While I hope you’re relaxing this summer, the break from school provides many teachers with the time and space they need to evaluate their lesson plans with fresh eyes.

Like many educators, you may be searching for instructional strategies to include more critical thinking activities in your instruction. As you already know, critical thinking skills not only have a positive effect on student achievement, they’re a major component in the Common Core State Standards, whether it’s CCSS reading or CCSS math.

Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to take an existing lesson plan and incorporate questions and cues that encourage students to think more deeply about any concept you’re teaching. For example:

  1. Have students paraphrase parts of the lesson. Throughout the lesson, pause and ask students to use their own words to describe ideas or information in the lesson — what you’ve said, what another student has said, and even written instructions. Paraphrasing helps students assess what they understand and perhaps start to view the information from other angles. It also gives you, as teacher, a guide with which you can measure comprehension.
  2. Ask students to elaborate on what others have said. You can do this by asking questions, ranging from, “What are other ideas about …..?” to more specific questions, such as, “Can you give examples of what Lauren described?”
  3. Encourage students to make connections. When students connect new information to their own experiences or to other related concepts, their depth of knowledge increases. Learning is more relevant when students can transfer new information to the everyday world or connect it to prior knowledge. Every time you add cues to a lesson that encourage critical thinking – whether you’re asking students to paraphrase, elaborate, or make connections – that lesson will resonate more deeply, and students will continue to build critical thinking for life.

Can you think of some lessons where you can incorporate critical thinking?