What is critical thinking?

What is critical thinking? It is a combination of skills: reasoning, relying on evidence, analyzing, evaluating, considering a variety of viewpoints, interpreting facts, and recognizing relationships. In simple English, it is a varied interpretation of facts.

In an academic English teaching situation, both critical thinking and critical reading are essential skills to master. But, what should our students do to be able to read critically? They should recognize the author’s purpose, understand tone, or recognize bias. These are all indirectly inferred from the text; hence, the student must learn to analyze (to know what to look for) and make inferences based on evidence. 

Is this an easy task? By careful examination of a text, identifying its parts, relating them to understand the whole, a critical thinker is then prepared to infer. This basically means reaching a conclusion based on specific evidence making educated guesses based on supporting evidence or examples.

In critical reading, the student examines the choices made by the author while portraying a topic. He examines the choices made in content, language, and text structure. And finally examines the effects of these choices on overall meaning.

What are the steps for teaching critical reading strategies?

a) finding out what a text says by determining what is important and discriminating between fact & conjecture in order to evaluate the validity of its ideas

b) analyzing what a text does (criticizing, describing, contrasting) by asking questions

(before-during-after)

c) inferring what the text, as a whole, means using prior knowledge to draw inferences from data/evidence in order to reach/recognize conclusions

My suggested framework:

* practice only one reading strategy for two weeks

* model to your students how to use this strategy

* give assignments to review this strategy at home

* have students work in class in small groups for extra guidance/practice

* conduct individual conferences about problems they may encounter

* conduct a whole group review of this strategy before starting a new one

Remember the formula is simple: the text implies but readers infer.

Comments

Dear Rania,If we 'chase' a dream of teaching our students to write English essays 'critically', i.e. to analyze the topic or question assigned from every possible perspective, the reading lessons based on critical thinking strategies should be preceding. Observing the author's stand point and argumentation; examining the group mates' perspectives in various Role-play small groups; discovering the teacher's opinions and answering the 'Why?'' questions will definitely develop the 'culture of critical thinking' within each individual in the group.The 'critical thinking strategies' applied during the Reading lessons help establishing the 'critical thinking' habits in students' minds. Therefore, having a habit to ask questions 'Why?' and seeing as many perspective of the matter as possible to answer these questions (reasoning) solves another issue - writing essays with the critical thinking being applied.This actually falls under the category of teaching students 'how to think' rather than 'what to think'. And preaching 'critical thinking' strategies to be applied in our English lessons (as you wrote) IS one of the effective ways how to influence our students' minds through English lessons (beyond the Grammar or linguistic aspects) to overcome issues occurring in the global community today. We do need to raise 'thinking' citizens in the global plain - to teach them take much more serious tests successfully simultaneously teaching them to take the English tests successfully as well.Thank you for sharing your perspectives and experience.Sincerely,Inna, Ukraine. 

I agree with you. We are teachers and English is a tool or a medium through which we open up avenues for students to think and become part of the global scene. It is not enough to teach skills and vocabulary items. We need to get them in the habit of thinking and analyzing. These are the tools needed to function well in today's world.

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