Who thinks critical thinking is easy peasy? You don’t? Why not? Well, I completely agree with you, and not only that, I think it is the toughest skills to teach. Some students just automatically think deeply, but the vast majority struggle in this area. However, there are strategies we can put in place to help students get there. So let’s talk about them…
When I think about questioning, several strategies come to mind. The first is QAR-Question Answer Relationship. Having students analyze question types is a high level thinking skill. Students will begin to recognize question stems and better yet, be able to look for the evidence they need to support their thinking. All year, I worked with my students on explaining why they think X?? How do you know X?? If we push our kids to explain, they will learn to think that way on their own.
Another technique that works well is Reciprocal Teaching which includes predicting, questions, clarifying, and summarizing. Reciprocal Teaching is student led process where students discuss A LOT. Keep in mind that the more we get our kids talking about their reading and thinking, the deeper they will comprehend. The freebie to the left may be helpful as you teach your students their role in Reciprocal Teaching. Students take on the teacher role as they are put in charge of these four steps.
In addition to modeling and questioning (teacher’s role mainly), I think it’s important to teach kids to use strategies such as Close Reading and Determining Importance. These processes help our students categorize the information drawn from the text in order of importance. With my students, we read by paragraph and talk about which information is important and which information is interesting. Once students can see the difference, they are better able to use Close Reading steps. I made the “anchor chart” to the right for my students’ interactive notebooks, and we use the organizer to the left with a few articles to practice.
There are many Close Reading freebies on TPT to help you get started in helping your students as well as indepth blog posts. I am sharing my Close Reading pinterest board to help readers find them. The key is to walk your students through the process (Think Aloud) and gradually release the responsibility to them. When we do a Close Read in my classroom, we read three times for different purposes ending with writing in response to reading which is deep. I honestly think that this strategy helped my students more than any other this year.