Classroom Q&A

With larry ferlazzo.

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to [email protected]. Read more from this blog.

Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

critical thinking curriculum

  • Share article

(This is the first post in a three-part series.)

The new question-of-the-week is:

What is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom?

This three-part series will explore what critical thinking is, if it can be specifically taught and, if so, how can teachers do so in their classrooms.

Today’s guests are Dara Laws Savage, Patrick Brown, Meg Riordan, Ph.D., and Dr. PJ Caposey. Dara, Patrick, and Meg were also guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show . You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources On Teaching & Learning Critical Thinking In The Classroom .

Current Events

Dara Laws Savage is an English teacher at the Early College High School at Delaware State University, where she serves as a teacher and instructional coach and lead mentor. Dara has been teaching for 25 years (career preparation, English, photography, yearbook, newspaper, and graphic design) and has presented nationally on project-based learning and technology integration:

There is so much going on right now and there is an overload of information for us to process. Did you ever stop to think how our students are processing current events? They see news feeds, hear news reports, and scan photos and posts, but are they truly thinking about what they are hearing and seeing?

I tell my students that my job is not to give them answers but to teach them how to think about what they read and hear. So what is critical thinking and how can we integrate it into the classroom? There are just as many definitions of critical thinking as there are people trying to define it. However, the Critical Think Consortium focuses on the tools to create a thinking-based classroom rather than a definition: “Shape the climate to support thinking, create opportunities for thinking, build capacity to think, provide guidance to inform thinking.” Using these four criteria and pairing them with current events, teachers easily create learning spaces that thrive on thinking and keep students engaged.

One successful technique I use is the FIRE Write. Students are given a quote, a paragraph, an excerpt, or a photo from the headlines. Students are asked to F ocus and respond to the selection for three minutes. Next, students are asked to I dentify a phrase or section of the photo and write for two minutes. Third, students are asked to R eframe their response around a specific word, phrase, or section within their previous selection. Finally, students E xchange their thoughts with a classmate. Within the exchange, students also talk about how the selection connects to what we are covering in class.

There was a controversial Pepsi ad in 2017 involving Kylie Jenner and a protest with a police presence. The imagery in the photo was strikingly similar to a photo that went viral with a young lady standing opposite a police line. Using that image from a current event engaged my students and gave them the opportunity to critically think about events of the time.

Here are the two photos and a student response:

F - Focus on both photos and respond for three minutes

In the first picture, you see a strong and courageous black female, bravely standing in front of two officers in protest. She is risking her life to do so. Iesha Evans is simply proving to the world she does NOT mean less because she is black … and yet officers are there to stop her. She did not step down. In the picture below, you see Kendall Jenner handing a police officer a Pepsi. Maybe this wouldn’t be a big deal, except this was Pepsi’s weak, pathetic, and outrageous excuse of a commercial that belittles the whole movement of people fighting for their lives.

I - Identify a word or phrase, underline it, then write about it for two minutes

A white, privileged female in place of a fighting black woman was asking for trouble. A struggle we are continuously fighting every day, and they make a mockery of it. “I know what will work! Here Mr. Police Officer! Drink some Pepsi!” As if. Pepsi made a fool of themselves, and now their already dwindling fan base continues to ever shrink smaller.

R - Reframe your thoughts by choosing a different word, then write about that for one minute

You don’t know privilege until it’s gone. You don’t know privilege while it’s there—but you can and will be made accountable and aware. Don’t use it for evil. You are not stupid. Use it to do something. Kendall could’ve NOT done the commercial. Kendall could’ve released another commercial standing behind a black woman. Anything!

Exchange - Remember to discuss how this connects to our school song project and our previous discussions?

This connects two ways - 1) We want to convey a strong message. Be powerful. Show who we are. And Pepsi definitely tried. … Which leads to the second connection. 2) Not mess up and offend anyone, as had the one alma mater had been linked to black minstrels. We want to be amazing, but we have to be smart and careful and make sure we include everyone who goes to our school and everyone who may go to our school.

As a final step, students read and annotate the full article and compare it to their initial response.

Using current events and critical-thinking strategies like FIRE writing helps create a learning space where thinking is the goal rather than a score on a multiple-choice assessment. Critical-thinking skills can cross over to any of students’ other courses and into life outside the classroom. After all, we as teachers want to help the whole student be successful, and critical thinking is an important part of navigating life after they leave our classrooms.

usingdaratwo

‘Before-Explore-Explain’

Patrick Brown is the executive director of STEM and CTE for the Fort Zumwalt school district in Missouri and an experienced educator and author :

Planning for critical thinking focuses on teaching the most crucial science concepts, practices, and logical-thinking skills as well as the best use of instructional time. One way to ensure that lessons maintain a focus on critical thinking is to focus on the instructional sequence used to teach.

Explore-before-explain teaching is all about promoting critical thinking for learners to better prepare students for the reality of their world. What having an explore-before-explain mindset means is that in our planning, we prioritize giving students firsthand experiences with data, allow students to construct evidence-based claims that focus on conceptual understanding, and challenge students to discuss and think about the why behind phenomena.

Just think of the critical thinking that has to occur for students to construct a scientific claim. 1) They need the opportunity to collect data, analyze it, and determine how to make sense of what the data may mean. 2) With data in hand, students can begin thinking about the validity and reliability of their experience and information collected. 3) They can consider what differences, if any, they might have if they completed the investigation again. 4) They can scrutinize outlying data points for they may be an artifact of a true difference that merits further exploration of a misstep in the procedure, measuring device, or measurement. All of these intellectual activities help them form more robust understanding and are evidence of their critical thinking.

In explore-before-explain teaching, all of these hard critical-thinking tasks come before teacher explanations of content. Whether we use discovery experiences, problem-based learning, and or inquiry-based activities, strategies that are geared toward helping students construct understanding promote critical thinking because students learn content by doing the practices valued in the field to generate knowledge.

explorebeforeexplain

An Issue of Equity

Meg Riordan, Ph.D., is the chief learning officer at The Possible Project, an out-of-school program that collaborates with youth to build entrepreneurial skills and mindsets and provides pathways to careers and long-term economic prosperity. She has been in the field of education for over 25 years as a middle and high school teacher, school coach, college professor, regional director of N.Y.C. Outward Bound Schools, and director of external research with EL Education:

Although critical thinking often defies straightforward definition, most in the education field agree it consists of several components: reasoning, problem-solving, and decisionmaking, plus analysis and evaluation of information, such that multiple sides of an issue can be explored. It also includes dispositions and “the willingness to apply critical-thinking principles, rather than fall back on existing unexamined beliefs, or simply believe what you’re told by authority figures.”

Despite variation in definitions, critical thinking is nonetheless promoted as an essential outcome of students’ learning—we want to see students and adults demonstrate it across all fields, professions, and in their personal lives. Yet there is simultaneously a rationing of opportunities in schools for students of color, students from under-resourced communities, and other historically marginalized groups to deeply learn and practice critical thinking.

For example, many of our most underserved students often spend class time filling out worksheets, promoting high compliance but low engagement, inquiry, critical thinking, or creation of new ideas. At a time in our world when college and careers are critical for participation in society and the global, knowledge-based economy, far too many students struggle within classrooms and schools that reinforce low-expectations and inequity.

If educators aim to prepare all students for an ever-evolving marketplace and develop skills that will be valued no matter what tomorrow’s jobs are, then we must move critical thinking to the forefront of classroom experiences. And educators must design learning to cultivate it.

So, what does that really look like?

Unpack and define critical thinking

To understand critical thinking, educators need to first unpack and define its components. What exactly are we looking for when we speak about reasoning or exploring multiple perspectives on an issue? How does problem-solving show up in English, math, science, art, or other disciplines—and how is it assessed? At Two Rivers, an EL Education school, the faculty identified five constructs of critical thinking, defined each, and created rubrics to generate a shared picture of quality for teachers and students. The rubrics were then adapted across grade levels to indicate students’ learning progressions.

At Avenues World School, critical thinking is one of the Avenues World Elements and is an enduring outcome embedded in students’ early experiences through 12th grade. For instance, a kindergarten student may be expected to “identify cause and effect in familiar contexts,” while an 8th grader should demonstrate the ability to “seek out sufficient evidence before accepting a claim as true,” “identify bias in claims and evidence,” and “reconsider strongly held points of view in light of new evidence.”

When faculty and students embrace a common vision of what critical thinking looks and sounds like and how it is assessed, educators can then explicitly design learning experiences that call for students to employ critical-thinking skills. This kind of work must occur across all schools and programs, especially those serving large numbers of students of color. As Linda Darling-Hammond asserts , “Schools that serve large numbers of students of color are least likely to offer the kind of curriculum needed to ... help students attain the [critical-thinking] skills needed in a knowledge work economy. ”

So, what can it look like to create those kinds of learning experiences?

Designing experiences for critical thinking

After defining a shared understanding of “what” critical thinking is and “how” it shows up across multiple disciplines and grade levels, it is essential to create learning experiences that impel students to cultivate, practice, and apply these skills. There are several levers that offer pathways for teachers to promote critical thinking in lessons:

1.Choose Compelling Topics: Keep it relevant

A key Common Core State Standard asks for students to “write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.” That might not sound exciting or culturally relevant. But a learning experience designed for a 12th grade humanities class engaged learners in a compelling topic— policing in America —to analyze and evaluate multiple texts (including primary sources) and share the reasoning for their perspectives through discussion and writing. Students grappled with ideas and their beliefs and employed deep critical-thinking skills to develop arguments for their claims. Embedding critical-thinking skills in curriculum that students care about and connect with can ignite powerful learning experiences.

2. Make Local Connections: Keep it real

At The Possible Project , an out-of-school-time program designed to promote entrepreneurial skills and mindsets, students in a recent summer online program (modified from in-person due to COVID-19) explored the impact of COVID-19 on their communities and local BIPOC-owned businesses. They learned interviewing skills through a partnership with Everyday Boston , conducted virtual interviews with entrepreneurs, evaluated information from their interviews and local data, and examined their previously held beliefs. They created blog posts and videos to reflect on their learning and consider how their mindsets had changed as a result of the experience. In this way, we can design powerful community-based learning and invite students into productive struggle with multiple perspectives.

3. Create Authentic Projects: Keep it rigorous

At Big Picture Learning schools, students engage in internship-based learning experiences as a central part of their schooling. Their school-based adviser and internship-based mentor support them in developing real-world projects that promote deeper learning and critical-thinking skills. Such authentic experiences teach “young people to be thinkers, to be curious, to get from curiosity to creation … and it helps students design a learning experience that answers their questions, [providing an] opportunity to communicate it to a larger audience—a major indicator of postsecondary success.” Even in a remote environment, we can design projects that ask more of students than rote memorization and that spark critical thinking.

Our call to action is this: As educators, we need to make opportunities for critical thinking available not only to the affluent or those fortunate enough to be placed in advanced courses. The tools are available, let’s use them. Let’s interrogate our current curriculum and design learning experiences that engage all students in real, relevant, and rigorous experiences that require critical thinking and prepare them for promising postsecondary pathways.

letsinterrogate

Critical Thinking & Student Engagement

Dr. PJ Caposey is an award-winning educator, keynote speaker, consultant, and author of seven books who currently serves as the superintendent of schools for the award-winning Meridian CUSD 223 in northwest Illinois. You can find PJ on most social-media platforms as MCUSDSupe:

When I start my keynote on student engagement, I invite two people up on stage and give them each five paper balls to shoot at a garbage can also conveniently placed on stage. Contestant One shoots their shot, and the audience gives approval. Four out of 5 is a heckuva score. Then just before Contestant Two shoots, I blindfold them and start moving the garbage can back and forth. I usually try to ensure that they can at least make one of their shots. Nobody is successful in this unfair environment.

I thank them and send them back to their seats and then explain that this little activity was akin to student engagement. While we all know we want student engagement, we are shooting at different targets. More importantly, for teachers, it is near impossible for them to hit a target that is moving and that they cannot see.

Within the world of education and particularly as educational leaders, we have failed to simplify what student engagement looks like, and it is impossible to define or articulate what student engagement looks like if we cannot clearly articulate what critical thinking is and looks like in a classroom. Because, simply, without critical thought, there is no engagement.

The good news here is that critical thought has been defined and placed into taxonomies for decades already. This is not something new and not something that needs to be redefined. I am a Bloom’s person, but there is nothing wrong with DOK or some of the other taxonomies, either. To be precise, I am a huge fan of Daggett’s Rigor and Relevance Framework. I have used that as a core element of my practice for years, and it has shaped who I am as an instructional leader.

So, in order to explain critical thought, a teacher or a leader must familiarize themselves with these tried and true taxonomies. Easy, right? Yes, sort of. The issue is not understanding what critical thought is; it is the ability to integrate it into the classrooms. In order to do so, there are a four key steps every educator must take.

  • Integrating critical thought/rigor into a lesson does not happen by chance, it happens by design. Planning for critical thought and engagement is much different from planning for a traditional lesson. In order to plan for kids to think critically, you have to provide a base of knowledge and excellent prompts to allow them to explore their own thinking in order to analyze, evaluate, or synthesize information.
  • SIDE NOTE – Bloom’s verbs are a great way to start when writing objectives, but true planning will take you deeper than this.

QUESTIONING

  • If the questions and prompts given in a classroom have correct answers or if the teacher ends up answering their own questions, the lesson will lack critical thought and rigor.
  • Script five questions forcing higher-order thought prior to every lesson. Experienced teachers may not feel they need this, but it helps to create an effective habit.
  • If lessons are rigorous and assessments are not, students will do well on their assessments, and that may not be an accurate representation of the knowledge and skills they have mastered. If lessons are easy and assessments are rigorous, the exact opposite will happen. When deciding to increase critical thought, it must happen in all three phases of the game: planning, instruction, and assessment.

TALK TIME / CONTROL

  • To increase rigor, the teacher must DO LESS. This feels counterintuitive but is accurate. Rigorous lessons involving tons of critical thought must allow for students to work on their own, collaborate with peers, and connect their ideas. This cannot happen in a silent room except for the teacher talking. In order to increase rigor, decrease talk time and become comfortable with less control. Asking questions and giving prompts that lead to no true correct answer also means less control. This is a tough ask for some teachers. Explained differently, if you assign one assignment and get 30 very similar products, you have most likely assigned a low-rigor recipe. If you assign one assignment and get multiple varied products, then the students have had a chance to think deeply, and you have successfully integrated critical thought into your classroom.

integratingcaposey

Thanks to Dara, Patrick, Meg, and PJ for their contributions!

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at [email protected] . When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo .

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching .

Just a reminder; you can subscribe and receive updates from this blog via email (The RSS feed for this blog, and for all Ed Week articles, has been changed by the new redesign—new ones won’t be available until February). And if you missed any of the highlights from the first nine years of this blog, you can see a categorized list below.

  • This Year’s Most Popular Q&A Posts
  • Race & Racism in Schools
  • School Closures & the Coronavirus Crisis
  • Classroom-Management Advice
  • Best Ways to Begin the School Year
  • Best Ways to End the School Year
  • Student Motivation & Social-Emotional Learning
  • Implementing the Common Core
  • Facing Gender Challenges in Education
  • Teaching Social Studies
  • Cooperative & Collaborative Learning
  • Using Tech in the Classroom
  • Student Voices
  • Parent Engagement in Schools
  • Teaching English-Language Learners
  • Reading Instruction
  • Writing Instruction
  • Education Policy Issues
  • Differentiating Instruction
  • Math Instruction
  • Science Instruction
  • Advice for New Teachers
  • Author Interviews
  • Entering the Teaching Profession
  • The Inclusive Classroom
  • Learning & the Brain
  • Administrator Leadership
  • Teacher Leadership
  • Relationships in Schools
  • Professional Development
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Best of Classroom Q&A
  • Professional Collaboration
  • Classroom Organization
  • Mistakes in Education
  • Project-Based Learning

I am also creating a Twitter list including all contributors to this column .

The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Sign Up for EdWeek Update

Edweek top school jobs.

Kid Characters Observe Sky with Moon, Milky Way and Reach for the stars!

Sign Up & Sign In

module image 9

critical thinking curriculum

JavaScript seems to be disabled in your browser. For the best experience on our site, be sure to turn on Javascript in your browser.

  • Order Tracking
  • Create an Account

critical thinking curriculum

200+ Award-Winning Educational Textbooks, Activity Books, & Printable eBooks!

  • Compare Products

Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Studies

  • Search by Book Series
  • Algebra I & II  Gr. 7-12+
  • Algebra Magic Tricks  Gr. 2-12+
  • Algebra Word Problems  Gr. 7-12+
  • Balance Benders  Gr. 2-12+
  • Balance Math & More!  Gr. 2-12+
  • Basics of Critical Thinking  Gr. 4-7
  • Brain Stretchers  Gr. 5-12+
  • Building Thinking Skills  Gr. Toddler-12+
  • Building Writing Skills  Gr. 3-7
  • Bundles - Critical Thinking  Gr. PreK-9
  • Bundles - Language Arts  Gr. K-8
  • Bundles - Mathematics  Gr. PreK-9
  • Bundles - Multi-Subject Curriculum  Gr. PreK-12+
  • Bundles - Test Prep  Gr. Toddler-12+
  • Can You Find Me?  Gr. PreK-1
  • Complete the Picture Math  Gr. 1-3
  • Cornell Critical Thinking Tests  Gr. 5-12+
  • Cranium Crackers  Gr. 3-12+
  • Creative Problem Solving  Gr. PreK-2
  • Critical Thinking Activities to Improve Writing  Gr. 4-12+
  • Critical Thinking Coloring  Gr. PreK-2
  • Critical Thinking Detective  Gr. 3-12+
  • Critical Thinking Tests  Gr. PreK-6
  • Critical Thinking for Reading Comprehension  Gr. 1-5
  • Critical Thinking in United States History  Gr. 6-12+
  • CrossNumber Math Puzzles  Gr. 4-10
  • Crypt-O-Words  Gr. 2-7
  • Crypto Mind Benders  Gr. 3-12+
  • Daily Mind Builders  Gr. 5-12+
  • Dare to Compare Math  Gr. 2-7
  • Developing Critical Thinking through Science  Gr. 1-8
  • Dr. DooRiddles  Gr. PreK-12+
  • Dr. Funster's  Gr. 2-12+
  • Editor in Chief  Gr. 2-12+
  • Fun-Time Phonics!  Gr. PreK-2
  • Half 'n Half Animals  Gr. K-4
  • Hands-On Thinking Skills  Gr. K-1
  • Inference Jones  Gr. 1-6
  • James Madison  Gr. 10-12+
  • Jumbles  Gr. 3-5
  • Language Mechanic  Gr. 4-7
  • Language Smarts  Gr. 1-4
  • Mastering Logic & Math Problem Solving  Gr. 6-9
  • Math Analogies  Gr. K-9
  • Math Detective  Gr. 3-8
  • Math Games  Gr. 3-8
  • Math Mind Benders  Gr. 5-12+
  • Math Ties  Gr. 4-8
  • Math Word Problems  Gr. 4-10
  • Mathematical Reasoning  Gr. Toddler-11
  • Middle School Science  Gr. 6-8
  • Mind Benders  Gr. PreK-12+
  • Mind Building Math  Gr. K-1
  • Mind Building Reading  Gr. K-1
  • Novel Thinking  Gr. 3-6
  • OLSAT® Test Prep  Gr. PreK-K
  • Organizing Thinking  Gr. 2-8
  • Pattern Explorer  Gr. 3-9
  • Practical Critical Thinking  Gr. 8-12+
  • Punctuation Puzzler  Gr. 3-8
  • Reading Detective  Gr. 3-12+
  • Red Herring Mysteries  Gr. 4-12+
  • Red Herrings Science Mysteries  Gr. 4-9
  • Science Detective  Gr. 3-6
  • Science Mind Benders  Gr. PreK-3
  • Science Vocabulary Crossword Puzzles  Gr. 4-6
  • Sciencewise  Gr. 4-12+
  • Scratch Your Brain  Gr. 2-12+
  • Sentence Diagramming  Gr. 3-12+
  • Smarty Pants Puzzles  Gr. 3-12+
  • Snailopolis  Gr. K-4
  • Something's Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha  Gr. 5-9
  • Teaching Technology  Gr. 3-12+
  • Tell Me a Story  Gr. PreK-1
  • Think Analogies  Gr. 3-12+
  • Think and Write  Gr. 3-8
  • Think-A-Grams  Gr. 4-12+
  • Thinking About Time  Gr. 3-6
  • Thinking Connections  Gr. 4-12+
  • Thinking Directionally  Gr. 2-6
  • Thinking Skills & Key Concepts  Gr. PreK-2
  • Thinking Skills for Tests  Gr. PreK-5
  • U.S. History Detective  Gr. 8-12+
  • Understanding Fractions  Gr. 2-6
  • Visual Perceptual Skill Building  Gr. PreK-3
  • Vocabulary Riddles  Gr. 4-8
  • Vocabulary Smarts  Gr. 2-5
  • Vocabulary Virtuoso  Gr. 2-12+
  • What Would You Do?  Gr. 2-12+
  • Who Is This Kid? Colleges Want to Know!  Gr. 9-12+
  • Word Explorer  Gr. 6-8
  • Word Roots  Gr. 3-12+
  • World History Detective  Gr. 6-12+
  • Writing Detective  Gr. 3-6
  • You Decide!  Gr. 6-12+

critical thinking curriculum

Building Thinking Skills®

Critical thinking skills for reading • writing • math • science.

Grades: Toddler-12+

Critical Thinking

Full curriculum

  •  Multiple Award Winner

This series develops the critical thinking skills necessary for success in reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and standardized tests. These award-winning books comprise the best-selling thinking skills program in the world! The engaging, highly-effective activities are developmentally sequenced. Each skill (for example, classifying) is presented first in the semi-concrete, figural-spatial form and then in the abstract verbal form. Students also learn important academic vocabulary, concepts, and skills as they analyze relationships between objects, between words, and between objects and words by:      - Observing, recognizing, and describing characteristics      - Distinguishing similarities and differences      - Identifying and completing sequences, classifications, and analogies These processes help students develop superior thinking and communication skills that lead to deeper content learning in all subjects.

LEVEL 1 (Grades 2-3) | LEVEL 2 (Grades 4-6)   Figural-Spatial Skills

  • Describing shapes
  • Figures: compare/describe/copy/enlarge/divide
  • Diagrams: overlapping classes/Venn/branching/cycle
  • Mental pattern folding/symmetry
  • Directionality/Position in space
  • Mental rotation/reflection/tumbling/stacking/folding of 2-D objects
  • Congruence/area/volume
  • Analogies: size/color/orientation/detail
  • Visual motor integration and memory
  • Use of graphic organizers

  Verbal Skills

  • Spelling/Vocabulary/Writing:  describing things and words
  • Following and writing 1-, 2-, and 3-step directions
  • Antonyms/synonyms
  • Analogies: kind of/part of/used to/association/action
  • Deductive/Inductive reasoning
  • Parts of a whole
  • Map reading
  • Writing directions
  • Logic: if-then/yes-no/true-false
  • Orientation: person/place/time
  • Auditory memory
  • Language acquisition

LEVEL 3 FIGURAL (Grades 7-12+)   Figural-Spatial Skills

  • Mental rotation/reflection/ tumbling/stacking/folding of 2-D objects
  • Symmetry/Tessellation of solids

LEVEL 3 VERBAL (Grades 7-12+)   Verbal Skills

  • Denotation and connotation/degree of meaning

Primary Book The Primary level book requires both attribute blocks and interlocking cubes. See below for order information for these manipulatives.

Product Research North Carolina Case Study

Description and Features

All products in this series.

    • Our eBooks digital, electronic versions of the book pages that you may print to any paper printer.     • You can open the PDF eBook from any device or computer that has a PDF reader such as Adobe® Reader®.     • Licensee can legally keep a copy of this eBook on three different devices. View our eBook license agreement details here .     • You can immediately download your eBook from "My Account" under the "My Downloadable Product" section after you place your order.

    • Downloadable software can be immediately downloaded from "My Account" under the "My Downloadable Product" section after you place your order.

  • Add to Cart Add to Cart Remove This Item
  • Special of the Month
  • Sign Up for our Best Offers
  • Bundles = Greatest Savings!
  • Sign Up for Free Puzzles
  • Sign Up for Free Activities
  • Toddler (Ages 0-3)
  • PreK (Ages 3-5)
  • Kindergarten (Ages 5-6)
  • 1st Grade (Ages 6-7)
  • 2nd Grade (Ages 7-8)
  • 3rd Grade (Ages 8-9)
  • 4th Grade (Ages 9-10)
  • 5th Grade (Ages 10-11)
  • 6th Grade (Ages 11-12)
  • 7th Grade (Ages 12-13)
  • 8th Grade (Ages 13-14)
  • 9th Grade (Ages 14-15)
  • 10th Grade (Ages 15-16)
  • 11th Grade (Ages 16-17)
  • 12th Grade (Ages 17-18)
  • 12th+ Grade (Ages 18+)
  • Test Prep Directory
  • Test Prep Bundles
  • Test Prep Guides
  • Preschool Academics
  • Store Locator
  • Submit Feedback/Request
  • Sales Alerts Sign-Up
  • Technical Support
  • Mission & History
  • Articles & Advice
  • Testimonials
  • Our Guarantee
  • New Products
  • Free Activities
  • Libros en Español
  • Our Mission

Boosting Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum

Visible thinking routines that encourage students to document and share their ideas can have a profound effect on their learning.

Teacher presents an article on her smartboard to students

In my coaching work with schools, I am often requested to model strategies that help learners think deeply and critically across multiple disciplines and content areas. Many teachers are looking to adapt research-based methods to help students think about content in meaningful ways by making connections to previous learning, asking relevant questions, displaying understanding through learning artifacts , and identifying their challenges with the material.

Educator Alfred Mander said, “Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically—without learning how and without practicing.”

Visible thinking routines can be an excellent and simple way to start using systematic but flexible approaches to teaching thinking dispositions to young people at any grade level. Focusing on thinking types, powerful routines can strengthen learners’ ability to analyze, synthesize (design), and question effectively. Classroom teachers want these skills to become habits, making students the most informed stakeholder in their own learning.

Not to be confused with visible learning research by John Hattie , Visible Thinking is a research-based initiative by Harvard’s Project Zero with more than 30 routines aimed at making learning the consequence of good thinking dispositions . Students begin to comprehend content through thinking routines composed of short questions or a series of steps. During routines, their learning becomes visible because their ideas are documented, voiced, discussed with others, and reflected on.

For example, the routine See, Think, Wonder can be used to get students to analyze and interpret graphs, text, infographics, or video during the entry event of project-based learning units or daily lessons. Guiding students to have rich and lively discussions about their thoughts, interpretations, and wonderings (questions) can help teachers decide on appropriate lessons and next steps.

Another effective visible thinking routine is Connect, Extend, Challenge (CEC). Learners can use CEC to organize, clarify, and simplify complex information on graphic organizers. The graphic organizer becomes a kinesthetic activity for creating an informational artifact that students can refer to as the lesson or unit progresses.

Here are some creative but simple ways to carry out these two routines across multiple classrooms.

See, Think, Wonder

See, Think, Wonder can be leveraged as a thinking routine to launch engagement and inquiry in daily lessons by introducing an interesting object (graphic, artifact, etc.). The idea is for students to think carefully about why the object looks or is a certain way. Teachers introduce the following question prompts to guide students’ thinking:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think about that?
  • What does it make you wonder?

When the routine is new, sometimes young children may not know where to begin expressing themselves—this is where converting the above question prompts into sentence stems, “I see…,” “I think…,” and “I wonder…,” comes into play. For students struggling with analytical skills, it’s empowering for them to accept themselves where they currently are—learning how to analyze critically can be achieved over time and with practice. Teachers can help them build confidence with positive reinforcement .

Adapt the routine to meet the needs of your kids, which may be to have them work individually or to engage with classmates. I use it frequently—especially when introducing emotionally compelling graphics to students learning about environmental issues (e.g., the UN’s Goals for Sustainable Development) and social issues . This is useful in helping them better understand how to interpret graphs, infographics, and what’s happening in text and visuals. Furthermore, it also promotes interpretations, analysis, and questioning.

Content teachers can use See, Think, Wonder to get learners thinking critically by introducing graphics that reinforce essential academic information and follow up the routine with lessons and scaffolds to support students’ ideas and interpretations.

Connect, Extend, Challenge

CEC is a powerful visible learning routine to help students connect previous learning to new learning and identify where they are struggling in various educational concepts. Taking stock of where they are stuck in the material is as vital as articulating their connections and extensions. Again, they might struggle initially, but here’s where front-loading vocabulary and giving them time to talk through challenges can help.

A good place to introduce CEC is after students have analyzed or observed something new. This works as a natural next step to have them dig deeper with reflection and use what they learned in the analysis process to create their own synthesis of ideas. I also like to use CEC after engaging them in the See, Think, Wonder routine and at the end of a unit.

Again, learners can work individually or in small groups. Teachers can also have them move into the routine after reading an article or some form of targeted informational text where the learning is critical to moving forward (e.g., proportional relationships, measurement, unit conversion). Regardless of your approach, Project Zero suggests having learners reflect on the following question prompts:

  • How is the _____ connected to something you already know?
  • What new ideas or impressions do you have that extended your thinking in new directions?
  • What is challenging or confusing? What do you need to improve your understanding?

I like to have learners in small groups answer a version of the question prompts in a simple three-column graphic organizer. The graphic organizer can also become a road map for prioritizing the next steps in learning for students of all ages. Here are some visual examples of how I used the activity with educators in a professional development session targeting emotional intelligence skills.

More Visible Thinking Resources

  • Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox : Access to core thinking routines
  • Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners , by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison
  • Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools , by Ron Ritchhart

Want a daily email of lesson plans that span all subjects and age groups?

Subjects all subjects all subjects the arts all the arts visual arts performing arts value of the arts back business & economics all business & economics global economics macroeconomics microeconomics personal finance business back design, engineering & technology all design, engineering & technology design engineering technology back health all health growth & development medical conditions consumer health public health nutrition physical fitness emotional health sex education back literature & language all literature & language literature linguistics writing/composition speaking back mathematics all mathematics algebra data analysis & probability geometry measurement numbers & operations back philosophy & religion all philosophy & religion philosophy religion back psychology all psychology history, approaches and methods biological bases of behavior consciousness, sensation and perception cognition and learning motivation and emotion developmental psychology personality psychological disorders and treatment social psychology back science & technology all science & technology earth and space science life sciences physical science environmental science nature of science back social studies all social studies anthropology area studies civics geography history media and journalism sociology back teaching & education all teaching & education education leadership education policy structure and function of schools teaching strategies back thinking & learning all thinking & learning attention and engagement memory critical thinking problem solving creativity collaboration information literacy organization and time management back, filter by none.

  • Elementary/Primary
  • Middle School/Lower Secondary
  • High School/Upper Secondary
  • College/University
  • TED-Ed Animations
  • TED Talk Lessons
  • TED-Ed Best of Web
  • Under 3 minutes
  • Under 6 minutes
  • Under 9 minutes
  • Under 12 minutes
  • Under 18 minutes
  • Over 18 minutes
  • Algerian Arabic
  • Azerbaijani
  • Cantonese (Hong Kong)
  • Chinese (Hong Kong)
  • Chinese (Singapore)
  • Chinese (Taiwan)
  • Chinese Simplified
  • Chinese Traditional
  • Chinese Traditional (Taiwan)
  • Dutch (Belgium)
  • Dutch (Netherlands)
  • French (Canada)
  • French (France)
  • French (Switzerland)
  • Kurdish (Central)
  • Luxembourgish
  • Persian (Afghanistan)
  • Persian (Iran)
  • Portuguese (Brazil)
  • Portuguese (Portugal)
  • Spanish (Argentina)
  • Spanish (Latin America)
  • Spanish (Mexico)
  • Spanish (Spain)
  • Spanish (United States)
  • Western Frisian

sort by none

  • Longest video
  • Shortest video
  • Most video views
  • Least video views
  • Most questions answered
  • Least questions answered

critical thinking curriculum

How could so many people support Hitler?

Lesson duration 05:10

474,055 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you solve the magical maze riddle?

Lesson duration 04:51

380,647 Views

critical thinking curriculum

How to make smart decisions more easily

Lesson duration 05:16

1,194,724 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you solve a mystery before Sherlock Holmes?

Lesson duration 05:17

486,893 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you solve the secret assassin society riddle?

Lesson duration 05:01

753,422 Views

critical thinking curriculum

How to overcome your mistakes

Lesson duration 04:52

931,489 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you solve the cursed dice riddle?

Lesson duration 04:31

734,694 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Why some people don't have an inner monologue

Lesson duration 12:03

2,812,138 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Science vs. Pseudoscience

Lesson duration 05:48

354,015 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you solve the time traveling car riddle?

Lesson duration 05:18

649,228 Views

critical thinking curriculum

This one weird trick will get you infinite gold

Lesson duration 05:08

1,061,311 Views

critical thinking curriculum

How to quit your job — without ruining your career - Gala Jackson

Lesson duration 06:13

108,278 Views

critical thinking curriculum

What if you experienced every human life in history?

Lesson duration 05:21

2,860,364 Views

critical thinking curriculum

How to design climate-resilient buildings - Alyssa-Amor Gibbons

Lesson duration 14:12

43,636 Views

critical thinking curriculum

The case for free, universal basic services - Aaron Bastani

Lesson duration 19:09

80,636 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you steal the most powerful wand in the wizarding world?

Lesson duration 05:20

780,722 Views

critical thinking curriculum

History vs. Thomas Jefferson

470,686 Views

critical thinking curriculum

The best way to apologize (according to science)

Lesson duration 05:06

1,478,241 Views

critical thinking curriculum

How do we determine the value of a life?

Lesson duration 06:06

749,683 Views

critical thinking curriculum

What’s the smartest age?

Lesson duration 04:53

1,604,114 Views

critical thinking curriculum

The Boltzmann brain paradox

Lesson duration 05:40

1,169,141 Views

critical thinking curriculum

The 4 greatest threats to the survival of humanity

Lesson duration 05:24

488,418 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you outsmart the college admissions fallacy?

Lesson duration 06:17

820,104 Views

critical thinking curriculum

Can you solve the fortress riddle?

Lesson duration 05:23

1,246,680 Views

Bookmark this page

  • The Center for Critical Thinking Community Online
  • Customized Webinars and Online Courses for Faculty
  • Certification in the Paul-Elder Approach to Critical Thinking
  • Consulting for Leaders and Key Personnel at Your Organization

K-12 Instruction

  • Higher Education
  • Business & Professional Groups
  • Build a Local Critical Thinking Town Hall
  • Critical Thinking Training for Law Enforcement
  • Online Courses for Instructors
  • Critical Thinking Therapy
  • Bring Critical Thinking Into Your Website's Discussion
  • The State of Critical Thinking Today
  • Professional Development Model for K-12
  • Professional Development Model - College and University
  • Workshop Descriptions
  • Mentor Program
  • Inservice Information Request Form
  • Institutions Using Our Approach to Critical Thinking

Translate this page from English...

*Machine translated pages not guaranteed for accuracy. Click Here for our professional translations.

For specific professional development guidelines, see A Professional Development Model for K-12 Schools: Critical Thinking as the Key to Substantive Learning.

Content-Driven and Question-Driven Instruction Faculty in a long-term staff development program learn how to design content-driven instruction; that is, how to take what students are expected to know and be able to do and design instruction that empowers the students to think their way to this knowledge and ability. They learn how to make every class day question-driven and how to layer a variety of content standards into a unified unit of instruction.

Thinker’s Guides Help Build Faculty Knowledge Base A long-range staff development program can be enhanced by the use of our Thinker’s Guide Library . These guides enable faculty to work together or individually to develop over an extended period of time. They help build the faculty knowledge base of critical thinking and instructional strategies. They demonstrate the practicality and comprehensiveness of the approach we recommend.

In planning staff development, you should begin with a session that lays the foundation for improvement in class instruction and for follow-up workshops. We introduce faculty to the basic components of critical thinking and ways to build those components into the design of what faculty teach, as well as ways to make that design effective. We help faculty design instruction, in the long run, so that students understand content as a system of logical relationships that can only be understood through active, inquisitive thinking.

Workshop Strands

We suggest that you follow-up the initial foundational workshop with a combination from the following workshop strands :

Foundational Workshop: An Introduction to the Fundamentals of Critical Thinking & the Art of Instruction

Critical Thinking and the Process of Assessment

Critical Thinking and Socratic Questioning

Critical Thinking and Writing

Critical Thinking, Socratic Questioning and Assessment

Critical Thinking & the Health Care Professions

Critical Thinking in Social Studies

Critical Thinking in the Arts & Humanities

Critical Thinking in Science & Math

Critical Thinking in the Professions

Teaching Students to Think Theoretically & Empirically

Teaching Students To Ask Good Questions & Follow Out the Implications of Thought

Teaching Students Intellectual Standards & Values

Teaching Students to Enter, Analyze, and Evaluate Points of View

Teaching for Emotional Intelligence

Questioning Students and Teaching Students to Question

Critical Thinking and the Affective Dimension: Fostering Rational Motivation in Students

Analytic Reading and Writing as Modes of Thinking

Ethics Without Indoctrination: Moral Reasoning Across the Curriculum

Critical Thinking: The Role of Administration

Our Team of Presenters

Back to top

IMAGES

  1. Critical_Thinking_Skills_Diagram_svg

    critical thinking curriculum

  2. Critical Thinking Skills Chart

    critical thinking curriculum

  3. PPT

    critical thinking curriculum

  4. 6 Main Types of Critical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

    critical thinking curriculum

  5. The benefits of critical thinking for students and how to develop it

    critical thinking curriculum

  6. Best Education For Better Life: 60 Critical Thinking Strategies For

    critical thinking curriculum

VIDEO

  1. Top Critical Thinking Skills

  2. The Thinking Curriculum at Teesside High School

  3. Critical Thinking: an introduction (1/8)

  4. Critical and Creative Thinking 4 Workbook| Fourth Grade Homeschool Curriculum Book| Timberdoodle

  5. Critical Thinking Skills An Epilogue

  6. Immersive Critical Thinking Activities: Think Like A Scientist

COMMENTS

  1. Full Curriculum Solutions

    We design critical thinking into ALL of our full curriculum products. This not only helps students transfer critical thinking skills to other areas of their lives, it improves the effectiveness of the lessons.

  2. Eight Instructional Strategies for Promoting Critical Thinking

    Planning for critical thinking focuses on teaching the most crucial science concepts, practices, and logical-thinking skills as well as the best use of instructional time.

  3. Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in Middle and High School

    Helping Students Hone Their Critical Thinking Skills. Used consistently, these strategies can help middle and high school teachers guide students to improve much-needed skills. By Nicholas Provenzano.

  4. A Critical Thinking Framework for Elementary School

    This chapter outlines the Critical Thinking Framework: five instructional approaches educators can incorporate into their instruction to nurture deeper thinking. These approaches can also guide intellectual preparation protocols and unit unpackings to prepare rigorous, engaging instruction for elementary students.

  5. Building Thinking Skills® Series

    Full curriculum. Multiple Award Winner. This series develops the critical thinking skills necessary for success in reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and standardized tests. These award-winning books comprise the best-selling thinking skills program in the world!

  6. Boosting Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum

    Focusing on thinking types, powerful routines can strengthen learners’ ability to analyze, synthesize (design), and question effectively. Classroom teachers want these skills to become habits, making students the most informed stakeholder in their own learning.

  7. Critical Thinking Lessons

    Can you solve the fortress riddle? TED-Ed lessons on the subject Critical Thinking. TED-Ed celebrates the ideas of teachers and students around the world. Discover hundreds of animated lessons, create customized lessons, and share your big ideas.

  8. K-12 Instruction

    Commitment to critical thinking affects how one thinks through the design of instruction and how one thinks through the content one is learning. In short, over time instructors come to recognize that teaching in a critical manner is essential for: skilled reading, writing, speaking, and listening.