How to teach critical thinking skills: using flashcards

Categorizing is an important aspect of problem
solving in early-years learning. Flashcards provide the perfect opportunity
to develop this skill. Choose a collection of flashcards from a language
area that the children have seen before and that you want to review, for example, animals. Make sure you have enough flashcards for every
child. So, if you have 16 children, you will need
16 flashcards. If you have a small class, having more than
one per child is a good idea. Decide which two categories you would like
your children to organize the flashcards into. For animals, it may be fast and slow animals,
or mammals and reptiles, or dangerous and safe animals. In class, draw two large circles on the board. Write the two different categories under the
circles. For this example, I'm going to use mammals
and reptiles. Hold up a flashcard and ask the children what
animal it is. They'll say, "It's a lion!" Tell the children that a lion is a mammal
and point to the word on the board. Ask the class, "Why do you think this is
a mammal?" Encourage the whole class to look at the features
of a lion to decide. Things they might say are "Because they
have fur" or "They have babies, not eggs." Some children may even know that the babies
drink milk from their mother. They have warm blood. They can live in cold countries. Place the lion flashcard in the mammal circle. Next, show a flashcard of a crocodile and
ask the children what animal it is. They'll say, "It's a crocodile!" Tell the class that this is a reptile and
point to the word on the board. Encourage the class to look at the crocodile
and decide why it's a reptile. Now, they might say, "They have green or
brown skin." "They have scales and they lay eggs to have
babies." Some children may even know more, like they
are cold blooded and they usually live in hot countries. Place the crocodile flashcard in the reptile
circle. Next, place the flashcards face down in a
pile at the front of the class. Ask the children to come up one at a time
and pick up the top flashcard. They look at it and show it to the class. The children can all say the name of the animal. Then, as a class, decide if this animal is
a reptile or a mammal. Ask questions to look at the skin of the animal
to help them decide. The child at the front of the class then places
it in the correct circle. This critical thinking activity is engaging
and works really well in mixed-ability classes as the children all work together.

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