Part one of this article provided a rationale for and method of teaching critical thinking skills to children, specific words to use in prompts and a list of questions that stimulate a child’s imagination. Focusing primarily in the areas of Benjamin Bloom’s levels of knowledge, comprehension and application, parents and teachers can use a familiar story such as L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” as a base for formulating questions to use in everyday conversation with their children and, at the same time, reinforce vital skills necessary in developing reasoning skills.
Analysis: In analyzing, students take things apart to see patterns, identify and organize parts in relation to wholes and recognize meanings not otherwise apparent. Analysis questioning prompts include terms like analyze, compare, contrast, diagram, group, inspect, differentiate, outline, reason, observe, catalog, categorize, correlate, decode, deduce and dissect.
1. Compare Witch Glenda to the Witch of the West.
2. Identify items and methods the man behind the curtain used to make people think he was the powerful Wizard of Oz.
3. Discuss the pros and cons of Dorothy’s opinion of home at the beginning of the story and after she had been in Oz for awhile.
4. How would you explain how monkeys can fly?
5. Analyze parts of a castle such as the one where the witch lives.
When students synthesize information, they take all they have learned and connect it to things they already know to create new ideas, to make valid generalizations from what they have learned to be true and to relate knowledge from a spectrum. Synthesis enables students to predict, draw conclusions and make further plans based on solid reasoning.
Words frequently appearing in synthesis questions include compile, blend, formulate, gather, integrate, model, portray, synthesize, reorganize, adopt, detect, develop, frame, glean and imagine. When students bring things together to think of new ways to accomplish tasks or solve problems, they are synthesizing.
1. What is another alternative for dealing with the witch other than pouring water on her so that she melts away?
2. How else could Dorothy go home if the balloon wouldn’t work?
3. Predict what will happen to the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow after Dorothy leaves.
4. How do you explain the reasons the Munchkins thought the Wizard was so powerful in the first place?
5. Devise a way to act out the story using newspapers and duct tape to make your only costumes and props.
Although some people throw out an opinion without doing any thinking and call it evaluating, authentic evaluation requires working through all of the other thinking skills. Consequently, evaluation is the most complex of the six thinking skill levels. Evaluation requires weighing evidence and details, comparing and assessing values and discriminating from among different scenarios and ideas. Students make choices but base them on solid support and concrete, detailed reasoning.
Questions during the evaluation stage include terms such as assess, measure, recommend, evaluate, make judgment, discriminate, support, critique, prove, select, determine, test, verify and decide.
Students must wrap up and factor in all they know, comprehend, apply, analyze and synthesize in order to evaluate.
1. What is the most important thing Dorothy learned from her entire adventure?
2. How will the three friends left in Oz preside over the land as the story continues, without the Wizard and Dorothy?
3. What information would you use to determine what the Wicked Witch of the East (the sister underneath Dorothy’s house) was like?
4. What choice would you have made if you saw a tornado coming up and were unable to get to your family?
5. Would you recommend this movie to other people? Why?
6. How does this movie rank in terms of all the movies you have seen? For many people, it is their favorite movie of all time. Why?
Teachers, parents and other stakeholders in a child’s learning will see the most growth in critical thinking ability if they know the differences between lower and higher order thinking and learn to assist the child in exercising his brain while engaging in fun ways of thinking.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills
University of Virginia Learning Skills