We have been continuing our focus on meta-cognition in our computer lab time with Grade 3's. Last week we reviewed the kind of thinkers we learned about in the Critical Thinking for Children videos. We then had an introduction to the game of chess. The majority of our children have never played chess so this was a great opportunity to introduce the game through a free downloaded chess game for the computer.
Before playing the game I explained the pieces and their moves to the children and then told them that chess is a great opportunity for players to practice critical thinking. They have to learn to analyze the possible outcomes of every move. The children have taken to the game and they are enjoying the stimulating activity. A lot of them play against the computer but a few have started playing against another player. The advantage of using the computer is they cannot make wrong moves. As a coach it's not easy to watch everyone's moves on a physical board when there are more than two or three games in progress.
This week I set the learners a problem solving exercise. They are given a scenario like this: You are a cave dweller / hunter gatherer and your wife has sent you out on a hunt. You go with five friends. How are you going to get your "kill" home? The animal you shoot is a buffalo. What weapons will you use? The wheel has not yet been invented and you are 5km from home. Describe carefully how you will solve the problem.
This was quite a challenge for the children as they haven't previously heard about hunter-gatherers. It took a while for them to realize they couldn't go and "buy" a knife or a rope. We searched out some images of tools and implements and discussed the size of a buffalo compared to a domesticated cow of today. They then opened a scaffolded document and typed their responses. The last two groups will be doing the activity tomorrow and then I look forward to reading about their strategies.
I am now looking into setting up a wiki to share ideas with teachers globally. I'd love to get some input from inspired and innovative teachers who have some creative suggestions for developing critical thinking in their students.