Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Practical Critical Thinking (Schoolhouse Review)

Critical thinking is quite a buzz word these days, but exactly what is it, and how can it be taught? The course, Practical Critical Thinking, published by The Critical Thinking Co. attempts to both answer this question and to develop critical thinking skills in high school students. We received both the Practical Critical Thinking book and the Teacher Manual for review.
This hefty 378 page book includes a variety of activities and skills that fall under the “critical thinking” umbrella. Chapter one actually begins with a lesson entitled “Why Care About Critical Thinking?” and helps the student to understand what it means to think critically and why that is important.
The other seven chapters have the student solving puzzles, distinguishing fact from opinion, evaluating evidence for “crime scenes,” learning about ambiguity in language, and analyzing arguments. Although this isn’t an full logic course, it does provide an introduction to informal logic through the study of informal fallacies.
The emphasis of Practical Critical Thinking is, as the title implies, helping students learn to use critical thinking in their day-to-day lives. There is an entire chapter on advertising that helps the student learn about advertising techniques and guides them through evaluating various ads. Students will also learn how to evaluate the strength of arguments. Just spending a bit of time on Facebook convinces me of the need for this skill in our society! P1050458
Emily enjoyed the many color drawings and photos incorporated into the text. Illustrations included actual advertisements to be evaluated, photographs of news stories, and humorous cartoons.This full-color workbook is consumable, but may be copied for classroom or home use. It includes a large amount of instructional text along with pages for the student to write on.
Practical Critical Thinking is designed for either classroom or individual use. Although the exercises can be worked independently, we found that discussion greatly added to the learning experience. Emily read through the lessons and completed them on her own, then I checked them and we discussed parts of each lesson. There is one lesson at the end of every chapter that is for group activities. Some of the suggested activities were discussion of the various lessons, which we were already doing. Others required small groups, but were easily skipped.P1050460
The Practical Critical Thinking Teacher’s Manual contains answers to the exercises and some additional explanation and points for discussion. It also includes reproducible activities for all the lessons (the same ones as are in the student book). It could not be used alone because the student book also includes a great deal of explanatory text, but if you were copying pages in order to preserve the student book (which is allowed for classroom use by Critical Thinking Co.’s generous copyright policy), it would be more efficient to do so from the teacher’s manual. The teacher’s manual was nice to have, but not essential if the parent doesn’t mind doing without an answer guide. (I didn’t have any trouble coming up with the correct answers to the questions on my own).P1050461
I knew Emily needed some help with critical thinking skills, but I didn’t know just how much! In working through the exercises, I found that she is a very literal thinker who was missing a lot of the ambiguities and subtleties in arguments. We had some good discussions on evaluating evidence and on not taking all statements at face value. She’s already begun using some of these skills as she listens to the presidential campaign debates! I think she will gain a lot through the completion of this course.

Practical Critical Thinking and Teacher Manual sell for $39.99 and $14.00 respectively and are intended for use in grades 9-12.
The Critical Thinking Company Review
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

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