Teaching critical thinking to middle school students

Then brainstorm ideas to solve it and choose the best one to write as a solution statement. Finally, create an action plan to carry out the solution. Practice creative thinking by collaborating on a storyboard. Write a problem on an index card and pin it on the top of a bulletin board. Then put different headings on index cards and pin them below the main card. Have kids brainstorm ideas that develop each of the heading cards and let kids pin them on the board.

A great way to focus on the positive in not-so-positive situations is the Turn Around thinking strategy. Choose some strips as mandatory and let kids pick two from the higher levels to answer aloud or in a journal. One way you can figure out how well kids are grasping critical-thinking skills is by holding question-and-answer sessions.

Ask a variety of questions one-on-one or in small groups and take note of the levels of thought individual students use regularly and avoid over time. You can review your notes to help build more higher-order-thinking questions into your lessons. You must be logged in to post a comment. Thinking tool guides Rev.

Getting Critical About Critical Thinking

Thinking with standards: Preparing for the future Elementary ed. Thinking with standards: Preparing for the future Middle ed. Thinking with standards: Preparing for the future Secondary ed.


  1. Critical Thinking Resources for Middle School Teachers;
  2. Teaching Strategies to Promote Critical Thinking.
  3. Critical Thinking Lessons | TED-Ed.

The CPS Kit. Examples of Basic Problem-Solving Tools Unless otherwise noted, the following examples of each of the tools are adapted from Treffinger and Nassab or Treffinger et al. In a class that was preparing to study the countries of North America, the teacher posed the following task for the students to think about, using the Brainstorming tool: List many questions about the countries we will be studying.

Try to list some questions that will help us look at the countries in a different way and some unusual or original questions. In just 10 minutes, the class generated more than 60 questions. Some of the questions might be described as common for example, Where is the country located?

Other questions were much more original What are some controversial or highly debated issues in this country?

Critical Thinking Middle School

The teacher later categorized or clustered the students' questions into groups and used them as starting points for projects in which small groups of students sought information about particular countries and reported their findings. A group of students made Force-Fitting card decks by gluing pictures of everyday objects on large index cards one picture per card.

They used their Force-Fitting cards to generate some new and unusual ideas for improving the furniture in their classroom. They started by exploring ways to improve the room's straight, hard, metal and formed-plastic chairs. The students selected three cards randomly from their deck: a table lamp with a flexible, goose-neck frame; a fancy diamond necklace; and a telescope. Then, they used the three objects to think of new ways to improve their chairs. The telescope led them to consider making the chair's legs adjustable.

The flexible lamp immediately led them to think about mounting a similar lamp on the top of the chair's back to provide a convenient and adjustable light source. They also stretched their thinking beyond this first, rather obvious connection and soon turned to the flexible neck of the lamp, which led them to consider modifying the back of the chair so that its position could be moved from left to right, or from straight to a reclining position. The fancy diamond necklace made them think about decorating the outside of the chair's frame so that each student could personalize his or her own chair.

This card also suggested creating a chair that was ornate and fancy and might even be elevated like a throne, which could be used to recognize certain students for special occasions or accomplishments. The students liked the idea of earning the right to use the "Diamond Chair" as a special privilege.

FUN Critical Thinking Activities | Smore Newsletters for Education

Steve used the Attribute Listing tool to explore ways to improve how he presented his science project. He identified three key attributes or parts of his presentation—visual display, oral presentation, and written report. Then, he generated ways to improve or modify each of those parts. Below is Steve's list of possible changes for his task: Visual Display. Make larger, use a trifold out of cardboard, use bright colors, use computer to make written parts and drawings, add some charts and graphs, use some pictures or cartoons to get attention, include something that moves, use an overhead projector, add lights, add something people can touch or use.

Oral Presentation. Use music in background, use sound effects, use Power Point, dress up in a lab coat, wear a necktie, use props. Written Report. Put in notebook, make colorful cover, do it on the computer, add some more graphs and charts, include some photographs, use color and highlight parts, use more labels, use more variety in the words, add a glossary of terms. One group of students, working on a unit on inventions, chose to study the telephone. Then, they searched through many stores and catalogs, located examples of modifications and extensions of the basic idea of the telephone, and considered what SCAMPER words and questions might have led to those modifications.

For example, combine might have been used to create a telephone that also had a video screen. Magnify or make larger might have stimulated the thinking of the makers of a phone with giant touch-tone buttons on its keypad. Minify or make smaller might have paved the way for many of today's tiny cell phones.

Top 7 Critical Thinking Lesson Plans

Combine or put to other uses might have led one clever group to a wristwatch that included a cell phone—and a TV remote! The students concluded their project by hypothesizing new changes and developments that might be produced in the future.

1. Critical Thinking Lesson Plans from the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics

In one class studying the elements of character, the teacher provided the following Morphological Matrix:. The teacher asked students to use the last four digits of their phone numbers to randomly obtain one item from each column. Students then combined the four items to create sentences describing how the basic elements of character are used in everyday life.

For example, the four digits yielded the following items: college, business, prepared, and peace.

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The students combined these items to produce the sentence, Most college students are preparing to enter business fields and want to find peace within their lives. The four digits yielded the items high school, mall, citizenship, and conflict. The students combined these items to produce the sentence, When high school students exhibit good citizenship they will not encounter conflict in the mall.

Students developed the sentences individually and then worked in pairs to combine their sentences or to choose the best one for a presentation to the whole class. Later, they wrote reflections on the activity. In a high school science class, the students worked on designing appropriate zoo habitats for several endangered species. The students selected an animal, conducted research on the animal, and then generated lists of questions they had about the animal and its habitat. They used Hits and Hot Spots to identify the most important questions and to identify four major clusters to guide their subsequent research and planning.

Another class used the Hits and Hot Spots tool to plan a school party. First, they used generating tools to come up with a list of more than 80 possibilities.

source url They decided to host an after-school party in the cafeteria. They could afford soda and popcorn. Dancing was the favorite activity. Several students volunteered to bring in their CDs and supply the music. One group of students generated ideas on how to improve communication between the deaf and the hearing members of the school community.

Ask teachers and students to use it. They used the ALoU A dvantages, L imitations [and ways to o vercome them], and U nique features tool to improve and strengthen this idea. Their work is shown below. Advantages Easy to manage and do within our time limits Fun for everyone People would actually be learning sign language a little at a time Seeing and using sign language would become more accepted in school No cost involved Very visible.

Limitations and how to overcome them How to ensure that it would get used? Make it a contest, like a spelling bee each month. How to get participants to take it seriously? Do a "hush day" to help people get a firsthand understanding of the need for all to communicate. Bring in or create a school presentation using words and sign language to demonstrate the importance of diversity.

Unique Features Our deaf population might be able to communicate with all others in the school without the need for an interpreter.


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  • Sign language might be seen as a language just like other foreign languages and be taught as a subject. The PCA tool can be used whenever students have a set of appealing options to rank or prioritize. One class used the PCA tool to help decide which of several possible field trips they preferred to take, knowing that time and budget limitations might make only one field trip possible for the group that year. Five options were generally appealing to many of the class members: the zoo, a concert by the local symphony orchestra, the nearby Inventor's Hall of Fame and Invention Center, a local newspaper office, and a theme park.

    The class discussed several important criteria to consider in evaluating the options, including cost, time required, personal appeal and interest, relating the trip to other class activities and studies, learning value, and possibility of students visiting the site at another time with friends, family, or other groups. Each student in the class then completed a PCA sheet. The students prepared a proposal about their choices and were rewarded by winning approval for trips to both the invention center and the symphony concert!