Critical thinking isn’t a skill, nor is it content knowledge or even evidence of understanding. While it involves and requires these ideas, critical thinking is also very much a state of mind — a willingness and tendency to sit with an idea and ‘struggle wonderfully’ with it.
In critical thinking, there is no conclusion; it is constant interaction with changing circumstances and new knowledge that allows for broader vision which allows for new evidence which starts the process over again. Critical thinking has at its core raw emotion and tone. Intent.
The purpose of these stems is to help students practice this slippery ‘skill.’ By having dozens of questions written generally enough to be widely applicable, but with an inherent rigor that challenges students to think, the ability to practice thinking critically is always available.
1. What evidence can you present for/against…?
2. How does … contrast with …?
3. How could you outline or concept map…? Explain your response with examples.
4. Why is … significant? Explain your reasoning.
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of …?
6. What is the point or ‘big idea’ of …?
7. How could you judge the accuracy of …?
8. What are the differences between … and …?
9. How is … related to …?
10. What ideas could you add to … and how would these ideas change it?
11. Describe … from the perspective of ….
12. What do you think about …? Explain your reasoning.
13. When might … be most useful and why?
14. How could you create or design a new…? Explain your thinking.
15. What solutions could you suggest the problem of …? Which might be most effective and why?
16. What might happen if you combined … and …?
17. Do you agree that …? Why or why not?
18. What information would you need to make a decision about …?
19. How could you prioritize …?
20. How is … an example of …?
21. What are the most important parts or features of …?
22. Which details of … are most important and why?
23. What patterns do you notice in …?
24. How could you classify … into a more/less general category?
25. What makes … important?
26. What criteria could you use to assess …?
27. How could … and … function together? How do they work separately and together and different ways?
28. Where is … most/least …? Explain your reasoning.
Critical Thinking Cards
In adddition to the text and cards, we’ve included a graphic below. You also can purchase them in card-format to be printed and used right away in your classroom, a sample of which you can see below.
By making them cards, they are not only easier to ‘keep around’–on your desk, on a shelf in a workstation area, or even copied and given to students– but more importantly, meaningful thinking can become a part of your daily routines. Writing prompts, reading circles, Socratic discussions and more all benefit from critical thinking, and providing students with stems is a way of supporting them as their confidence grows and their habits as thinkers develop.
TeachThought.com is an organization dedicated to innovation in education through the growth of innovative teachers.
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