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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Teaching Your Child Critical Thinking

Guest post by Geoff Taylor, the Head of Young Learners at the British Council in Malaysia

Schools around the world are increasingly trying to teach children to think critically. Employers say that they want staff with critical thinking abilities. We are told that critical thinking is one of the essential skills for the 21st century. But what is critical thinking? Why is it important? How can we help our children to develop this ability? And why should we want to?

In simple terms, critical thinking is the ability to look at a piece of information and decide whether it is right or wrong. More than this however, critical thinking means being open minded and considering different solutions to the same problem. People who can think critically can see possibilities that others cannot. They can find creative solutions for problems.

The modern world is complicated. We are bombarded with conflicting opinions every time we open Facebook or go online. We have fake news and differences of opinion on almost every subject. We also have problems such as global warming and the current pandemic that threaten us all. In this new world it is easy to see why being able to identify the facts and find new ways to solve problems is so important.

Teaching critical thinking has been proven to increase our children’s IQ. It helps them to do better at school and increases their chances of success in later life. Critical thinking also helps children to better communicate their ideas and beliefs. It improves their relationships with others. It fosters creativity and thinking ‘out of the box’, which can benefit every area of life.

So, developing critical thinking ability is important. The good news is that a few simple ideas can help children to become critical thinkers from an early age. Here are some easy strategies that can make a big difference:

· Teach them to think critically: A simple way to do this is to teach your child how to win at games. For example, when I am playing cards with my daughter for fun, I will sometimes show her my cards and explain what I am going to do. I will also help her to think about how to use her cards.

· Don’t always jump in! We want our children to succeed, but if we are doing everything for them, they are not really succeeding. Be patient and let your child struggle a bit with doing homework or other tasks. Encourage them to think things through and explore different options. When they start to get frustrated or lose motivation, then it is time to directly help them.

· Play time: Making sure your child has time to play is a very simple step. Free play can be tremendously beneficial. For example, when role playing with friends children use their imaginations to create and then solve problems in very creative ways.

· Answering questions with questions: When your child asks you something, try asking questions like “Why do you think that?” or “Let’s try and think of all possible solutions”. If they give an answer that is not correct, don’t immediately give them the right answer, try saying “Why do you think that?” to encourage them to retrace their thought process. The best question is always “How do you know that?” This makes your child think about the evidence they have to support their opinion, which is key to critical thinking.

Obviously sometimes it is best to directly help your child. When they become frustrated, asking “How do you know you are angry?” is not going to help! When helping my child I like to tell her what my solution is, and why I think it is the best solution. Children can learn from how we think, but only if we let them in on the secret!

At the British Council developing critical thinking is a basic part of how we teach. For example, instead of just telling children grammatical rules, we help them to look at examples and guide them to deduce the rules themselves. This gives them a deeper understanding of the language, and also gives them an analytical skill that can be applied to any part of life. Our interactive lessons encourage children to express themselves and to reflect what their peers are saying. We encourage them to think about how they learn, what they learn and what is the most effective way of learning for them. We aim to help children to approach the 21st century not only speaking authentic English, but also with the broad range of modern skills they need to succeed.

Learn more about our English courses for kids and teens by contacting our course consultants today 


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