You can instill critical thinking skills in your students by encouraging them to apply their knowledge, question what they read and look behind the surface message of media. You can teach critical thinking skills within any subject matter.
Rearrange the classroom if possible so all students can see each other and the teacher at the same time. A circle of desks or clusters of larger tables encourages students to see themselves as active participants and removes the image of the teacher as simply giving them all of the information.
Encourage students to participate in all aspects of class by posing questions that require thought. If students aren't able to answer a question, have them meet in small groups to discuss the question. Then have groups share their answers with the class.
Post important critical thinking questions in the classroom to remind students of the questions they should ponder. You may also want to post steps for answering questions. For example, one such question might be, "Is that fact or opinion?" Remind students of the questions by asking them follow-up questions when they present answers in class or in written assignments.
Engage your students in critical reading by encouraging them to reflect on what they read. Using sources from the media that provide different viewpoints or descriptions of an event can help students understand that perspective influences the argument that a source presents. Discussing high-quality children's literature can involve younger students in critical reading.
Use the web to help students apply their critical thinking skills so that they can distinguish among credible sources and questionable sources. Encourage students to explore a specific topic online and find both a credible and a questionable (but not unbelievable) source. Then, have each student present the two websites' perspectives, explaining why one is credible and one isn't.
Make writing more than just a record of the students' ideas. Instead, introduce them to freewriting, an unstructured and intuitive form of writing in which they can explore and create new ideas. Use the freewriting as the basis of an ordered and logical essay, encouraging students to work from their original ideas.
Create classification tasks for your students. Sorting physical objects can engage the youngest students in classification, but verbal exploration and analogies or classification of visual arts can develop critical thinking skills. As students classify, have them seek connections between ideas or concepts that may at first seem only tenuously related.
Frame tasks to make them reflect real-world problems rather than telling students which variables to examine to reach a solution or conclusion. When you present classroom tasks in a more open-ended manner, students must rely on the application of their knowledge and their problem solving abilities, rather than on memorized formulas.