3 Ways to Teach Critical Thinking Skills

And Why It Matters

Very young children often ask a million questions, so many that as adults we can become worn out with answering them. However as children get older, they often stop asking so many questions. Maybe they’ve been stifled. Maybe we’ve said figure it out for yourself too often. Maybe they are much more conscious of their image and worried about looking foolish. There are a lot of reasons why this happens.
The problem is that we all learn best and solve problems through asking questions. So as educators nurturing tomorrow’s leaders, we would do well to teach children how to ask questions that benefit them. Getting students to ask good questions creates curious learners who are engaged in the world around them. When students learn to ask good questions, they not only increase their knowledge base, but they also become active participants in their learning.

How do you teach students to ask good questions?

Create a safe environment. Students know if an educator wants to hear questions and will refrain from asking questions if they expect they will be putdown or redirected for doing so. It helps to state early on that you are open to and encourage questions. It also helps to give good feedback. “That’s a good question” or “I’m glad you asked that” will go a long way toward letting students know that questions are welcome here.

Teach thick and thin questions: Thin questions are questions that can easily be answered by the student himself.  What is the weather today? is a thin question. What are the conditions that are necessary for it to snow? is a thick question that might require some research. Thick questions might be open ended and require more insight than just stating the facts.

Teach the 5 Why Questions Technique: Have a classroom box where students can drop in a problem that they would like to see solved. It may be an interpersonal problem, a community problem, a school problem etc. Then have students ask questions that would help to understand and solve the problem. Use the 5 Why Questions Technique to get to the root of the problem. You simply turn the problem into a why question and then ask why again of each answer. Here’s an example:

Problem: George is late for school

  1. Why is George late for school?  He misses the bus every morning.
  2. Why does he miss the bus every morning? He doesn’t get ready in time.
  3. Why doesn’t he get ready in time? He is tired and doesn’t want to get out of bed until the last minute.
  4. Why is he tired? He goes to bed late every night.
  5. Why does he go to bed late every night? He watches tv until  10pm.

Solution: George goes to bed earlier so he gets more sleep and gets up when his alarm goes off.

Teaching kids to ask questions will not only help them academically but in every other aspect of their lives as well.





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