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What Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is the active process of gathering and analyzing information in order to form an opinion or judgement. Critical thinking is not limited to a certain subject area or grade level, but rather the general ability to think in a clear and rational way. Being able to solve problems and think in a methodical way is important for young children, and therefore, they need to be specifically taught these skills.

What Are Critical Thinking Skills?

There are many different interpretations on what constitutes critical thinking skills. For students, the top critical thinking skills include: analysis, communication, creativity, open-mindedness, and problem solving. By focusing on each of these, students will able to better engage with content both within the classroom and in their lives.


An important part of critical thinking is examining and analyzing something. This could include written text, actual data, or a problem that is presented. Some ways to analyze include researching, asking questions, interpreting, and noticing patterns.


Oftentimes, students will share their thoughts and conclusions with a group or a partner, and have to collaborate in some way. Being able to work with others and communicate effectively is a key element to critical thinking. Some examples of this include active listening, presentation, and explanation.


Another important skill for a critical thinker is innovation and creativity; not being afraid to think out of the box, try something different, and approach things from all angles is key. Some examples of this include inferring, making connections, predicting, imagining, and embracing curiosity.


A critical thinker is someone who is able to think without judgement, bias, or assumption. It is important to simply pay attention to the information itself and draw conclusions with a clear mind. Some examples of this include diversity, objectivity, inclusivity, and fairness.

Problem Solving

Perhaps the most important skill of a critical thinker is the ability to solve problems. Problem solving includes understanding the problem, coming up with and implementing a solution, and assessing the outcome of your plan. A good problem solver makes decisions, clarifies, pays attention to detail, and evaluates.

Strategies to Develop Critical Thinkers in the Classroom

When students are able to think critically, they become more motivated and eager to learn in the classroom. Critical thinkers not only think rationally, they also analyze and assess, and are more apt to think in a reasonable, rational, and empathetic manner. Here are a few strategies to help develop critical thinkers in your classroom.

  1. Questioning: The ability to question is essential for developing critical thinking skills. To help your students develop as critical thinkers, avoid asking yes or no questions and ask open-ended questions instead. Encourage students to elaborate on their answers and explain why they think how they do.

  2. Student-Led Discussions: In classrooms where students lead their own learning, they rely on themselves and their peers, rather than on their teacher. This encourages them to reflect, discuss, and problem solve together.

  3. Inquiry-Based Learning: Inquiry-based learning is a model that centers around the students developing their own questions, and exploring topics that they are excited about. Having students involved in the learning process activates interest and curiosity, and engages their critical thinking skills.

  4. Collaboration: Collaborating and discussing with their peers is a very important part of developing critical thinking skills. Students learn from one another, and by collaborating, they understand that not everyone thinks the same way or has the same opinions.

  5. Problem-Based Learning: Problem-Based Learning is a strategy that consists of four basic steps: explore a new issue, research and brainstorm, come up with a solution and share it with the class, and decide what steps need to be taken next. PBL provides a structured discovery process that helps students think critically and ask questions.

Why is it Important to Develop Critical Thinking Skills?

Critical thinking is so important because it enables us to use discipline and logic while solving problems both in school and in life. Learning how to think critically as a child will enable students to understand how things work in the world, and come up with creative and intelligent ideas and solutions throughout their lives. As children grow up and face real world challenges such as peer pressure and important decision making skills, their ability to think critically will come in handy.

Using Storyboard That to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

A perfect way for students to practice their critical thinking skills is to create storyboards that illustrate these skills in real life context. Allowing students to create illustrations of the critical thinking process, or of personal situations, will challenge them to be creative and have fun! It also provides them with a safe space to explore certain scenarios before they may encounter them in real life.

Critical Thinking Activity Ideas

Teachers can create scenarios that involve decisions students will have to make. They may also have students come up with their own scenarios, or use current events, and have a class discussion before creating.

After a discussion or lesson about critical thinking and responsible decision making, teachers can have the students do the following activity:

  1. Think of a time when you had to think critically in order to make a decision.
  2. Create a three cell storyboard that includes descriptions.
  3. Describe and illustrate the thought process of making that decision and the conclusion you came to.
  4. If desired, include a cell that illustrates another possible outcome if you had made a different decision.

Related Activities

How to Teach Students to Evaluate Sources and Information Critically


Introduce the Concept of Source Evaluation

Explain the importance of critically evaluating sources and information to determine credibility, bias, and reliability. Define key terms such as credibility, bias, and primary/secondary sources.


Teach Source Evaluation Criteria

Teach students a set of criteria to assess sources, such as authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and relevance. Provide examples and model the process of evaluating sources using the criteria.


Explore Different Types of Sources

Introduce students to various types of sources, including books, articles, websites, and multimedia. Discuss the strengths and limitations of each source type in terms of credibility and bias.


Engage in Guided Practice

Provide students with practice activities where they evaluate different sources using the criteria learned. Offer guidance and feedback as students analyze and make judgments about the reliability and relevance of the sources.


Discuss Bias and Multiple Perspectives

Explore the concept of bias and its impact on information sources. Encourage students to consider multiple perspectives by comparing sources with different biases or points of view.


Encourage Independent Source Evaluation

Empower students to independently evaluate sources by assigning research projects or inquiry-based activities. Guide students in selecting and using credible sources that support their research or arguments.

Frequently Asked Questions about Developing Critical Thinking Skills

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the active process of gathering and analyzing information in order to form an opinion or judgment.

Why is it important to develop critical thinking skills in young children?

It is essential to teach young children critical thinking skills because it enables them to become effective problem solvers and think more logically and systematically. By nurturing these skills early on, children develop the ability to analyze and evaluate information, make sound decisions, and apply critical thinking to all areas of their lives.

What are the top critical thinking skills for students?

The top critical thinking skills for students include analysis, communication, creativity, open-mindedness, and problem-solving.

How can teachers help develop critical thinking skills in the classroom?

Teachers can help develop critical thinking skills in the classroom by using strategies such as questioning, student-led discussions, inquiry-based learning, collaboration, and problem-based learning.

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