Professional Development Focuses on Critical Thinking

This past week our teachers gathered after school for professional development. We spent two hours with Garfield Gini-Newman who is a Senior Lecturer at OISE and a key presenter/writer for the Critical Thinking Consortium to expand our repertoire on teaching children how to think critically using the current curriculum. As I have stated here previously, the school is very focused on assisting students in using evidence from texts and from prior learning experiences to justify their thinking when speaking and when crafting written assignments. This is a priority of the Ontario curriculum. Mr. Gini-Newman explained that critical thinking is not about criticism but rather having our students assess or judge the merits of possible options in light of relevant factors or criteria. It is also about the quality of reasoning stated against the established criteria. Here is one example he used where we were asked to use criteria to make a reasoned judgment.

Criteria for a powerful news headline are:

  • Informative
  • Relevant
  • Concise
  • Engaging

Which is the most powerful headline?

Britney Spears

“Britney Shears”

“The Buzz on Britney”

“Oops she did it again!”

“Britney Shaves Head, Gets
Two Tattoos”

As a staff we will begin to digest some of the ideas and examples he used to convey how critical thinking is best done with students in kindergarten to grade 6. Some of you may already be getting a sense of the work beginning done in the classrooms from your report card interviews, from assignments, and from home discussions on gender stereotyping.

Mr. Recke has already tried some of the session’s ideas using the narrative entitled, The Great Fuzz Frenzy featuring a community of groundhogs. The Senior Kindergarten students were asked to rank the three best uses of fuzz and to justify their ranking using the following criteria: a) the usefulness of the fuzz and b) the entertainment value of the fuzz to the groundhogs.

Students stated their top ranking in their own writing and then Mr. Recke transcribed
their rationale. Here are some of the wonderful examples of their critical thinking
using evidence/ideas from the story:

“A lasso made of fuzz would be useful if any groundhogs get caught by an eagle.
The lasso could be used to catch the eagle. It would be used for protection.”

“Fuzz snow pants would be useful to them because they could go outside. Their
legs would not freeze. Another reason would be it would be funny as a costume. It
could make the others laugh. It would be a good way for the groundhogs to spend
the time.”

“A cape of fuzz is the best. Groundhogs can use their imagination with it!
Imagination is important. It can make life less boring.”

“The groundhogs can camouflage themselves in the bushes with a cape. When the
eagle comes they can hide. It is very practical. It can help them save their lives.”

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