Critical Thinking........



"the unexamined life is not worth living"

Modern day critical thinking guru's
Art Costa, Edward DeBono, and Benjamin Bloom

An overview/introduction to Creativity and Critical Thinking:

A recent NPR program "Mid-Day" discussing the loss of creativity in the classroom:

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking - about any subject, content, or problem - in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking
by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and imposing intellectual standards upon them.

Lets start with.....Bloom's Taxonomy....and Revised Bloom's to give us a learning process.

  • Before you can understand a concept or fact you must remember it,
  • To apply a concept you must understand it first,
  • To evaluate a process you must have analyzed it!

Bloom's Original taxonomy

Bloom's revised taxonomy





Each layer builds on the previous The creative process naturally incorporates these elements.
However, we don't always need to start at LOTS (lower order thinking skills) and then, step by step, move towards HOTS (higher order thinking skills) like creativity. By providing a truly scaffolded task, we remember and understand DURING the process of learning. By creating opportunities for our kids to analyze, evaluate or create they will build HOTS and LOTS concurrently!


Questions and Discussions:

Questioning skills in the classroom are a great place to start. Here is a resource for teachers trying to increase student critical thinking and creativity through questioning. Share the resources below within a PLC and have a dialog....try to develop a few questions using the Question Matrix based on your lesson plans in the upcoming week...challenge yourself to pick a question stem or two, and use them twice a week for a month...
Try to note when you use these questions...and reflect on the outcomes with your PLC.

Discussions are also a great place for teachers to start incorporating critical thinking and RIGOR in the classroom. You can begin by trying a Socratic Circle...or a Fishbowl dialog. Either of these strategies push students to THINK and the person doing the talking is the person doing the THINKING.
To put a structured dialog like this into place, you must first EXPLICITLY teach behavior expectations to students, so that an accountable, purposeful dialog can be achieved by all students.
Here is a graphic with some ideas for purposeful dialog:

You can download this as a PDF and share it with your students as you teach discussion expectations.

Here is an introduction to a Socratic Circle:

And here is a video that explains the process. Try it!!

A critical thinker:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to
    interpret it effectivelycomes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks open mindedly within alternative systems of thought,
    recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism. (Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008).

My FAVORITE illustration of the Blooms Levels of thinking. This is based on the levels PRIOR to revision, but the concepts are the same!


An excellent visual of Blooms in the Web 2.0 World!



An excellent place to start is "Socratic Circles" or "Socratic Seminars". This is a framework for student driven dialog/discussion about a text.

Take a quick peak at a group of middle school students practicing a Socratic Circle withing the context of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.

An introduction to critical thinking in the classroom

Activities to get your students THINKING CRITICALLY!

Socratic Circles/Seminar
ThinkTrix (by Dr. Frank Lyman)
ThinkTrix is a "thinking matrix" for developing a students' thinking about ANY SUBJECT!
The matrix has 7 basic ways of thinking (these "ways of thinking" are clearly related to Blooms Taxonomy) on the verticle axis, on the horizontal axis are focus areas that YOU define as focus areas. Each cell on the grid then prompts a specific type of thinking. TEACHERS can use a ThinkTrix to develop high quality/critical/creative questions for the classroom and for tests. STUDENTS can use the ThinkTrix to create a list of questions they have about a given topic.
Here is an example:

Focus Area





Idea to Example

Example to Idea


Links and articles about Critical Thinking and Bloom's Taxonomy:
An article focused on integrating CT skills at school from "The Critical Thinking Community"
Intellectual Foundations: The Key Missing Piece in School Restructuring
A conceptual look at Blooms through Web 2.0 Tools
Web 2.0 and Blooms
ASCD's "Asking Good Questions"
A look into Chapter 5 of Literacy Strategies for Grades 4–12
by Karen Tankersley Higher Order Thinking
An article the Dallas Daily News on Eric Jensen's brain based research: Katherine Brodaski of Richardson: Critical thinking
Creating a Blueprint for the Constructivist Classroom
Interesting Ideas about using Bloom's Taxonomy in the Classroom:Kinetic connections: Bloom's taxonomy in action