The Question Game: A Playful Way To Teach Critical Thinking

question-game-critical-thinking

The Question Game

by Sophie Wrobelgeist.avesophos.de

The Question Game: A Playful Way To Teach Critical Thinking

Big idea: Teaching kids to ask smart questions on their own

A four-year-old asks on average about 400 questions per day, and an adult hardly asks any. Our school system is structured around rewards for regurgitating the right answer, and not asking smart questions – in fact, it discourages asking questions. With the result that as we grow older, we stop asking questions. Yet asking good questions is essential to find and develop solutions, and an important skill in innovation, strategy, and leadership. So why do we stop asking questions – and more importantly, why don’t we train each other, and our future leaders, to ask the right questions starting from early on?

In A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Warren Berger suggests that there are three main questions which help in problem solving: Why questions,What If questions, and How questions.

Regardless of the question, the question needs to be phrased openly and positively in order to achieve positive results – a closed or negative question only raises bad feelings against each other.

  • Why questions help to find the root of a problem
  • What If questions open up the floor for creative solutions
  • How questions focus on developing practical solutions

So, perhaps, this lesson can be adapted to help trigger young children to start solve problems early too and stop accepting whatever the kindergarten teacher says to be fact? And perhaps, continue to keep up these inquiring and probing abilities later on in life?

usarmcorpofengineers-fiLearning Goal: A Pattern Of Critical Thinking

The Question Game focuses on teaching children a kind of thinking which is particularly useful in creative problem-solving–a focused approach to get from a problem to the most effective solution. It is most effective when combined with regular repetition, which solidifies the thought pattern, and with groups, which encourages contributory exploration of alternative responses and creativity.

Thinking strategy is just one of many qualities that are necessary for imparting charisma and leadership skills to the next generation. Many of us would claim that we don’t have the ‚natural gift’ that charismatic leaders like Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Ghandi had. However, charisma and leadership are qualities that, to a large extent, can be cultivated and trained. With soft skills becoming more important in today’s job market, cultivating these skills early on can provide children with an additional edge in becoming effective, active citizens in our society. These skills can be broadly grouped into four logical skills and four emotional skills:

  • Logical skills: risk-taking, thinking strategy, creativity, and negotiation.
  • Emotional skills: persuasion, emotional connection, body language, and dealing with vulnerability.

Of these eight skills, the Question Game focuses on thinking strategy and creativity, and aims to solidify the critical thinking thought pattern from an early age onwards.

Introducing The Question Game

Preparation: print out the figure in the illustration, cut it out and glue the tabs together to form a cube.

  1. One simple idea is to pick up your favorite illustrated fairy tale book–the kind of book you’d read a two-year-old for bedtime stories. (This also works with most fictional works; the natural ‘break point‘ for questions is at the end of a plot development or paragraph for older audiences.)
  2. On each page, roll the cube and answer the question together. I’ll bet you’d be surprised by what turns Little Red Riding Hood can take. And more importantly after a while you and your child will both start asking these questions reflexively.

Evaluating Learning Progress

My personal experience introducing the game to my two children (aged Pre-K) is a gradual acceptance of the game and associated learning goals:

  1. Initial excitement: Rolling the cube puts the child in control and made a fun addition to reading their picture books; they couldn’t wait for their turn to roll the cube.
  2. Distress: The questions are hard, especially when they aren’t used to this sort of thinking pattern and are accustomed to the ’teacher knows everything’ thinking pattern. Here, my children often asked if we could read ‚without the cube‘, or ‚I don’t want to roll, but ___ can roll and answer the question.’
  3. Acceptance: As they start to recognize that there isn’t a single correct answer, and they begin to understand what each question is trying to achieve, they begin to enjoy the game and insist that we read ‘with the cube‘.
  4. Application: During more abstract conversations, discussions, or observing how the children go about solving day-to-day problems during play. Example: a particular lego construction doesn’t quite work, even though it was‚ built according to instructions‘–and the child goes about investigating what is wrong and fixing it himself. Another example: When they ask me questions and I give them answers that obviously don’t make sense, I get more pointed questions than just ‘why?‘ as a response.

http://www.teachthought.com/learning/question-game-playful-way-teach-critical-thinking/

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Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking

 
BY MARIKO NOBORI

Ideally, teaching kids how to think critically becomes an integral part of your approach, no matter what subject you teach. But if you’re just getting started, here are some concrete ways you can begin leveraging your students’ critical-thinking skills in the classroom and beyond.

1. Questions, questions, questions.

Questioning is at the heart of critical thinking, so you want to create an environment where intellectual curiosity is fostered and questions are encouraged. For Jared Kushida, who teaches a global politics class called War and Peace at KIPP King Collegiate, «lecturing» means integrating a flow of questions throughout a lesson. «I rarely go on for more than 30 seconds without asking a question, and I rarely stop at that one question,» he explains.

In the beginning stages, you may be doing most of the asking to show your students the types of questionsthat will lead to higher-level thinking and understanding. You can also use «wrong» answers as opportunities to explore your students’ thinking. Then ask more questions to lead them in a different direction. As students become more comfortable and skilled, their questions will drive the class discussions.

2. Start with a prompt and help them unpack it.

Pose a provocative question to build an argument around and help your students break it down. Identify any ambiguous or subjective terms and have students clarify and define them. For example, Katie Kirkpatrick, who teaches ninth-grade Speech & Composition at KIPP King Collegiate, poses this question in the first unit of her class: «Is a life in poverty the responsibility of the individual or a result of outside factors?» She guides her class to identify «responsibility of the individual» and «result of outside factors» as what she calls «shady terms» that need definition. Once the terms are clearly defined, students are better able to seek and find evidence that is relevant to their argument.

3. Provide tools for entering the conversation.

At the beginning of the year, Kirkpatrick gives her students a list of sentence starters and connectors such as «I agree/disagree because,» «I can connect to your statement because,» and «Can you clarify what you mean by.» Providing them with these words gives them ways to enter the conversation and will guide their thought process in analyzing the argument.

4. Model your expectations.

«It all comes back to modeling,» says Kellan McNulty, who teaches AP world history and AP U.S. history at KIPP King Collegiate. «If you have a behavioral expectation, the best way to teach that is to model.» In fact, he learned how to facilitate effective Socratic discussions by observing his colleague. Similarly, he demonstrates for his students ways to enter a conversation, the difference between an analytical point and a summary, and appropriate ways to disagree with one another. Kirkpatrick uses examples, both good and bad, of people presenting arguments and having Socratic discussions from sites such as YouTube. Some sample links include:

5. Encourage constructive controversy.

Lively discussions usually involve some degree of differing perspectives. McNulty even uses a «devil’s advocate» card that he secretly gives to a student before each discussion, charging him or her with the role of bringing up opposing views. You can give students controversial topics and let them hash it out, but make sure to first demonstrate for them respectful ways of disagreeing and establish clear rules for voicing different perspectives. These rules include the language to use when disagreeing and that the disagreement must be objective, such as finding a flaw in the evidence or the reasoning, not a subjective disagreement based on personal opinions.

6. Choose content students will invest in.

It’s important to choose topics that are relevant and significant to students to get them talking and engaged. Kirkpatrick wanted social justice to be the overarching theme for her class. The topic struck a chord with the students and motivated them to build the communication skills they needed to effectively voice their views. Kushida spends much of his prep time finding rich sources (including texts, photos, art, even a single word) about pressing, relevant content to help fuel the discussions. He follows up with a deep arsenal of questions that range from factual to analytical to connective to philosophical.

7. Set up Socratic discussions.

Socratic discussion is the method of inquiry in which participants ask one another questions that test logic with the goal of gaining greater understanding or clarity. At King, teachers regularly set up formal Socratic discussions to give students the opportunity to challenge one another intellectually. The teachers serve primarily as observers, offering prompts only when there is a lull in the conversation, but otherwise leaving it to the students to keep the discussion moving. They strive to engage students in Socratic dialogue informally as well. Kushida explains that he works Socratic questioning in every single day by «never being satisfied with a student answer that does not result in another question and always pushing and counterquestioning and teaching them to do the same.»

8. Assess their reasoning through different methods.

To know whether your students are learning to think critically, you need a window into their thought processes. So challenge them to communicate back to you. Essays, Socratic discussions, and speeches give students the chance to demonstrate their skill and allow you to evaluate their reasoning in a variety of situations. Even written tests can foster critical thinking if they require the student to provide counterarguments to a series of statements using details and evidence from the unit of study. You can also assign your students topics to research and then let them lead the classroom discussion. Doing so willhelp you assess their understanding of the material and their skill at communicating it.

9. Let students evaluate each other.

It can be difficult to assess students while simultaneously facilitating a Socratic discussion. But one way teachers at King give some of the responsibility to the students is by setting up the room in a «fishbowl» configuration, with an inner circle and an outer circle. Students in the inner circle are the active participants while those in the outer are their peer evaluators. Kirkpatrick, McNulty, and others at King use a Socratic seminar rubric that clearly lays out the components of analytical thinking so the students know exactly what to look for. And by evaluating their peers with the same rubric the teacher uses, students gain a better understanding of the criteria for strong critical thinking and discussion.

10. Step back.

It can be hard for a teacher to let go of the reins and let the students do the teaching. «But when you remove yourself from the equation,» McNulty explains, «that really forces the kids to step up.» And when you give students the responsibility to be the thinkers in the class and drive the content, they may take it in unexpected directions that are more relevant to them and are thus more likely to stick.