First, it’s important to realize that the academic curriculum has changed substantially in the last five years.
According to the California Department of Education’s curriculum guidelines for language arts, by the end of kindergarten the child should be basically, well,– reading. The kindergarten math curriculum includes addition and subtraction as well as abstract algebraic thinking. Yes, in kindergarten.
By 6th grade the student should be writing papers of 700 words each in four different genres. By 9th grade they should write with “strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says” and be able to draw and support their own inferences. In math, they may have moved into geometry and statistics.
The current generation of children is highly intelligent. They are visual learners and facile multi-taskers. However, because they spend an exorbitant amount of time in front of screens taking in information, students can fall down in their analytical skills. Analysis, logic, problem solving, and critical thinking skills, rather than memorization skills, are the skills which will matter the most.
How can you help your child develop critical thinking skills?
● Ask open ended questions. Ask questions that don’t elicit a yes or no response. Or even a correct answer. Ask about school. Not about grades but about what he or she is actually studying.
● Help them make a decision. If your child has a decision to make encourage your student to explore the pros and cons with you. Again, no right answer, just what are the options?
● Talk about the magic “What if”. When watching a film or TV show together talk about how the ending might have been different if certain circumstances had been different, or certain characters had been different. Would it have been a more interesting story?
● Find patterns to point out. Whether walking in the park with the young one and looking at shapes, or discussing politics or history with the high school student, encourage them to look for patterns.
● Debate. No matter how sure a child is of his opinion, having to logically defend it will often make him or her see the other side. This activity can work well in long car rides.
● Model critical thinking. Ponder aloud the most efficient way to do a chore or the most economical purchase at the grocery store, or even a social issue in the community.
To quote Elizabeth Shaunessy, Ph D., professor of the gifted program at the University of Florida,
“The ultimate goal is for youth to employ critical-thinking strategies in everyday life without prompting from parents and teachers. Reasoning at high levels is one of the most valuable skills parents can foster in their children, one that will prepare them for success.”
With top analytical and critical thinking skills, our students will be well prepared for the academic curriculum as well as their place in today’s changing world.