Getting students to dig deeper and answer questions using higher-level thinking can be a challenge. Here are our favorite tips for teaching critical thinking skills, adapted from Mentoring Minds’ Critical Thinking Strategies Guide, that help kids solve problems by going beyond the obvious response.
1. Slow down the pace.
It’s easy to fall into a routine of calling on one of the first kids who raises a hand. But if you wait even just 3 to 5 seconds after asking a question, you’ll probably find the pool of students willing to give an answer grows significantly. Plus, it helps the speedy kids learn that the first answer that pops into their head isn’t always the best. There are times you may even want to wait up to a minute or longer if the question is particularly complex or time-consuming. To avoid an awkward pause, you can let kids know that they have 10 seconds to think before answering the question or that you need to see 10 hands raised from volunteers before you hear a response.
2. Pose a Question of the Day.
Put a new spin on bell ringers by asking a Question of the Day. Use a questioning stem (e.g., create a riddle that uses the mathematics term “multiply” in one of the clues or write a letter to a classmate recommending this book) and put it on the board. Students can write answers in their critical-thinking journals. Then have a class discussion at the end of the day.
3. Make a response box.
Write a random critical-thinking question on the board, (e.g., Is there a better way to work out this problem? Explain your thinking.). Give students a specified amount of time to provide a written response and put it in the response box. Pull out entries one by one and read them aloud to the class. Alternatively, you can give a prize—like a homework pass or free time—to the student with the first appropriate response whose name is drawn from the box or to everyone who submitted appropriate answers.
4. Take a side.
First, read a statement that has two opposing views (e.g., Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why?). Ask kids who agree to stand on one side of the room and those who disagree to stand on the other side. Then have kids talk about why they chose each side. They can switch sides if they change their minds during the discussion.
5. Ask “why?” five times.
When you encounter a problem in class, you can help the class come up with a solution by using the Why? Five Times strategy. Ask the first why question (e.g., Why didn’t the class do well on the spelling test?), and after a response is given, ask why four more times (e.g., Why didn’t students study for the test?, Why didn’t students have time to study for the test?, etc.). The idea is that after the fifth question is asked, the problem will be solved.
Come up with an imaginary scenario and have kids work through the steps to solve a problem as a class. First, identify the problem and write it as a question (e.g., Why didn’t the science experiment work as planned?). Then brainstorm ideas to solve it and choose the best one to write as a solution statement. Finally, create an action plan to carry out the solution.
7. Go “hitchhiking.”
Practice creative thinking by collaborating on a storyboard. Write a problem on an index card and pin it on the top of a bulletin board. Then put different headings on index cards and pin them below the main card. Have kids brainstorm ideas that develop each of the heading cards and let kids pin them on the board. Encourage kids to “go hitchhiking” by building onto their classmates’ ideas.
8. Turn around.
A great way to focus on the positive in not-so-positive situations is the Turn Around thinking strategy. If a student forgets to bring his homework to school, you can ask, “What good can come of this?” The student can answer with ideas like, “I will change my routine before I go to bed.”
9. Put your pocket chart to good use.
Choose six completed questioning stems from different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and put them in a pocket chart. Choose some strips as mandatory and let kids pick two from the higher levels to answer aloud or in a journal.
10. Hold a Q&A session.
One way you can figure out how well kids are grasping critical-thinking skills is by holding question-and-answer sessions. Ask a variety of questions one-on-one or in small groups and take note of the levels of thought individual students use regularly and avoid over time. You can review your notes to help build more higher-order-thinking questions into your lessons.
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Download the PDF version of this lesson plan. Shape cut-outs are included.
Meta-cognition (thinking about thinking) often fascinates gifted learners, and quotations are an accessible and time-effective way to introduce this in the classroom. Quotes lend themselves easily to critical thinking skills, and they are as useful in the home as conversation starters as well.
How can teachers use quotations in class to inspire, encourage, increase motivation and develop high-level thinking skills?
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:
- Analyze quotations using critical thinking techniques
- Compare and contrast multiple quotations
- Classify quotations by application
- Apply quotations to a variety of content areas
- Represent quotations with a variety of media
- Evaluate the validity of thought behind quotations
This plan contains 65 quotes appropriate for classroom use listed by author of the quote, along with specific response questions for each quote. Additionally, there is a comprehensive section on how to use quotes in the classroom in a variety of ways. Each of these is explained in the applicable section.
Common Core State Standards addressed
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Quotes by author
Quotes by author with response questions
Ideas for using quotes in the classroom
Here are 20 ideas for activities students and teachers can do with quotations (either the ones here or others).
Quote comparison: Either randomly or with deliberate intention pair quotes for comparison and contrast. Here are some general questions to accompany the quotes:
- How are these quotes similar in meaning?
- What is different about the ideas behind these quotations?
Quotation family: Create a quotation family by selecting two parent quotations and then finding other quotations whose ideas stem from the parents, including explanations of how they are connected.
Tag cloud: Make a tag cloud of favorites or put all quotes in a tag cloud (use Wordle or Tagxedo) and see what words appear most often.
License plate: Create a license plate that captures the idea of a quote. Find a template here. This site has templates for each state, so students can create a license plate for their home state or a state that they feel matches the tone of the quote.
Create a conversation: Have students select a series of quotes and organize them into a conversation with the quotes responding to each other. They may change the quotes into questions in order to make the conversation flow, if they desire.
Make a movie or slideshow: PowerPoint has the ability to convert the presentation to a movie. You can also download Microsoft’s Photostory (for PC users). You can also use the free (registration required) Kizoa. For inspiration, see this example of a quotation/image slideshow:.
Integrate: Use quotations to decorate the room, add them to assignments, create a bulletin board to highlight them, or buy a simple frame and replace the quote in it regularly.
Top 10 Lists: Have students compile Top 10 lists of quotations for characters in stories, people in history, or categories within the quotes themselves (top 10 quotes by people still living, top 10 quotes by Americans, top 10 quotes under 150 letters, etc.).
Most Likely to Be Used Lists: Have students match quotations to occasions or people. What quote is most likely to be used by a person or in a certain situation?
Yoda-cize: Have students change the syntax of a quote to match the way Yoda would say it (e.g., cannot hold a man down without staying with him you must).
Make into inspirational poster: You can do this for free and easily at Big Huge Labs. Find images from Flickr (use advanced search to find results with Creative Commons licenses) or at freeimages (again, used advanced search to select unrestricted photos). The image used in the example was a free image from iStock photo.
Make into a book: Desktop publishing makes printing an actual book simple, but another idea is to save a document or PowerPoint (tip: designing is easier in PowerPoint than Word) as a PDF, and then upload to flipsnack, a site that will convert the PDF into a flip book for free.
Match game: Match quotes to the curriculum or current events. What quote could be the epitaph of whatever it is the class is studying? Although it is simple and straightforward for language arts and social studies, it is also effective for math, science, and other content areas.
Origami: Have students write quotes on paper that they fold into origami shapes. Encouraging quotes can be folded into cranes and given to students or faculty or community members who are in need of encouragement. For instructions for a variety of origami folding projects, visit origami-instructions.com. There is also a helpful video on Youtube.
Bracket challenge: List the quotes by number on a bracket challenge template. Have students vote on their favorites, and advance over time to a winner. This is an effective home/school connection idea, as you can allow parents to vote as well.
Make a visual: Have students select an image (see Idea 11 for image sources) and add the text, carefully selecting an appropriate font. Have students save the images and use them to create collages, print them to create photo albums, or use them in other projects (such as a flip book).
Print them on sticky notes: You can find an easy tutorial that describes how to print onto sticky notes directly from your computer. Students can then leave inspiring quotes around the school or their homes. Teachers can also leave quotes on student desks.
Tweet them: There is a Twitter hashtag (#quotes) that you can use to share quotes. Alternately, students can paraphrase quotes into 140 characters just on paper. Use a Twitter icon to label them.
Create a Geocache: Students or teachers can leave quotations in small notebooks or sticky note pads that they geocache. Finders can add a quote and take a quote. Find out more about geocaching in general and get classroom ideas here.
Padlet: Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) is a virtual blank wall on which people can post "notes." Teachers or students can create a board at the site on which others may post. This free site allows students to interact, even with students in other schools or class periods.
Places to find quotes
Can’t get enough quotes? Here are some places to find even more great quotes!
quotabl.es is a searchable British site and community for quote-ophiles. You can find great quotes, yes, but you can also rate those others have posted and share your own. When you register (free), you can create a database of your own favorite quotes, separated by topic.
For all of you math teachers who think quotes are just for the Liberal Arts folks, numberquotes.com is for you. You simply type any number into the search box, and it will generate random (and randomly interesting) factoids that give scale to the number. For example, did you know that 58 pennies stacked on top of each other would be as high as two Burger King Whoppers or that 1 million McDonald’s Big Macs would weigh as much as 30 African male elephants?
It’s not just Yoda who generated great movie quotes. Films are replete with wonderful, humorous and inspiring quotes on a wide range of topics. subzin.com lets you search for screen quotes with only a fragment of the line. Another similar site allows you to search by topic for words of wisdom from movies.
At quotesecret.com, you can sign up to receive a daily quote via email, or you can visit the site to see the quote of the day. The quotes are accompanied by a thought-provoking question and are typically of the inspirational variety.
Bruce Lloyd has compiled 1,000 messages of wisdom for the 21st century.
The illustrator of Doodle Art Alley took quotations and made them into doodle art that students can color.