Building Brain Power: Strengthening critical thinking skills

By: Leigh Ann Pernell

As children mature, their critical thinking skills will help them make quality decisions without assistance from trusted adults. Students must move past the what and dive deeper into the why, how, and what ifs of thinking in order to boost their brain power. Teachers help students become college- and career-ready, empowering each student to think and thrive while strengthening critical thinking skills. These skills create the foundation for problem-solving, decision-making, and discovery—valuable traits for success.

Thinking about Thinking

Critical thinking often requires deep reflection, which teachers may overlook because of curriculum mandates and testing timelines. It is thinking about thinking that instructors should infuse into lessons to strengthen a student’s higher level thinking skills. Critical thinkers analyze, evaluate, and make real-world connections, which creates a deeper understanding. These thinkers generate ideas, adapt to change, and are also collaborative communicators who reason, evaluate, and confer with peers.

Developing Critical Thinking

Teachers no longer deliver information, but they facilitate thinking and open the door to discourse. By watching teachers as they model and discuss, students learn to communicate, share ideas, and find that problems don’t always have quick answers. Students who work on open-ended assignments, problem-solving opportunities, and performance tasks can apply the knowledge they have gained in creative ways.

Exercising Cognitive Skills

Students must stimulate their brains by analyzing, synthesizing, and generating ideas—digging past surface information—to build brain power. Young learners must develop a variety of complex cognitive skills to be proficient and prepare for the ever-growing demands of the 21st century. What does this look like for students?

  • Thinking Critically—Analyze a text. Evaluate an article. Solve a problem.
  • Thinking Creatively—Generate projects to show what you have learned. Hypothesize and investigate to find answers. Make connections to build meaning. Create works of art, music, and literature.
  • Thinking Comprehensively—Draw on schema (background knowledge) and connect new information to what you know. Make inferences and predictions when reading. Compare and contrast information to gain new insights.
  • Thinking Collaboratively—Share insights with peers. Collaborate to solve problems and share strategies.

By strengthening these thinking skills, students will grow as problem solvers and lifelong learners. Students will be equipped to manage their thinking and independently seek the resources they need to create, communicate, and further learning throughout their lives.

Carson-Dellosa—Thought Leaders

Carson-Dellosa is here to support educators as they work to build the thinking skills of young learners. Spectrum® Critical Thinking for Math is a valuable resource that challenges skills, encourages students to think outside the box, and helps teach how to problem-solve. As a great tool for supplementing curriculum with creative math activities, Spectrum Critical Thinking for Math will extend students’ critical thinking skills as they solve real-world problems.