Critical thinking skills are the foundation of education and all life skill development.
When critical thinking and reading comprehension skills are coupled, they form a fundamental part of all education. These skills enhance a child’s educational development, as well as provide them with skill sets they will need later in life to achieve goals.
As we continue to move into a technology-driven world, critical thinking will be one of a handful of skills that will determine our children’s future. Today, we live in a far more specialized world that calls for more specialized skills in our careers than our parents experienced.
Regardless of our children’s chosen profession, it will require some level of critical thinking.
As parents, we need to ensure that our children have the critical thinking skills are necessary to succeed in school, in their chosen careers, and life.
We also need to ensure that our children can think for themselves, and can protect themselves, with a healthy critical mindset.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the ability to imagine, apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
In essence, it is the ability to observe, experience and analyze information to establish it’s integrity. In our rapidly changing technological world, more information is available at the touch of our fingers, so critical thinking skills are a must today.
The issue is that of all of the information we deal with each day, some of it is accurate, it can be very easy to get pulled into believing something that is propaganda or an outright fabrication.
Social media is a great place to see how few people employ critical thinking skills.
How many times have you seen memes state that you could win money for sharing or that make statements as fact that is opinion or poorly researched information?
It happens all the time.
Teaching our children to question facts and research questionable statements presented as facts, is imperative today.
In many schools, kids are not always encouraged to take a critical mindset and question facts.
With the emphasis in today’s modern world, to have teachers teach to a standardized test and the overuse of memorization for such, it’s easy to deter the questioning of facts. This is coupled with the reality that there are a lot of kids in the classroom and only one teacher with a daily laundry list of must do assignments.
Teachers do not have the time to allow kids to question and challenge each fact. Even at home I sometimes struggle with my kids continually challenging and asking questions. However, critical thinking is an increasingly necessary skill.
This is where we as parents need to step in. As much as it may be inconvenient when our children are continually challenging our authority and asking questions, we need to work through their questions and allow them to exercise their critical thinking skills.
As parents, we need to encourage our kids to ask questions, to analyze information and develop the necessary skills to recognize facts.
By asking the right questions to parse down to the facts, then they can filter through all the propaganda and get to the truth.
Social media is a pretty mundane example of the lack of critical thinking skills, however, what about those who fall victim to scams?
The critical thinking skills required to know when not to believe emails or phone scams claiming to be something urgent or essential or your long lost uncle from Nigeria is critical to protecting yourself and requires critical thinking skills.
So how does someone decide if a statement or demand is real or not?
How do we encourage our kids to be critical thinkers so they can protect themselves?
As parents, we need to teach our kids how to examine facts. Listen and look for pieces that just don’t make sense. If someone sounds too convincing, teach your child to follow their gut, to look for weaknesses in their statements.
Strategies to help your children enhance their critical thinking skills:
1. Enhance Their Reading Comprehension Skills
Helping our children develop their reading comprehension skills is a critical first step to develop skills needed to become capable and enthusiastic readers. Kids need to develop and improve their ability to distinguish between what they understand and what they do not about a statement, paragraph or book. This skill is imperative so that you can help them practice and figure out ways that can help them improve this critical foundation skill.
2. Ask Questions
Allowing your child to ask and answer questions about what they have read is a great way to can help prepare them to think actively as they read. It also helps focus their attention on what they are learning about a specific story. Asking questions shows that they have mastered the ability to understand what they read and interpreted. It also gives parents the ability to identify particular areas of their reading comprehension that they have trouble understanding. It also gives them the ability to demonstrate their critical thinking skills.
Metacognition is thinking about thinking or having the awareness and knowledge of one’s thought processes. Allowing your child to think about the strategies they can employ to help understand a given paragraph or practice the various ways they figure out what they are reading means will ultimately improve their reading comprehension skills. This can include sitting with you and asking them questions about the why, where, who, when and how of a paragraph. This exercise will instill critical thinking capabilities.
4. Connecting the Dots
Your child needs to have teh ability to make connections when reading. By working with them, asking questions allows them to practice their critical thinking skills. It also lets them figure out how one paragraph can relate to another. The practice of these skills can help them predict how a story might end. This instills the ability to size up a situation and make a critical analysis of potential outcomes.
Have your children to summarize a story or chapter. This skill helps them determine what is important in the story. Have your child identify a chapter of a book main idea and the role the characters play. This helps your children remember what they have read and practiced their critical thinking and comprehension skills. By doing this exercise, you can see what they understand and what they don’t understand in each chapter of a book or reading assignment.
Read some riddles to your kids and practice solving them together. This teaches your children to analyze information.
7. Read the Paper Together
Pick out a few articles in the local paper and read them together. Have your child look for hints or clues to see if the article is trying to sell them something. Double check facts together to show them how to use analyzes and critical thinking skills.
8. Encourage your children to ask questions
Challenging statements and asking questions to ensure factual statements are truthful is a vital thinking building block. As much as every parent hates the “20 question” game, the time invested does pay off with the ability for your child to conceptualize ideas, or to recognize untrue and half-truth statements.
Wrapping It Up
Developing a critical mindset is becoming one of the most essential skills for success in our technology and information overloaded world.
By instilling critical thinking skills early in life, you are teaching our kids how to analyze the world around them. Feel free to save the worksheet below to help your child develop critical thinking skills.