Critical Thinking Through Stories

critical thinkingBooks play an important role in developing social and academic skills in children beginning at a very young age. Firstly children acquire knowledge by reading and by being read to. They further increase their understanding of story text by asking questions about the stories to which they have been exposed. Not only does questioning develop a child’s understanding, it develops their critical thinking skills, as well. Above all, the key to critical thinking is asking questions. But, the type of question is very important. Asking questions that just focus on remembering or retelling of information will not develop critical thinkers because remembering information is the lowest level of learning. Who, what, where, when, and why questions that require a child to merely memorize text will not facilitate critical thinking.

Therefore, these basic questions need to be modified, so that children develop higher level thinking. In other words, the questions need to teach children to analyze, evaluate, apply, elaborate, explain, associate, define, predict, and draw conclusions from the text or stories they read. These are the critical thinking skills that build and reinforce learning and are the same skills that are needed to write successfully. So changing how we ask questions will develop understanding and depth of thought. The following are some ways to change basic questions into critical thinking questions.

Who Questions for Critical Thinking

Instead of “Who is in the story or who did…..? Ask the following:

Who caused the problem?

Who would benefit from…..?

Who is the most important character?

Who in the story do you like/dislike?

What Questions

Replace questions such as “What did…..do?” with:

What would happen if…..?

What would you predict…..?

What is a good example of…..?

What does the author want you to know/learn?

What did it mean when…..happened?

What do you think was the reason for…..?

What is your opinion about…..?

Critical Thinking Where Questions

“Where did…..happen?” can be replaced with:

Where have you seen this happen before?

Where could you find out more about…..?

When Questions

Replace “When did…..happen? with:

When would this be a good solution?

When would be a better time to do…..?

When should the character have changed his mind/actions?

Why Questions

Why questions easily facilitate critical thinking. Some examples include:

Why did the character say…..?

Why is this important or a problem?

Why did you like or dislike…..?

Why did…..happen?

Why did the author write this story?

How Questions

Like why questions, how questions also elicit responses that require critical thought. For example:

How is this different from…..?

How is this the same as…..?

How would you have reacted to…..?

How would you feel if…..?

Asking questions that require a child to think about information presented in stories helps them become critical thinkers. They will then use critical thinking throughout their lifetime to make good decisions, understand consequences, and solve problems.  For more articles on reading and learning, check out Why Reading Speed is Important and Early Literacy: Reading, Writing, Learning.