Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Critical Thinking Activities

A few weeks ago, I was invited to an on-line "show" for a company that specializes in activity books and software to promote critical thinking.  The show was incredibly interesting.  I began to realize the importance of teaching my guys about solving problems in different ways.  Critical thinking allows people to look at things in different ways and from different angles.  By promoting critical thinking, I can see how a student would test better because of how they learn analysis from these activities.


I wanted to buy my weight in critical thinking activity books!  But common sense, and the budget, prevailed and the show closed without my name on a purchase order.  And yet, I still wanted critical thinking to be a part of our education.  I wanted the boys to be able to use critical thinking skills on a regular basis.


As I thought about critical thinking and the activities that we had done as part of the "show", I realized that I have a house-full of critical thinking activites, worksheets, and books!  Here is my preliminary list:


Tray of Objects  put several objects on a tray and bring them out for your student to view for a set time, like 3 minutes.  Then remove the tray and have the child list as many items as they can list.  Another variation of this activity is to have the child close his eyes and remove one item, then have the child list the item that's missing.  We used to play this game with various colors and sizes of jar lids.  Then I would rearrange them, or remove one and the boys would try to remember what was on the tray originally


Sudoku  my husband and I are hooked on these number games!  I play them on-line at www.websudoku.com   We have a children's sudoku book that I bought at a book discounter.  My boys can work through several puzzles in a matter of minutes.  They are great games for reasoning and logic.


Tangrams  I bought a nice Tangram set at a thrift store, but you can make your own from cardboard or a fun-foam sheet.  This puzzle in which you have to arrange shapes to make various pictures can be simple or very-very challenging.  Just type "tangram" into the search box at www.google.com and you will get more sites that you'll have time to view.  There are lots of printable versions of this puzzle to help you make one for yourself.  Google, "printable tangram".


Origami  Teaching this activity to your young ones helps them think of a flat piece of paper in a three-dimensional way.  It allows them to strengthen their hand-eye coordination while following sometimes complicated directions.  For boys, a great start to origami is paper airplanes.  There are lots and lots of variations on the traditional paper airplane today.


Games  We love the game Guess Who, which is a board game we own.  But we also play this game without the board while driving in the car.  One person thinks of a character or person.  Then the rest of the family asks questions to determine who is the mystery person or character.  Chess would be another great game for critical thinking.  Another one is Master Mind.  We have the Jr. version.  Matching games, like concentration, are also great for critical thinking.  Another game we have, "Cranium Cadoo" promotes critical thinking in several activities.


Magazines  My mom subscribes to "Highlights" magazine for the boys.  There are SEVERAL critical thinking activities in those.  You can often find old copies of Highlights at the library, thrift stores, or yard sales if you don't subscribe.  One of our family favorites is the page where you have to answer a series of questions in order and try to answer them without skipping any.  They also have a page called, "thinking" that promotes thinking of things in a different way.  Another magazine is "Reader's Digest."  The RD Challenge page is always a critical thinking activity.  One example is a page of word clues where the answers all have the three letters CAR in them.  You use the clues to list the word.  Another example would be a list of clues where all the answers are compound words.


That's my preliminary list!  I'm trying, now, to incorporate at least one critical thinking activity into our day every day.  I want our boys to be able to look at a problem and see it as solvable because they've learned many ways to attack a problem.  As a matter of fact, that sounds like how I solved the problem of not having enough budget money for that stack of critical thinking activity books.  With a little critical thinking I wrote the list you just read!

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