Your Name ______________________
Critical Thinking Activity
"It is strange that we expect students to learn, yet seldom teach them anything about learning
"We should be teaching students how to think. Instead, we are teaching them what to think."
Write one short, complete sentence below describing what these two quotes mean to you:
Critical Thinking Skills are defined as “skilled, active, interpretation and evaluation of observations,
communications, information, and argumentation." Many times you might hear these skills summarized
with the quote, “think smarter, not harder.” Or as you might hear teachers tell you, “think logically”or
“use common sense.”
You will need critical thinking skills to be successful in life, and public schools are realizing in the past
few years that these skills need to be taught in school, as our changing culture doesn’t always teach these
skills away from school or these skills may not be learned at home. The area of Social Studies is
especially focused on teaching these skills.
The processes that make up good critical thinking skills are shown in the graphic below. You will need
to develop these skills in order to increase you critical thinking ability for use in this class and in life.
Questions for Class Discussion
1. Why might it be important to develop your critical thinking skills for the future?
2. Why might learning critical thinking skills be especially difficult for teenagers?
3. Why are teenagers often afraid or unable to think about information using critical thinking skills?
4. Do you think the way your parents raise you affects your ability to develop critical thinking skills?
5. How can having good critical thinking skills help you on tests?
Why Does This Matter in Civics and Economics?
For the most part, social studies courses attempt to teach you to “think smarter, not harder”. If you can
think smarter (critically), there will be no limit to what you can do in life! On test questions, you can
usually figure out the answers even if you can’t remember what you studied! Let’s look at this EOC
example question from analyze possible answers using our “common sense”:
If a citizen wants to learn more about a candidate's background, position on issues, and recent
activities, what action will allow the citizen to access the MOST information?
A) visiting the candidate's Internet website
B) watching the candidate's television advertisement
C) listening to what friends say about the candidate
D) reading a newspaper article that mentions the candidate
In the example above, think logically about why some of the examples might be wrong?
Why building a good vocabulary matters:
Do you remember if your parents read to frequently as a child? Does your home have bookshelves full of
books? Does one or more of your parents or guardians have a college degree? If you answered “yes” to
one or more of these, you are at an advantage in this class!
About 70% of the EOC test (and my tests) are testing reading skills and basic vocabulary knowledge. It is
unfortunate, but teenagers who were not read to as a child, did not read books outside of school, or have
parents without college degrees have been exposed to 40,000 LESS words by the age of 10 than kids
whose parents did attend college and/or made books and reading a significant part of their home
environment. Let’s look at another EOC test question to see how having basic background vocabulary
can help you answer a question that you may have not studied for.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) helps to regulate the aeronautics industry and is part
of the Department of
What is it you ALREADY know about the words “aviation” or “aeronautics”? Can you think of what
these words are related to? How can that knowledge help you draw a logical conclusion about the correct
Hopefully, you can understand how the purpose of this course is less to fill your head with random useless
facts, but more to build critical thinking skills and vocabulary skills that will help you once you leave high
school. The more you can educate yourself, and make yourself SOUND educated, the more
opportunities you will have in life!