Integrate Critical Thinking into Every Lesson

Updated January 6, 2017

Critical thinking is essential for students to be college and career ready, life-long learners, and self-advocates. To support students in developing this skillset, Total Motivation embeds opportunities to practice critical thinking skills throughout each unit. Teachers can make the most of these opportunities by employing methods that support a thinking-centered classroom: choice, collaboration, questioning, and problem solving. (Read more about our approach to critical thinking.)

Offer Choice

  • Allow students some choice in how to complete assignments, whether in print, online, or a combination of formats.
  • Invite students to choose between working individually or with a partner, and to make limited choices relating to assignments.
  • Use varied and flexible settings (e.g., whole group, small group, stations) to engage students with content.

Promote Collaboration

  • Project Student Edition content on the whiteboard and guide students (as an entire class or in a small group) to engage in academic conversations when discussing the activity. For example, ask students to actively listen, add onto ideas, and cite evidence that supports their thinking. Students could also analyze and evaluate evidence together, make judgments based on others’ viewpoints, or interpret information and draw conclusions.
  • Use “partner talks” about real-world application (e.g., Extended Thinking activities found in the Teacher Edition) to strengthen collaboration, develop reasoning, understand multiple perspectives, and deepen understanding of content.
  • Form small groups and discuss what students learned from assignments. Lead students to synthesize new learning, reflect on experiences, and make connections.

Use Thoughtful Questions

  • Interact with students while they work on assignments to model thinking and promote group and partner collaborative conversations.
  • Pose open-ended questions from the Student Edition and follow up with questions that model how to think and move the conversation. For example, Do you agree/disagree? Why?; Do you connect to what ________ said? How?; What can you add?; Do you see it differently? Explain.
  • Probe for deeper meaning by discussing responses to the Critical Thinking component in the Student Edition: What do you think? Why do you say that? How does ________ relate to our discussion? What evidence supports your thinking? What is another example? What is an alternative? Why is ________ best?

Invite Problem Solving

  • Invite students to work in groups, with partners, or independently, and seek reasonable solutions to open-response questions/tasks in the Student Edition.
  • Ask students to propose a justifiable plan for engaging in focused practice on select Student Edition unit components, utilizing their format preference (print, online, a combination) and their group choice (e.g., partner, independent).
  • Have students reflect on and self-assess strength/weakness patterns about their thinking. Hold data talks using the Standards Mastery Report to observe mastery of items. Use the Teacher Edition Answer Key to share the thinking level coded to each item.