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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills in Children - Techniques to Train Your Children for Critical Thinking

By Andrew Loh

Critical thinking is an amalgamation of several other thinking skills. Benjamin Bloom was the pioneer to work on an amazing theory that also provided a series of techniques to enhance cognitive skills in children. According to Bloom, critical taxonomy lays down a series of competences that act as foundation for critical thinking. These competences are described as follows:

Knowledge: This relates to components like dates, events, information, statistics and math formulae.

Comprehension: This relates to deciphering meaning, analyzing sequence and events, interpret and evaluate information, compare and contrast ideas, make and deduce inferences, predict or guess ideas.

Application: Using and deploying information and concepts to solve problems in hand.

Analysis: This relates to creating and recognizing patterns, individual components, parts and chunks of information.

Synthesis: This correlates with using information and details to create a fresh and new system and to generalize and draw conclusions.

Evaluation: This relates to assess and evaluate concepts and options for the purpose of subjectivity and judgment.

Now, let us discuss the implications of these six competences to find out the manner in which you can train your children for better critical thinking skills. Please remember that training your children involves asking a series of questions that eventually lead to fine-tuning of critical thinking skills.

Three competences namely, knowledge, comprehension and application belong to concrete thinking skills while the other three competences like analysis, synthesis and evaluation demand better abstraction skills. In sum, all the six competences combine to form critical thinking skills.

Knowledge Competence

It involves recalling or reciting information learned or absorbed to bring out factual or real-life answers. Facts are based on the truth and critical thinking involves competent and right answers.

How to ask right questions: Always ask the right questions that lead to meaningful answers. Use quantifying and qualifying questions that lead to correct answers. Questions embedded with these words and phrases would make the child to recall and recognize available facts and statistics.

Sample questions:

  • How many berries are in a dozen?

  • When did you join the school and in which year?

  • Which formula do you use to calculate the area of a triangle?

Comprehension Competence

This competence relates to understanding, comprehending, and grasping of real meaning behind available information and details.

How to ask right questions: Always use differentiators when you ask questions to your children. Use keywords like explain, quantify, estimate, guess, predict, identify, differentiate and segregate. When you use these strategic phrases, you will nudge your children to interpret, extrapolate, diversify and translate available information.

Sample questions:

  • How a seed becomes a plant?

  • What happened when Bush was the president in 2000?

  • How an egg becomes a chick?

Application Competence

This competence involves using previously learned information or knowledge to tackle new or strange scenarios.

How to ask right questions: You want to use questions that contain keywords like apply, demonstrate, highlight, apply, solve, examine, segregate, classify, try, experiment and deploy to apply available knowledge to scenarios that are strange and unfamiliar.

Sample questions:

  • Is there any similarity between an egg and earth globe? If so, what is common to them?

  • Would a plant seed grow into a dog?

  • Can ice become water? If so, why?

Analysis Competence

This competence relates to segregating or breaking down information into different chunks or parts. It also relates to inspecting available information and asses its structure and organization.

How to ask right questions: You may want to use different keywords in your questions. These could be find out differences, analyze, explain, describe, compare, separate and arrange and they will help your children break and segregate available information into understandable chunks.

Sample questions:

  • Do you know the difference between egg laid by a bird and fish?

  • Could you compare and draw out some differences between a rose vein and ordinary vein?

Synthesis Competence

This involves applying already learned knowledge and skills to join them into a specific pattern which did not exist before.

How to ask right questions: This competence involves several keywords embedded questions like combine, gel, join, rearrange, create, synthesize, design and invent. Once you ask such questions, your children will be able to combine different elements into one comprehensible chunk.

Sample questions:

  • What happens when a cow lays an egg? Do you know any mammal that lays an egg?

  • What happens when a boat travels on the road? Does a car travel on water?

  • Does a rose plant give you vegetable? What happens when a vegetable plant flowers?

Evaluation Competence

This competence relates to your children’s ability to judge or infer according to a set of criteria. However, the judgments deduced may be right or wrong in its meaning.

How to ask right questions: You can use keywords like compare, summarize, select, choose, decide, measure, explain, conclude and assess to urge your children to make some judgments based on a set of specific criteria.

Sample questions

  • What do flowering bearing rose plants have in common?

  • What would have happened if the Sun were not to exist?

  • What would have happened if your country were not getting its independence?

Critical thinking is a specific phenomenon that helps children lead a life full of contentment and productivity. Your children should use critical thinking strategies in their daily life without getting any help from their parents and teachers. Reasoning at an optimum level is perhaps the most important life skills that your children should develop in their life.

Featured Resource

Building Thinking Skills- Critical Thinking skills for reading, writing, math, science (Level 1(Grades 2-3)
By Sandra Parks and Howard Black

Building Thinking SkillsŪ provides highly effective verbal and nonverbal reasoning activities to improve students. vocabulary, reading, writing, math, logic, and figural-spatial skills, as well as their visual and auditory processing. This exceptional series provides a solid foundation for academic excellence and success on any assessment test.

Sandra Parks received an M.A. in Education, specializing in Curriculum Development, for the University of South Florida and pursued doctoral studies at Indiana State University. She also received a certificate of advanced study from Harvard University. She has conducted National Curriculum Studies Institute workshops annually for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and provides staff development to schools across the country.


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