Friday, May 25 , 2018, 6:01 am | Fair 50º


Bill Cirone: Parents Can Help Children Think Critically

Playing reasoning and problem-solving games at home promotes the development of skills necessary to make responsible decisions.

We live in a global, service-oriented, information age. This means that students will need to solve problems, think creatively and continue to learn if they are to become productive citizens and contributing members of society.Schools can’t possibly convey all of the information that exists on any given subject. Educated citizens need to continue to learn as they grow. More than ever, the ability to think critically and solve problems are skills that form the basis of a meaningful education. The concept of critical thinking is based on a foundation of understanding cause and effect. Parents can help children understand these notions by making a game of it, by using brainteasers or by encouraging them to ask questions that go beyond the facts.Games can be fun and educational for all involved. Tell your children the cause of a situation and ask them to figure out what will happen. Then switch the scenario: Tell the effect and ask the children to figure out the cause. With a little practice, reasoning and problem-solving skills will grow.Children who ask questions that start with “why,what if and what else may drive their parents crazy, but these questions are a good indication of the development of higher-order thinking skills. Parents also can ask “Why?” “What else?” and “What if?” Ask about books and what they mean. Use a brainstorming session to solve family issues.

Opportunities to help in this area abound at every turn. Try asking: “Was Chicken Little a reliable source of information?” “What might the wolf have done if Red Riding Hood’s grandmother had not been ill?” Discussions could include the concepts of jumping to conclusions and finding out what causes something to happen.The point is to have students link the content of stories with thinking skills. It has been demonstrated that successful students who learn something new can relate it to their existing store of knowledge in a way that becomes immediately useful and meaningful.

As journalist Robert Wieder wrote: “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative learner looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.”The ultimate goal is to nurture thinking skills that will enable young people to apply the factual knowledge they learn. By encouraging them to make comparisons and sound generalizations, parents and teachers help students formulate opinions and make responsible decisions.

Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County superintendent of schools.

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