We’ve been privileged to use several resources from The Critical Thinking Co. this year. Recently, we were able to review another product from this company–this time, a tool to build competent critical thinking skills in students from grades 4-9. The Basics of Critical Thinking is a great product for parents who’d like to see their children grow in these vital problem-solving skills. And, as they work through the book together with their children, the parents just might learn some things, too!
More about The Critical Thinking Co.
The Critical Thinking Co. creates and produces curriculum products for children of all ages—from preschool children through high school seniors. Each book published by this company enables students to build their critical thinking skills as they use them, whether it’s a math book, a history course, reading, science or social studies. (By the way, we’ve reviewed and used two of those: U.S. History Detective Book One and Pattern Explorer; you can read the reviews of these impressive products by clicking on the links.) Rather than just loading information onto the students, The Critical Thinking Co. introduces them to subjects, then allows them to draw conclusions based on what they’ve read or seen. Inductive and deductive reasoning both play a part in the students’ work. I really appreciate their methods!
There are a LOT of definitions of critical thinking floating around the web. I like the simplicity of this term as defined in The Basics of Critical Thinking: “Critical thinking is “finding and evaluating evidence to try to make the best decisions.”” (The Basics of Critical Thinking, page iii) Here’s what I really like about teaching critical thinking to children and teens: as they grown in these skills, they become more able to hear information or an argument, and rather than being swayed by great oration, strong opinions, or a charismatic speaker, they can evaluate the information, come to a conclusion, and determine whether or not the arguments are valid, true, or false. Or, they might conclude that more information is needed before they can make a decision on the validity of a claim. The more kids learn about critical thinking, the stronger their skills will be as they grow into adulthood, and have to make decisions on their own.
So, how does one teach critical thinking to students in grades 4-9? If you’re The Critical Thinking Co., you’ve come up with a genius way to do it with The Basics of Critical Thinking. This consumable book uses puzzles and word games, along with cartoons, to present students with various situations. Then, they explain what kinds of reasoning are required for each situation, and walk the students through an example. Then, the student works similar problems on his own.
Here are some examples of what’s covered in this excellent book:
- Decisions and Conclusions
- Beliefs and Claims
- Facts and Opinions
- and much, much more
In each of these book segments, there are numerous activities that fall under each category. Students are introduced to the concept (e.g., fallacies) and given a sample example of what that concept looks like. They work through a process to solve it. Then, they’re given more activities in that category.
The Basics of Critical Thinking is composed around this method of introducing thinking and problem-solving skills. There’s also a brief introduction about critical thinking and its importance, as well as four myths about it at the beginning of the book. Parents will also appreciate the answer key (for all the problems/activities in the text) at the end of the book.
This is a book that can be used in a variety of ways. Some children may be able to complete it on their own, or with parental assistance. Usually, Jackson and I would work through the introduction of each process or technique (evidence, inference, arguments, etc.) together and do the first problem together. Then, I’d sit nearby while he did the rest of them (usually, a couple of pages).
It’s very easy to add this to a day’s schoolwork. It requires very little in the way of preparation for the parent; some days I’d read through the section we were doing, but on other days when I hadn’t had a chance to preview it, it was just as easy to pick it up and do it together.
The problems and activities are interesting and fun. The explanations of the different material explained in the book are clear and understandable. Most weeks, we used it three to four times per week. And, it only took about 10 to 15 minutes per day! Yet with that small amount of time, useful skills were gradually built in my son.
As we worked through The Basics of Critical Thinking, I really saw Jackson grow in skill and ability, of how to deal with the ways people can present information; and, how to determine what is actually true or false by asking more questions or thinking about how the speaker presents his thoughts. Normally, he works pretty rapidly through many of his subjects. But in The Basics of Critical Thinking, because he was being taught a new skill set and the focus was on investigating the facts, he really had to slow down and think about them. (Honestly, so did I!)
Do you ever feel, in arguments or discussions with others, that you disagree with what’s being stated as fact or truth, but you don’t know how to rebut them? I certainly do. I don’t think I was ever really taught this particular process, and I never spent time in debate. However, I really think that it’s vital that my son learns and understands how to sift through arguments to determine what is true and what is false. So, I was really delighted to be able to use and review The Basics of Critical Thinking with my 8th grader. Also, both Jackson and I appreciated that the situations presented to teach each segment were interesting! Often, they were quite humorous as well. We always enjoy that.
The Critical Thinking Co. is gifted at being able to teach and present the process of learning critical thinking skills to children and teens. This colorful book has really fun and interesting activities, along with great illustrations. And while many of them may seem simple on the surface, the student really has to think to work through the problems. The repetition of doing so lays the foundation (or adds to it) of critical thinking that will be useful for a lifetime!
We happily recommend to you The Basics of Critical Thinking from The Critical Thinking Co. You may purchase it from their website; and your journey to better critical thinking skills can begin at once!
Other Crew members reviewed a variety of other books from The Critical Thinking Co. If you click on the banner below, you’ll be able to learn more about those!