Last week, we wrapped up our very first Formative Library contest where educators were encouraged to submit formatives that promote critical thinking. To celebrate, we are offering the entries as a bundle for all educators to check out and use! Grab it here! Also, read on below to check out how we are defining critical thinking and my impressions of how contestants encourage students to use critical thinking skills through their formatives…
While there are many definitions of critical thinking, my favorite is perhaps the following one because it outlines the specific skills that are necessary to reach a “destination” (whether it be an answer, judgment, or conclusion):
“The process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion”
It’s vital for students to start practicing these skills at an early age so that they can solve problems as adults and make important life decisions. Now that we’ve defined critical thinking, let’s take a look at how contestants are encouraging it.
In Brian Gervase’s formative, he helps students conceptualize how translation and rotation can be used to prove that two shapes are congruent. He does so by embedding an interactive Geogebra animation that shows the two transformations. Later on in the same formative, he challenges students to apply their understanding and explain how they know that two shapes are congruent as well as create their own transformations for their peers to try:
In her formative, Mariana Garcia Serrato (@mgarcia) helps her students apply the concepts of balanced and unblanaced forces by embedding PHET simulations and having students predict movement based on force. She later encourages students to combine what they’ve learned about force and use it to explain why a novel scenario is not possible (the Mario double jump):
After introducing her students to the concepts of potential and kinetic energy, Ashly Winkle (@msashlylcot), encourage her students to apply the new information to create examples of both types of energy and distinguish them in a visual example. She also later engages them in a lab to help them further understand the relationship between potential and kinetic energy. Check out her formative here:
Meredith Schnick (@mlschnick) uses her formative to see if her students can apply newly learned information as well. She first provides a visual introduction to the surface area of prisms and the formula for finding it. She then challenges her students to find the surface area of a few prisms. After this part of the formative, she has her students dig deeper and explain the “why” behind the steps of the formula:
In her formative, Spanish teacher Pamela Denter (@dentlerp) provides her students with a visual representation of a person’s day and challenges her students to describe it. It’s awesome how she uses a mix of Audio Responses and Short Answer questions to help her students practice their language skills in different ways:
June Yazel’s (@yazelj) formative aims to help students understand the U.S Midterm Elections and make predictions for it based on different factors. She does so by creating a Categorize question, listing different factors, and asking students to sort them into whether they will help or hurt the two different political parties. She later challenges students to take everything that they know and make a prediction about the overall outcome of the elections:
Rachel Kerr (@Rachel_Kerr) uses her formative to teach her students to apply different pieces of information to create a summary for a poem. She also allows her students to describe what they “see” when they read the poem and share personal connections with it too.
Claire Doyle’s (@clairesedoyle) contest entry is a formative that is geared towards helping students analyze poetry. After priming them to engage in the poem and allowing them to read it, she asks them to identify examples of personification. Afterwards, she gives them different options for applying their analysis to create their own related poems:
In order to help his students understand the concept of dimensional analysis, Peter Weise (@weisepet) engaged his students in a lab where they collected and converted different measurements. He created his formative to help them share their measurements and conversions. By doing so, he ensured that his students were set up to understand and practice dimension analysis:
In Lisa Scumpieru’s (@fichtlis) blind formative, she allows students to preview parts of a book chapter they are about to read and make predictions. This not only peaks learner interest, but also allows students to apply what they know about the characters and come to their own conclusions:
I hope you enjoyed these descriptions of how our amazing contestants promote critical thinking. I am by no means an expert on it and would really love to hear your feedback on what I gleamed and also any insights that you have as you explore this awesome bundle of formatives!