Fostering Critical Thinking Skills in Younger Learners

Critical thinking involves asking questions about the world around us, challenging thoughts, explaining our thinking, and responding to others’ opinions with questions and insightful comments. It includes being self-aware, engaged in discussion, and reflective. This important skill is an important part of the school curriculum, as it encourages students to become active thinkers and problem solvers as adults. Teachers, therefore, have a responsibility to plan for, encourage, and model this type of thinking in their classrooms.


Implementing opportunities for critical thinking and discussion in the everyday classroom can include planning for critical thinking during whole class discussions, individual work, and small group activities. Not sure where to start? The following small tips help incorporate and introduce the type of conversations and prompts that lead to reflective and respectful thinkers and sharers.



At the front of the class:

  • Avoid the “over-lecture”: be sure to interrupt straight lecturing with questions to students at regular intervals.
  • Engage all students when questioning opinions: don’t just call on students with their hands up. When students know there is a chance they will be questioned at any moment, they are more likely to pay attention and think.
  • Re-state: have students re-state what others have said to make sure they have understood it.
  • Elaborate: ask students to extend their ideas, giving specific examples to clarify what they’ve said.


During individual work:

  • Allow different opportunities to assess reasoning (i.e. a history test may have an opinion prompt, which needs to be supported by class content)
  • Scaffold critical thinking with statement prompts displayed in the class (i.e. “I agree/disagree because…I can connect with this idea because…”)


During group activities/discussion:

  • Draw connection between different students’ ideas/opinions; allow students to recognize connections
  • Have students share their reflections on an…

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