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“Teaching toward literacy and math skills as defined by state tests is not enough,” Heyck-Williams explains.“It will not result in long-term success for students.
Another added, “To solve real-world problems.” Yet another quipped, “To reach our common goal—make it to middle school.”At Two Rivers, a pre K-to-8 Expeditionary Learning, or EL, school founded in 2004, that business includes embedding critical thinking in the school’s culture—or as Jeff Heyck-Williams, director of curriculum and instruction, says, “making it a habit of mind.”“We don’t teach standalone lessons on critical thinking,” he adds.
“We introduce it at the beginning of the year, but then it just becomes part of the shared language.
The teachers use it over and over again in the context of the lessons they teach.”, believed about education—that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Aside from engaging in classroom lessons, they spend 10 to 12 weeks on subject-specific projects, then share their findings in a “showcase” before classmates, teachers and parents.
First-graders, for example, were recently tasked with re-telling a children’s-book story about a villainous spider by researching arachnids and creating new, positive stories of their own.
Amid cheers, she told the students that the point of the exercise “is to get your brains thinking about a claim, two pieces of support and being flexible, thinking whatever else it This seemingly oversimplified approach to teaching critical thinking is especially important at the pre K-K level.
“We’re showing those students what thinking looks like,” Heyck-Williams explains.They then had to fill in these blanks on a piece of paper: pieces of support?” A little later, it was “share” time, when the kindergartners read their claims and discussed why they’d made them.There are myriad studies examining components of critical thinking (Stanovich, West, and Toplak 2016).Educators often pay lip service to the idea of teaching “critical thinking.” But, when asked to define , answers are often weak and ambiguous.“The more we try to measure things, the more we narrow the definition of those things we’re trying to measure,” Heyck-Williams explains.“If we narrow it to a very small set of assessments, we worry we might dumb down the critical thinking work, particularly if assessments are used for accountability purposes and not for learning and growth.”Aside from being demonstrated in classrooms and project showcases, critical thinking skills also play a role in the school’s student-led conferences, conducted with teachers and parents at the end of each semester.“Use your KWI.”Working at individual PCs, they were given six minutes to fill in the K, W and I columns in a Word doc. One girl, noting they’d not yet learned how to multiply or divide fractions, said, “We can convert fractions to decimals.” Another student shouted, “Multiplication is repeated addition.”Remembering those mathematical rules while working through the problem, Mancino hinted to her students, “is something that might be important.” She added that they’d have access to all the tools usually used in math lessons, including clipboards, white boards and fraction blocks.“OK,” she said, “I’m putting 15 minutes on the clock for the first part. ”For the next quarter-hour, Mancino and her class aides offered prompts, whenever necessary, as pairs of students collaborated.Among the claims were “seal,” “otter” and “turtle.” Per the “Q” part of the routine, they also came up with viable alternatives, which were discussed with their classmates.Finally, Sanchez revealed the full photo and answer: a seal.