Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Say What You Mean

When we talk to kids, our statements, instructions and questions can go a long way towards helping them develop the ability to think critically as well as creatively.

Dr. John Langrehr, whose program focuses on teaching young students the positive mindset and thinking skills needed for creative and critical thinking, points out that, "if kids are spoon-fed with closed, definite communications, they have to do minimal thinking. The teacher (or parent or mentor) who asks searching and open how and why questions, forces kids to mentally manipulate associated information, rather than just soak it up."

When talking to kids, asking effective questions can help build "tip of the tongue familiarity" with the terminology and concepts of thinking. For example, questions can begin:
  • What evidence do you have for ..., or How can you prove this?
  • What criteria do you use for ...
  • How can we classify ....
  • Predict what will happen next ...
  • Compare these two substances ...
  • What can you infer from this commercial?
Parents and teachers can also help develop kids' thinking by challenging generalizations and vague language. When a kids states that:
  • something always or never happens ... ask for specific examples
  • something is better or cheaper or smarter, ask, compared to what or whom?
  • they (this undefined group of people or things,) acts in a certain way, ask for specific names and examples, or invite kids to tell more.