As educators, we have a common goal: get our students to think outside of the box. We know when students understand what critical thinking is and how to use it, they’ll ask smarter questions and expect better answers.  We know that they’ll be better prepared for the next test, next school year, and—after that—college and beyond.

But how do we help them get there? Developing instructional techniques that blend critical thinking into the teaching of the standards is key, and here’s a roundup of some resources to kick start the lesson planning process.

Definitions for Critical Thinking

If you were to stop people on the street and ask them to define critical thinking, what would they say? What would you say?

As educators, we have a clearer idea than most, but it’s still helpful to challenge our own assumptions and dig into the term. These two brief videos do just that—albeit from different perspectives—and provide a helpful jumping off point for a close look at critical thinking resources.

Video: What Is Critical Thinking? A Definition

In this short animated video, blogger Gary Meegan presents and dissects the definition put forth by Dr. Richard Paul of the Critical Thinking Community: “Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.” The key here, as Meegan points out, is that critical thinking is a process, not a task.

Video: What is Critical Thinking? Definition, Skills, and Meaning provides this thought-provoking explanation of critical thinking in plain terms. Using an example of a common logical fallacy regarding an ill aunt who missed a vitamin C dose, the video points out that the majority of people go through life without asking simple questions, such as “Do we have all the facts?” or “How do you know that?”

Online Hubs for Teachers

Online forums are a great place to network, glean ideas from others, and tap into your own creativity. Here are a few of our favorites.

Resource Hub: Edutopia

You may have heard of it. Edutopia is a knowledge center for educators on a huge range of subjects, from classroom management to assessment. Their library of critical thinking articles is impressive, too—and with thousands of readers interacting in the blog’s comment sections, the hub is a great source for mining new ideas.

Resource Hub: Teaching Channel

The Teaching Channel’s tagline, “Getting Better Together,” says it all. The site is a treasure mine for teacher-sourced strategies and activities. In their video library, you can view hundreds of videos where real teachers demonstrate instruction and incorporate critical thinking in their lessons.

Books on Critical Thinking Strategies

While we can find great nuggets of wisdom online, the depth of insight is never as great as in a book. For critical thinking strategies in the K–12 classroom, these are a couple of recommendations.

Book: The Strategic Teacher: Selecting the Right Research-Based Strategy for Every Lesson

By Harvey F. Silver, Richard W. Strong, and Matthew J. Perini

This resource is dog-eared on many teachers’ shelves. Offering up twenty reliable, flexible strategies, this book focuses on four styles of instruction (mastery, understanding, self-expressive, and interpersonal) to guide teachers in delivering high-quality content to diverse learners.

Book: Assessing Critical Thinking in Elementary Schools

By Rebecca Stobaugh, Ph.D.

Commonly used as a resource in higher ed. courses on assessment and lesson planning, this book is meant to empower educators to design their own instructional activities and assessments that engage students in higher-level thinking. Examples of formative and summative assessment are pulled from real classroom experience and provide a wealth of ideas. The author also wrote a second book geared toward secondary teachers, Assessing Critical Thinking in Middle and High Schools.

[Disclaimer: Dr. Rebecca Stobaugh writes and gives presentations on critical thinking and instruction on behalf of Mentoring Minds.]


What Are Your Recommendations?

We’d love to know what your go-to resources are for critical thinking in the classroom. What have we overlooked? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!