|NEW ZEALAND'S EDUCATION
10 Great Critical Thinking Activities
Let’s get to the critical thinking skills that really matter. From www.facinghistory.org, here are some amazing critical thinking activities that you can do with your students.
Students pair up according to similar physical attributes determined by the facilitator. These include hair color, eye color, hand size, and height. For each attribute, students discuss times when they were discriminated against because of it. They then take on the roles as victim, perpetrator, or bystander and discuss.
When posed with a thought-provoking prompt, students line themselves up along a U-shaped continuum representing where they stand on that issue. The sides of the U are opposite extremes, with the middle being neutral. The teacher starts a discussion by giving equal opportunity for individuals in each area of the continuum to speak about their stand. The students use “I” statements when stating their opinion.
Writing (or drawing) and silence are used as tools to slow down thinking and allow for silent reflection, unfiltered. By using silence and writing, students can focus on other viewpoints. This activity uses a driving question, markers, and Big Paper (poster-sized is best). Students work in pairs or threes to have a conversation on the Big Paper.
Students can write at will, but it must be done in silence after a reflection on the driving question. This strategy is great for introverts, and provides a ready made visual record of thought for later.
Students are given time to consider their feelings on a thought-provoking abstract or concrete image. Next, they come up with words that describe their reactions—trapped, free, angry, joyful, etc. They are then paired up and one person is the sculptor, while the other is the “clay.” The sculptor poses the clay into a form that artfully displays the word they wish to portray. Here are some guidelines:
Understanding different viewpoints is a great way to delve deeply into a topic. 5 to 10 students are given character sheets. These might include gender, age, family status (married, single, how many children, etc.), occupation, education level and significant life events. The group is also given a historical event or similar topic.
Students can create identity charts in collaboration with each other to determine their character’s viewpoint. When they can adequately represent their character, what follows is a “cafe conversation.” Don’t forget to go over guidelines on how to respectfully disagree! Allow at least 20 minutes for a conversation.
Other Critical Thinking Activities
Students take on the role of “experts” or “specialists” of a particular topic. Then a panel of experts is assembled to get the larger picture.
Charts to document “What I Know” and “What I Want to Know” and, after learning has occurred, “What I Learned.”
A classic tool to guide students in relevant and meaningful discussion, and to build community.
Like a real town meeting, individual students are “given the floor” and a time limit to express their views.
In groups, create a dramatic script based on the ideas within a given text. Do not script word for word. The idea is to get off the page and represent the idea in the students’ own words.