How to Explore Critical Thinking With Picture Books

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Critical thinking. It sounds way to complicated for kids, right? But actually this third post in The Story Time Series is really very simple. There is so much picture books can teach kids about critical thinking, and the best part is they won’t even realise they are learning.

So, here we go:

  1. On a page with characters reacting to something (scary or nice or sad), ask the kids to look at the characters' faces and ask them what they think the characters are feeling/thinking based on their expressions. This helps kids to recognise emotions and understand what people are feeling based on their expressions.
  2. Read a page, but before you turn to the next one, ask the kids what they think is going to happen next based on what has already happened. They will usually say they don’t know and demand that the page gets turned, but it will hopefully get them to start thinking about how they can use information they already have to predict things that will happen in the future.
  3. If a character has just dealt with a challenging situation (had to make a hard decision, had to make a sacrifice) ask the kids what they would do in the same situation. Again, they will likely demand you just keep reading, but ask them enough times (over a period of time) and there will come a time when they stop and think about it.
  4. If a character has made a decision about something (good or bad), ask the kids if they think it was the right decision and why? Same caveats as above, but you have to start somewhere, right?

As I’ve mentioned in the ideas above, kids aren’t always going to engage with what you are asking them, but over time they will start to think about the questions you're asking and then likely answer them before you even ask.

And I’m not suggesting you stop after every page and demand to know the answers to these questions (same goes for any of the other ideas in The Story Time Series). One story time you might ask one question (just once), and the next story time you might ask another.

Be gentle and patient and remember the kids don’t have to answer. Simply by asking the questions you are indicating to them there is something there to think about (if they want to!)

Next week, I’ll look at How to Teach Story Telling With Picture Books. You might be thinking it’s obvious—just read them a story! But there is so much more you can do with this one, I promise.