Critical Thinking

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This blog entry is intended to get teachers to reflect on the importance of developing Critical Thinking Skills on our students. Is it all about delivering content or is it possible to get our students to think outside the box? How much cross training do we offer in our lessons? How far can we really push, challenge or take our learners?
We would like you to look at the following sentence and answer the questions that will appear on the screen.
1. Who cloppered along the gak?
2. What did the snols do?
3. What kind of snols were they?
4. Where did they clopper?
Do you understand what the sentence means? Of course not. It is nonsense. Can you answer the questions? Yes. It is possible for a learner to answer the questions related to a topic without thinking much.Taking this into consideration, what we want is to develop our students’ ability to analyse, understand and evaluate the information presented. Training students to attend to their own thinking process and teaching them how to avoid thinking errors is crucial. In other words, we should include teaching critical thinking skills in our language classes because it serves a very important purpose- to prepare our students for a world that is different from the one in the classroom. This is an important consideration at a time when our world is becoming smaller, yet increasingly competitive and , to a certain extent, hostile. Otherwise we would be only enabling students to deal with the target language in a thoughtless, mechanical way. So the question is: what kind of learner we want our students to be? Before continuing with the topic, let’s take a look at some quotes on critical thinking.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)
Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. (Voltaire)

Critical thinking is a combination of skills:
· Reasoning
Relying on evidence
· Analysing
· Considering a variety of viewpoints
· Interpreting facts
· Recognising relationships
In simple English, it is a varied interpretation of facts.
A critical thinker is someone who explores and considers as many possibilities as they can. Their thinking is not bound by rules, and they try their best not to use emotions to justify their ideas. A critical thinker knows that they often have to follow rules, but is able to think outside them…because many commonly accepted things and ideas might, in fact, be wrong.
Learning to think critically means:
  • Understanding that our way is not the only way. There is a whole world of people who think and understand things differently;
  • Being sceptical and suspicious, active, not passive;
  • Developing a positive self-concept and attitude towards learning;
  • Looking at a topic more closely- discovering and exploring;
  • Getting engaged in discussion with others, negotiating and cooperating;
  • Bringing together ideas and making connections;
  • Testing out different alternatives and trying multiple perspectives;
  • Developing independence and problem-solving skills;
  • Respecting and understanding cultural diversity;
  • Looking for solutions that will work today and that will hopefully make tomorrow’s challenges easier.

Critical thinking is vital for TBL because when working on reading and writing skills, teachers can better train learners to engage in large-scale tasks that resemble real-world tasks such as “writing an opinion essay on a social issue and posting it on the school bulletin board”, “Creating a brochure with tourist attractions of their cities”, or “A photo essay of a community person who has impacted the community positively”.
Below you will find a task-cycle for reading and writing
Critical Thinking in a Reading Task Cycle
Literature is in fact not the name of a simple, straightforward phenomenon, but an ‘umbrella’ term which covers different activities and serves different purposes.
Pre-Task Stage
  • Teacher’s role: Prompter, moderator, consultant.
  • Students’role: They are intriduced to the reading passage by answering questions such as: -By looking at the picture and title, waht do you think the text will be about? -What do you think provoked this situation? -Have you ever been in a similar situation yourself?
  • Depending on the group level, it might be necessary to pre-teach some key vocabulary.
Task Stage
  • Teacher’s role: Monitor
  • Students’role: They are engaged in different activities such as: -First reading, students read for gist so as to check if the text presents ideas similar to the ones they discussed. -Students answer questions by means of inference, justifying their answers with evidence in the text. -Students prepare two questions for their peers based on their understanding of the text. (pair work).
Post Task
  • Teacher’s role: Facilitator, monitor, consultant
  • Students’ role:
a. Students are asked to hypothesize with questions such as: -What would you have done in a similar situation? Why? -What would have happened if …?
b. Students are asked to evaluate the writer’s ideas: -Do you agree with the ideas expressed by the author? -What is the writer’s intention? -What question would you ask the writer?
c. Students are asked questions such as -What is another possible title for the text? -What would be another possible ending for the story? -Could you add another character or paragraph for the text?
Critical Thinking in a Writing Task Cycle
It reflects a student’s autonomy of thoughts from other writers.
Pre-Task Stage
  • Teacher’s role: Prompter, moderator, consultant.
  • Students’role: Students are introduced to the topic of a collaborative writing and are asked to brainstorm in groups using free writing, mind mapping, and listing for example. Students arealso given questions to guide them during their planning: – Who is the target audience? -Should the language be formal or informal -What paragraph organization are they to use? -What information will be included in each paragraph? -How many words and how much time alloted do they have?
  • Teacher’s role: Monitor
  • Students’role: Writers
Post Task
  • Teacher’s role: Facilitator, monitor, consultant
  • Students’ role: Students are given questions to reflect on content (coherence and cohesion), mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, capitalization, etc),layout (neatness). Groups are asked to exchange their writings and provide feedback to each other.
Guided in this way, we think, our students will try to find their own answers to the questions they face every day in the classroom. Answers which they care about. Care encourages critical thinking which creates a meaningful learning process students will remember long after they leave a classroom.
  • Teaching how to think rather what to think;
  • Making learners aware that they are important as individuals and their ideas and decisions are of great value
  • Frequently asking and inviting students to ask WHY? in a non-threatening way; Continuously emphasising existence of alternative points of view and tolerating ambiguity;
  • Giving students time to think about questions and situations;
  • Providing students with clues to develop skills instead of giving them ready answers;
  • Encouraging working with clues to make intelligent guesses;
  • Teaching beyond the coursebook and beyond the test if necessary.
All things considered,the role reading plays in classroom is decisive as it is closely related to writing as…
  • Literary texts provide authentic material and give voice to complexities, ambiguities and small but important aspects which provide natural opportunities for discussion and for resolution of different interpretations;
  • Literary texts generate many questions about what means what and how things come to mean what they mean;
  • Although literary texts are treated in the language lesson in ways which may not be radically different from the ways in which any other kind of text is treated, they activate better student response;
  • The orientation is away from teacher-centredness towards language-based, student-centred activities which aim to involve students with the text, to develop their perceptions of it and to help them explore and express those perceptions;
  • Literary texts encourage greater self-sufficiency among students and correspondingly less reliance on the teacher as a source of knowledge;
  • Literary texts help students understand other people, and in the process themselves also. Effective understanding of other people can only be based on understanding and appreciation of oneself and of one’s own culture.
Presented by:
Assayag D’brot, Denisse
Bermudez Soto, Diana
Montejo Salas, Mercedes
Navarro Gutierrez, Luis Enrique
Arnt, Valerie, Harvey, Paul and Nuttall, John.Alive to Language.(CUP)2000
Byrne, Donn. Teaching Writing Skills.Addison Wesley Longman Limited.1997
Ellis Rod, Task-based Language Learning and Teaching (OUP 2003)
Bradley Horn, The future Is Now: Preparing a New Generatio of CBI Teachers
Buffington, Melanie. “Contemporary Approaches to Critical Thinking and the World
Wide Web.” Art Education Jan. 2007

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