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Developing Critical Thinking Skills... NO Planning Required

Do the words “developing critical thinking skills” send your mind directly to a list of question stems a mile long? That’s definitely one way to develop critical thinkers. Unfortunately, the questions can be time consuming.  Keep reading to discover lots of opportunities to develop critical thinking skills that pop up within a piece of literature and don’t require any preparation.


Most read-aloud books read in classrooms are works of fiction with a clear problem/solution and more advanced texts may have multiple problems and solutions. Anytime a character encounters a problem in a text is the perfect time to develop critical thinking skills with no planning.  Just “wing it!”


“No Planning” Critical Thinking Techniques

What Would Happen If?

  • As the problem develops, stop and have students think of all the ways the character could solve the problem.

Not the Best Decision

  • Encourage students to think of a bad solution to the problem and the resulting consequences.

Think like a Villain

  • If the story has a villain or trouble maker, have them consider the story from their point of view.

Penny for Your Thoughts

  • Demonstrate critical thinking by pondering out loud your thoughts to model critical thinking.

Young to Old

  • Even the youngest students can develop critical thinking by asking them to predict what will happen next.
  • Older students develop into critical thinkers when they must defend their thinking so occasionally disagree with their thinking to encourage them to defend their ideas.

The BIG Question

  • Don’t forget the BIG question to ask after the students share their thoughts…..How do you know that? and What makes you think that?



Can Parents Help?

Absolutely! Anytime a parent reads a story to their child or a child reads at home, effective parent engagement can happen. When teachers share what happens in the classroom with parents, they also can develop critical thinking skills. Parents can easily use any of these critical thinking questioning techniques with most stories read at home.  Just share these close reading strategies with parents and give them step-by-step directions on how to incorporate them into nightly reading.

Let the discussions flow and critical thinkers bloom at school and at home! 

No time to share ideas with parents? Check out our new TAG You’re It! Yearlong Parent Involvement Initiative product!