### Teacher Resources

# Effective Critical-Thinking Questions to Use in Class

Critical thinking does not have just one definition, but one way to explain it is that it is “thinking about one’s thinking.” A critical thinker does not always take things at face value and will question ideas to further understand them. Critical thinkers also can see past the surface of something and possess essential skills such as the ability to analyze, interpret, make inferences, and problem-solve. Critical thinkers also tend to be curious about many issues, are concerned about remaining well-informed, and embrace and even seek critical thinking opportunities. Stated critical thinkers think deep thoughts.

## The Importance of Critical Thinking for Students

Back in the day, school was different! Even a year ago, school was far different than it is now, but there is currently so much more emphasis on the “why” and the “how” than just knowing the answer. Critical thinking skills are essential for students because of the curricula they are exposed to. “Right there” questions are few and far between, and students must rely on their ability to dig deeper and read between the lines. A lot of emphasis is placed on college and career readiness, and part of that is to prepare students to problem-solve when there is no apparent answer.

Critical thinking allows students to acquire the higher-level thinking skills needed for careers and beyond. It is essential to teach students at a young age that they need help finding the answer to everything in a book or through Google. You have to look within yourself to find many answers and, most importantly, justify why that is your answer. There are many ways teachers can incorporate these types of questions throughout the day; you have to change your mindset a bit!

## Critical Thinking Questions to Use in Class

A teacher will ask questions that usually contain one of the following components: who, what, where, when, how, or why. Using good questioning techniques is essential and sometimes more accessible than it seems. How you start a question can change how students think about an answer or solution. For example, instead of asking students, “Who stole the pizza?” ask students, “Why would that character want to steal the pizza?”

A critical thinking question should make you think. It should lead students to ponder the answer and discuss possible solutions. Critical thinking questions can lead to disagreements and arguments that can become an impressive teachable moment.

## Incorporating Critical Thinking in Various Subjects

#### Math

One way to incorporate a solid critical thinking question into a math lesson is to have the students solve a problem and then ask them how they solved it. You can have the students talk it out or have each student write down a written explanation and then share it. Either of these techniques gives various perspectives on how to solve the same problem and can help students develop math sense.

Another way to incorporate critical thinking questions into math is to present a problem solved incorrectly and have students analyze the mistake. Students must solve for the correct answer and determine where the mistake occurred. To make this even more challenging, present a word problem or a multi-step story problem to further present critical thinking challenges.

#### Making Inferences

Making inferences is generally one of the most challenging skills for students to learn. In this case, students must use critical thinking skills to understand what is not written or observed. They must also use evidence and couple it with reasoning skills to form a conclusion. A basic example would be looking at a photograph of a dog holding a leash in its mouth and concluding that the dog would like to go for a walk.

#### Morning Journals

Morning journals for students can present the perfect opportunity to enhance critical thinking skills. Instead of asking essential questions with basic answers, create questions that force students to think outside the box. For example, ask, “Is creativity something that can be measured? Should it be?” Instead of asking what creativity is and giving an example, this question makes students pause and think about the answer before responding. These types of questions can frustrate students “in a good way.”

#### English Language Arts (ELA)

A great way to encourage critical thinking in ELA is to ask students to write an alternate ending to a story. This promotes creativity and deep thinking. Then, students can explain how changing the story’s ending could impact the novel and the world. Encouraging students to think more globally also encourages a higher level of thinking and a better understanding of the world’s culture, not just the small bubble they reside in.

#### Science

Science is a subject perfect for inquiry! Having students think as engineers is a critical thinking skill at its finest. Students have to design a solution, test it, and then design an even better solution to combat weaknesses in the original design. This can be applied at any grade level.

#### Social Studies

A terrific way to incorporate critical thinking in Social Studies is similar to ELA by changing the outcome of important historical events. For example, have students discuss how our lives would differ if the South had won the Civil War. How would it have changed subsequent historical events, and what would life be like today? The opportunities are endless.

## Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

### What are the core skills involved in critical thinking?

Critical thinking involves the core skills of analysis, interpretation, inference, evaluation, explanation, and self-regulation.

### Why is critical thinking important in education?

Critical thinking is vital in education because it prepares students to think deeply, solve complex problems, and understand the underlying principles of various subjects, which are essential for college and career readiness.

### How can teachers foster critical thinking in students?

Teachers can foster critical thinking by asking open-ended questions, encouraging discussions, promoting problem-solving activities, and incorporating inquiry-based learning across different subjects.

### Can critical thinking be assessed?

Critical thinking can be assessed through various methods, such as written reflections, problem-solving tasks, group discussions, and projects that require analytical and evaluative thinking.

### How does critical thinking benefit students in the real world?

Critical thinking benefits students in the real world by enabling them to make informed decisions, solve problems effectively, understand complex situations, and adapt to new challenges and environments.

## Conclusion

All in all, teachers can create many opportunities every day for students to use critical thinking skills. It is as simple as starting the day with a critical thinking question and changing specific techniques. Even if you ask the students a fundamental question, follow it up with something requiring more thought depth. Albert Einstein once said, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Force students to think about their thinking and prepare them for the real world!