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How the Common Core teaches critical thinking

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 02, 2014 14:38 PM

Critical thinking skills are important in a number of situations, whether it's in the classroom or in daily life. Kids who develop these skills can discern facts, ask the right questions and solidify their knowledge. For these reasons, Common Core State Standards were designed to promote the development of critical thinking. Here are the ways in which the Standards teach such skills:

Goes beyond the bounds
Because critical thinking is a skill, it can be taught and learned. Rather than asking kids to memorize facts and dates they will then regurgitate for a test, the Common Core State Standards aim to help them form opinions based on the information they gather.  For example, a teacher may ask students to speculate what characters from a book might do outside of the story instead of having them summarize the plot. This activity forces kids to get to know characters in a deeper way. Critical thinking develops outside the bounds of summary in a more imaginative or predictive state. 

The students could also read a book and analyze the author. A teacher might ask, "What events in the author's life could have led them to write from this perspective?" or "What motifs does the author use that reflect their beliefs?" These kinds of questions require students to think outside of the confines of the story and make deeper connections. Critical thinking skills also rely on forming connections that could later help students develop opinions and strategies for analyzing information. 

Promoting strategy
Real long-term learning occurs when kids use the knowledge they gained in the classroom. Applying concepts to actual situations is a way to develop critical thinking, and the Standards ask kids to do so. For example, math formulas can be memorized, or they can help kids create a strategy for tackling other problems. Mathematical concepts included in the Common Core focus on using numbers to predict outcomes. Students are taught to apply their lessons to other situations that call for math, such as predicting velocity or how fast it would take them to stop after applying the brakes in a car. They must use critical thinking to develop ways in which to use that math knowledge outside of the classroom.

Asking questions
The Common Core emphasizes the use of questioning to promote critical thinking skills. For instance, a teacher might tell the students they will ask them a question, give them time to consider the topic, then ask the question again, this time expecting a thoughtful response. Giving kids time to pour over the information they learned promotes participation and helps them apply their knowledge to the problems educators present.