Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Blog Party Week 3: Creating Critical Thinkers

This week the Reading Crew is linking up to discuss how we create critical thinkers in our classrooms.  So many of my lessons cross my mind when thinking about how I create critical thinkers.  There is no way to pin point one thing that makes critical thinkers.
Starting from the very first day of school, I work on teaching my third graders to be critical thinkers.  In my opinion, it is not something that can be taught and mastered with a lesson or even a few lessons. Becoming a critical thinker takes a lot of practice and a lot of modeling by the teacher.  You can't expect students to automatically become a critical thinker after one lesson.  When I think of critical thinking, several things come to mind; metacognition, schema, inferring, questioning, determining importance, visualizing, and synthesizing.  All of these are important when becoming a critical thinker.

Have you ever read Comprehension Connections; Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor?  It is one of my favorite books.  I have read through it multiple times and it's always within arm's reach on my desk.  It has post-it notes sticking out of the pages, sentences highlighted, underlined phrases, and corner of pages folded over for easy access.  This book gives tangible, visual, and every day lessons to teach metacognition, schema, inferring, questioning, determining importance, visualizing, and synthesizing.  It is a must-have book!

I am not going to spend this whole post discussing all of Tanny McGregor's great amazing ideas.   But what I do want to share with you is a book I came across at Half Price Books that I think is perfect for modeling some of these skills that will create critical thinkers.  The book is called Window by Jeannie Baker.  I found it in the clearance spot for $1.00!  Can't beat that! The book starts with a mother, holding a newborn son, gazing out the window of his room at vegetation, tropical birds, a pond, and a kangaroo.  The remaining pages show the development, over a 20 year period, of the area outside the window.  And did I mention that this is a wordless picture picture book?!?!

Wordless picture books are a great way to build literacy skills.  Younger students learn to use picture clues when looking at wordless picture books.  Students also begin to understand story structure.  PLUS, I think wordless picture books are perfect at creating critical thinkers.  They force you to think about your thinking (metagcognition) and infer based on the picture clues and your schema. And don't forget about all of the questioning one does during a wordless picture book.  There are so many open-ended questions one can have while diving into a book.  There are so many reading skills one can practice when enjoying a wordless picture book.

Let's dive into this awesome find.  Take a look at the first two pages of Window.  I added a few examples of what I would model out loud to my students.
The best thing about Window is that every single page adds deeper thinking, inferences, and questions.  Check out the next page....

Alright....I'll show you the next page in the book.  BUT it'll be the last because you'll have to purchase this book to add to your library.  Trust me, it's worth it.

Oh my....there is so much to say about this page!!!  What are your thoughts?  Can you picture your students coming up with questions and inferences?  Are you curious how the story ends?  I guess you will have to purchase the book!

Below are a few wordless picture books that are worth checking out and adding to your library.


  1. What a beautiful book! It's been added to "to buy" list! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for a fantastic lesson idea! I have the Tanny McGregor book, but sadly, have never read it. Too many other books taking my attention. Perhaps I need to make it a priority!

  3. Beautiful book! Thanks for sharing! That's one I will need to check out! :)
    Inquiring Our Way Through Third Grade