When our students are taught to embrace the hallmarks associated with critical thinking, educators can be assured that students are on the road to a bright future

4 ideas to infuse critical thinking in ELA and social studies


When our students are taught to embrace the hallmarks associated with critical thinking, educators can be assured that students are on the road to a bright future

ELA and social studies strategies

This all seems straightforward when it comes to math and science, but what about ELA and social studies?

Here are just a few ideas to infuse critical thinking in ELA and social studies instruction:

  • Personification: Have students write letters from one inanimate object to another. For example, primary grade students may write a letter from the day of the week Monday to the day of the week Friday. Older students may write a letter from the character in a novel to another character. Or have a historical or literary figure write a critique of a contemporary song, show, or movie. What would Napoleon Bonaparte think of the latest Spiderman movie? How might Beethoven review the latest song from Jay Z? Personification requires students to re-contextualize what they know about the subject(s) and apply their thinking in a novel way.
  • Concept Map (Revisited): Create a concept web after a read-aloud or guided reading session, focusing on the reading and comprehension strategies. Then have students investigate related nonfiction content and have them revisit their concept web, adding expository information in a different color.
  • Shallow and Deep: A Venn diagram works well when we want students to compare and contrast. However, if you want them to think more deeply, ask them to find shallow (obvious) similarities/differences and then deeper (not so obvious) ones. Take advantage of this graphic organizer: Shallow and Deep. Use it as is or make a copy and customize it to your liking!
  • RAFT: Use the RAFT strategy to differentiate instruction and to promote creative thinking. Assign (or have students choose) a Role, an Audience, the Format, and the Topic. For example, you may have students present a Topic that is related to their reading, and students might choose to play the Role of a newscaster, present in the Format of a cartoon, and pretend their Audience are parents. To aid student choice, here’s a list of possibilities for each part of the acronym.

Building lifelong learners

There’s so much more to this topic than we have space to discuss. Consider watching VAI’s latest webinar where we cover these ideas in more detail or use this document to discover more free strategies for your classroom. Using these resources, we can help our students stay genuinely inquisitive, open to new ideas, and willing to revise their views when new data is introduced. These are the hallmarks of a critical thinker, and when our students embrace these qualities, we can be confident that they are on the road to a bright future.

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