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Lesson Plan: Critical Thinking for AP High School/College Levels

Critical Thinking

Objectives: Students should be able to

-define critical thinking;

-become aware of their thinking process (how they think); and

-articulate what their thinking process is for/during a problem-solving activity.

Time Frame: One class session (Day one of the semester or quarter)–of three hours.

Preliminary Discussion:

Prompt–What does critical thinking mean to you?

Students would write for ten to twenty minutes, then share their responses.

What often comes up is the response that the adjective “critical” has negative connotations/implications. The instructor can bring in the dictionary definitions of the word, emphasizing that discernment will involve negative, positive, and even neutral elements, approaches, and results.

Another prompt will help launch students’ thinking about thinking, and about what critical thinking will be good for in school and in life:

How can we use critical thinking as a study aid? Or, how can thinking critically benefit us?





The instructor will then introduce the first activity, mentioning how, to think, we might first understand (or get to know) our thinking process(es):

Here the instructor will have students get into pairs (or manageable groups of no more than four). Once they are settled, hand out cards from the game MindTrap™ (or homemade handout cards with logic problems).*

*The Mind Trap Game cards are each two-sided: on one side is the “question”-a riddle, problem, or anecdote to be figured out-and on the other side is the “answer”-or solution.

I usually carry the box around, urging each group to grab a handful. I also stress that it is very important the cards stay face up, so only the question side is showing.

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One student will read one card (the problem side) aloud.

One student will record everything every person in the group says and does as soon as the card is read. The note-taker is observing every step taken during the process.

The instructor also impresses the importance of trying to abstain from turning the card over for as long as possible (i.e., not giving up too soon), but that if anyone has the urge to do so, that the note-taker also record this (with no shame, just objective observation).

Once the card gets turned over, the note-taker also records the actions, responses.

Then, the group will consider the game card(s), the notes taken, and the following questions, which the instructor has on the board/overhead:

What steps did you take to answer?

What did you need to know to answer?

What occluded (blocked) your thinking?

Then the class will come back as one group and share some of their cards and discussions of what we need to know to answer the question/solve the problem, what steps were taken, and what got in the way.

For example,

THE CARD: “During a world fair a group of scientists were exhibiting their advances in genetic engineering. There were cross-breeds of various bulls, cows, and other domestic farm animals. Featured in the exhibit were several oversized prize turkeys. One afternoon during the show, a woman walked up to the exhibit, shot the turkeys, and ran out of the building. Although she was known to a number of people, nobody made any attempt to stop her. Why?

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THE ACTIONS/COMMENTS/STEPS: One person asked for the card to be re-read; another made a joke; another tried to think of the shooters “motivations”; another wanted to give up quickly and try another card.

THE FLIP-SIDE of the CARD: The woman shot the turkeys with a camera. She was a journalist with a deadline.

WHAT OCCLUDED THE THINKING PROCESS: Impatience, lack of interest, need for more information about all people, assumptions (which is great for seguing into the next part of the Critical Thinking course-on how taking words/meanings for granted gets in the way of inferences, etc.), not considering all angles/forms/ambiguities/definitions of loaded [no pun intended] words like “shot”.

The instructor can then summarize the session/experience by discussing how when we approach our studies (math problem solving, paragraph writing, biology notes for exam, for example) or a situation out in the world, we need to…





SO…if and when things get in the way of our thinking process, we can take control over those things by discerning, by thinking critically…and by managing our own thinking process as needed….