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Develop critical thinking in your English lessons

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Develop critical thinking in your English lessons

English Stars 9/6/21

“teacher-in-classroom“

In today’s information-rich world, students need to develop a capability to think critically.

To become critical thinkers, students need to learn how ‘to recognise or develop an argument, use evidence in support of that argument, draw reasoned conclusions, and use information to solve problems.’ 1

English lessons are an ideal environment to foster critical thinking as they provide numerous opportunities for students to engage with a variety of texts, explore different points of view, create content and respond to information.

While the possibilities are endless, here are two ways you can intentionally incorporate critical thinking opportunities in your English lessons.

Through comparing texts

Choose a selection of texts that share a similar topic or theme but are written from different perspectives.

Ask students questions that prompt them to make connections between the texts. For example:

  • Topic – What is the subject of the text?
  • Theme – What is the main idea underpinning the text?
  • Purpose – Why has the author written the text?
  • Tone – What is the author’s attitude and mood?
  • Response – What is your response to the text? What are other people’s responses?

Reading or listening to the stories of others – whether from the past, the present or from different social and cultural backgrounds – provides students with an opportunity to compare opinions and perspectives found across texts, and to examine their own response to different authors and themes.

In doing so, students come to understand how social and cultural factors influence a text and how language varies depending on the context.

Through research activities

Now that information is more accessible than ever, students need to be able to assess and question the relevance, accuracy and reliability of any content they find online. You can explicitly teach students how to do this by delivering a lesson that gets them to unpack the credibility of a selection of websites.

Ask students to research a topic and answer questions about the various websites they come across during their research. For example:

  • Has the website been updated recently (in the last six months)?
  • Can you identify the group or individual responsible for creating the site?
  • Do other credible websites link to the site?
  • Does the site provide facts (not opinions)?
  • Does the site contain errors, such as in spelling?
  • Is the site selling a product or service? If so, it is likely to provide information with bias.

By explicitly teaching students to critically analyse information, they will be able to better evaluate content they encounter in the future.

Want more?

The activity ideas in this article are taken from English Stars, and are just some of the ways that critical thinking opportunities are embedded throughout the resource. The specific modules drawn from are:

Make Connections in Texts (6.2.7) which uses three texts that share the theme ‘bullying’. Students explore the three text extracts – My Girragundji (Meme McDonald & Boori Pryor), Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain (Steven Herrick) and The Ugly Duckling (Hans Christian Andersen) – before engaging in a class discussion comparing these texts.

Finding Facts (5.2.11) which helps students develop their skills for finding and filtering information on the internet. In this module, students learn how printed texts and websites are organised, how to find facts online and how to identify credible sources on the internet.

Try out these modules in your classroom by signing up for a free trial of English Stars.

Trial access includes two whole units of the program in each year level, so you can explore other modules while you’re there.

References

  1. © Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) 2010 to present, unless otherwise indicated. This material was downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website (http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au) (Website) (accessed 9 June 2021) and was not modified. The material is licensed under CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0). Version updates are tracked in the ‘Curriculum version history’ section on the ‘About the Australian Curriculum’ page (http://australiancurriculum.edu.au/about-the-australian-curriculum/) of the Australian Curriculum website. ACARA does not endorse any product that uses the Australian Curriculum or make any representations as to the quality of such products. Any product that uses material published on this website should not be taken to be affiliated with ACARA or have the sponsorship or approval of ACARA. It is up to each person to make their own assessment of the product, taking into account matters including, but not limited to, the version number and the degree to which the materials align with the content descriptions and achievement standards (where relevant). Where there is a claim of alignment, it is important to check that the materials align with the content descriptions and achievement standards (endorsed by all education Ministers), not the elaborations (examples provided by ACARA).
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