Critical Thinking: How A Child Can Start Thinking Deeply

Paul Romani

Here are some key strategies for developing critical thinking skills in children

The great thing about critical thinking skills is that they can be applied to any subject, topic, or medium. Whether a child is studying a book, a movie, a song, a poem, or a picture, they can apply the same critical thinking strategies in order to analyse it profoundly.

The Basic ‘Facts’

Knowing a lot of details about something is essential for being able to start using deeper critical thinking skills. Without these details, any critical questions may be irrelevant or off topic. What is more, any opinions formed may be considered uninformed ones.
There are countless details that a child can consider. We can regard these details as the basic ‘facts’, although they can go into tremendous levels of detail if necessary.

PEOPLE & CHARACTERS: Who / What?

Critical Thinking - Who / What
  • NAME / ROLE: Who are they? What do they do?
  • AGE: How old are they?
  • PERSONALITY: What kind of people are they?
  • APPEARANCE: What do they look like? What are they wearing?

 
More challenging ideas:

  • SOCIAL STATUS: What social class are they?
  • EDUCATION: How would you rate their intelligence?

PLACES: Where?

Critical Thinking - Where
  • LOCATION: Where are they? What is the place like? What can you see there?
  • INHABITANTS: See People & Characters
  • TRAVEL: Where do they go?
  • DISTANCE: How far is it?

Note: This can be used for all locations from small locations (e.g. a room) to big locations (e.g. a planet).

TIME: When?

Critical Thinking - When?
  • WHEN: What time of day / day / month / year / era is this?

ACTIONS: What happens?

Critical Thinking - What happens?
  • ACTIONS: What do they do? What are they doing?
  • MANNER (of action): How did they do it?
  • SPEECH: What did they say?
  • MANNER (of speech): How did they say it?
  • EVENTS: What happens / happened? How did it start / finish?

 
Unfortunately, too many teachers and exams focus almost exclusively on the above ideas.
While spouting off highly detailed facts may demonstrate some level of intelligence, it doesn’t involve deep critical thinking skills.
The reason why these things are so common in schools and exams is because they are concrete ideas, there is generally a ‘right’ answer, and they are more easily assessed.
 

Deeper Critical Thinking

True intelligence, though, requires much deeper critical thinking skills than just being able to recite names, dates, and events!
Why are the following considered ‘deeper’ critical thinking skills?
This is for three reasons:

  1. IMPLICITNESS: They require thinking about things that are implicit. The child needs to infer or deduce ideas based on the context, the subtext, and their own knowledge of what normally happens in such situations. They also involve symbolism, metaphors, allusions, and irony.
  2. POSSIBILITY: They are not necessarily about what is true, but rather what could/may/might be true. They venture from the concrete to the abstract.
  3. PARTICIPATING: They require becoming actively involved by relating to people/feelings/events and sharing feelings/opinions.

FEELINGS: How… feel?

Critical Thinking - How feel?
  • PEOPLE’S EMOTIONS: How do they feel?
  • PEOPLE’S OPINIONS: What do they think?
  • YOUR EMOTIONS: How does this make you feel?
  • YOUR OPINIONS: What do you think?

REASONS/RESULTS: Why?

Critical Thinking - Why
  • REASONS: Why? (about everything!!!)
  • RESULTS: What happens (could happen) because of this? (this involves making connections)

 
All of the above critical thinking skills can be taught by educators and parents alike. Likewise, children can uses these strategies independently to help them to using critical thinking to think more deeply about what they encounter.
As a follow-up to this article, we’ll be producing a second article giving an example of these critical thinking skills in action.