Increasing Rigour with Critical Thinking Skills

 

In a world where nearly every question one might ask can be answered with, “Hey Siri”, it’s more important than ever that we teach students how to think critically.  This is why so much of Learning Extension services at THS focus on developing this skill in various capacities - be it planning an independent project in Full STEAM Ahead, outlining a consistent story plotline in the Literacy Extension and Acceleration Project, or devising an optimal strategy for earning the highest score for one of the many contests and competitions in which our students participate.  During Learning Extension, we focus on developing our students’ abilities to become problem solvers.

 

Full STEAM Ahead (FSA) is a Mathematics program for Grades 1 to 8 THS students receiving extension in the subject.  It empowers students to take learning into their own hands by becoming responsible, independent learners. From STEAM-o-nomics, where students trade their Math Notes and Calculations for “Notebucks” which they are then able to trade in a “marketplace” for approved Math games, to student-led projects, where students choose a framework for thinking (scientific method or engineering design process) and determine their own constraints (time and resources), students will have to flex their critical thinking muscles so that they can get the best “Bang for their NoteBuck”.  Students also spend time learning to reflect, evaluate and identify their own strengths and weaknesses so they can work to improve their own learning over time.

 

In the Literacy Extension and Acceleration Project (LEAP), students spend six to eight weeks working on various independent writing projects under the supervision of a mentor.  Through this program, students are able to develop their creative and logical reasoning skills during the process of what we call “World Building”. In this early stage of the writing cycle, our students develop their characters, settings, plots, and major events. Once stories are complete, they are published on the LEAP blog to share with the world.

 

Learning Extension also coordinates Contests and Competitions for our students which is an exciting and growing branch of our services. Each year, over 100 students from THS participate in various Mathematics competitions including the Caribou contests and the American Mathematics Competition.  THS has been privileged to have a significant number of students who consistently rank among the top participants in the world which has been very motivating for THS students, encouraging more to join each year.  This year, we’re also surveying interest for a number of literacy contests and competitions so students can test the full breadth of their skills.

 

I began this blog about the use of technology to get answers. With information readily available at the fingertips of any child with a device, it’s more important than ever to encourage our students to ask questions, to analyze and research information and develop the necessary skills to sort fact from fiction. These are skills THS students are taught and being guided toward developing which you can do so too at home. Next time you read a book or watch a program with your child, enhance their comprehension skills by helping them distinguish what they understand from what they do not, extend their thinking with prompts and encourage them to ask questions.  Let’s work together to grow critical thinkers.

 

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