Show your teen how to go against the flow—rather than with it. Help her to develop her critical thinking skills with a group of friends using open-ended activities that teach her to question—and question again—then think for herself, without being swayed by peers, society or media.
Ask for a difficult explanation
Arrange for your group of teens to flex their critical thinking skills with a unique writing activity. You can divide a large group of teens into smaller groups of three or four and present each group with a scenario such as, "Explain an object (car, television or cellphone) to someone who has never seen one or even heard of it before." Give the groups a predetermined amount of time to write their explanations. When time is up, have each group read their descriptions aloud to see if the other group(s) can guess what object they are describing. You can also use this activity to have each team describe a place, such as a vacation destination, or a person, such as a famous inventor or film star.
Create a society
Have your teen group work together in a political or law-making scenario to sharpen their critical thinking skills. Given their knowledge of today’s society and cultures throughout history, have the group brainstorm their idea of a perfect society. They must come up with laws that will govern this society, and determine how daily life would function. For example, does every adult work for the same amount of pay? Is money eliminated altogether? How would the group propose to motivate this society to be productive without monetary payment? Encourage the group to write down all of their ideas, as well as problems and solutions for each one. The purpose of the project is not necessarily to succeed in creating the perfect society, but rather to realize the positives and negatives associated with each of their propositions.
Solve a problem
Encourage your teen group to think critically about issues that might influence them, then ask them to use their problem-solving skills to develop a variety of potential solutions. Present a small group with a single problem or divide a larger group into smaller teams of three to four, then provide the same problem—or a different one—to each group. Present issues, such as how to minimize or eliminate gender inequality, how to make society healthier or how to eliminate peer pressure in schools. Then have the groups write down what they believe are negative influential factors for each problem as well as how to counteract those factors. At the end of the activity, discuss the topics together as one large group.
Start an ethical debate
Get your teen and her friends thinking, communicating and debating about teen-friendly ethical issues. Present the group with a single situation if you’re short on time and have them work through the issue, from identifying it, to possible solutions and what they would do in real-life. For example: Natalia finds a silver bracelet in the school hallway. Nobody sees her find it and the bracelet hasn’t been reported missing. Is it OK for her to keep it? Another example: Isabella works at a bookstore and her best friend is applying for a job there. Her friend asks for advice about interview preparation. Isabella has a copy of the actual interview questions. Should she give her friend a copy? Have your group talk about the scenario and ethical dilemma, possible solutions and how they will know if they made the right decision. Remind them that sometimes there isn't a clear-cut right or wrong. And that, of course, is a lesson worth teaching, too.
- Critical Thinking: An Introduction; Alec Fisher
- The Thinking Toolbox; Nathaniel Bluedorn, et al.
- Critical and Creative Thinking for Teenagers; Carol Carter, et al.
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