinking skills amongst first year students that he went right back to the root and started the movement. Teaching children explicit thinking skills is one of the most important things a parent or educator can do.