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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Increasing Critical Thinking Part #1 (of ?)

One of my main goals this year is to up the critical thinking skills of my group of talented and gifted kids.  They are so "outside the box" so much of the time, but other times they can be painfully literal!  I have been brainstorming ways that I could work on that, and there are a few things I've started cooking up.  I have a few more ideas that I'm kicking around, so I'm hoping that this is the first Critical Thinking post of several!

First of first Washi Tape project.  (Sort of!)  I've been hearing about Washi Tape and how awesome it is, but I just didn't get the's just colored tape, right?  But I figured I at least needed to try it, so off to Michaels I went.  Their selection wasn't great, but it did the job!

I love all of the ideas out there where the teacher gives the answer (usually to a math question), and the student has to come up with a question.  I had been wanting to do a Question & Answer board with a space for each student to place a sticky note for their Question, and I thought that making the board with Washi Tape instead of permanent marker might be fun.  I was right!  It took me less than 10 minutes, no smeared lines, to irritating ruler marks, not even a slanted line!  I had a piece of poster board divided into 30 squares, and it looked pretty, too!

 I added numbers to each one (which took me much longer than it should have!), and each student will be assigned a number where they will place their sticky note and question.
You can see a close-up here where I got the "disappearing" grid poster board.  I can't say it disappears, but it doesn't look bad, and everything is straight.

Then, I started thinking about how I wanted to display this.  I share a classroom, and I'm afraid that if I start putting bulletin boards up, I'll end up having to switch sides of the room or switch rooms altogether, so I opted for a portable bulletin board (which I think will end up right outside my classroom, anyways!).  I bought a big piece of foam board and covered it with fabric using adhesive spray.  I LOVE the fabric that I bought, but much to my dismay, the dots were not printed onto it straight.  No matter what I did, there was no way to put it on the board straight.  I'm still getting over it, because I kind of have a thing about straight lines.

I put all of my pieces together, and look what I have now!

The finished board!  I titled it "Question the Answer," which should be fun seeing my students interpret.  They know I have a thing for titles, so I'm sure they will rename it for me by the end of the year.

I made a whole bunch of different random answers and laminated them so that I can rotate them out.  I'm thinking I will rotate them out once a week.  I used Command hooks and binder rings to hold them there.  This baby is ready for August!

I tested it out to make sure all my fun sticky notes would fit in the boxes.

I kind of love how this came out, but hey, it's mine, so maybe I'm partial to it.  I know it's a little fancy for a simple bulletin board, but I had fun making it, and I hope it will catch the eyes of other students in the hallway and perhaps get them thinking, too.

The second thing I've been working on is a weekly exercise called "Think it Through."  Each week, students will have a sheet that they have to complete, each with three different exercises.  When I designed the exercises, I chose ones that have a lot of literal, surface level meaning.  However, the purpose of these is to "think it through."  Surface level thinking is not acceptable during these activities, and it will not be encouraged.
Weekly Activities for Creative, Critical, and Reflective Thinking
Each week has a quote of the week that the students have to interpret (also awesome for inference skills), a word challenge of some sort, and then an activity that involves reflection, creative, or critical thinking.  The other fun part about this is that they are seasonally themed, with historical events and some silly holidays (National Trial Mix Day) thrown in so that they are CURRENT and RELEVANT for students.

I am SO excited about these!  My husband, step daughter, and several neighbor children have already tested them all out, and so far they have accomplished just what I set out to accomplish.  I am still deciding how I will manage these.  Initially, I thought I would bind them and give each student a book, but I don't really want students looking ahead to see what's coming next.  These will be homework for my students, but I see them as a great early finisher activity, literacy center, whole class work, morning work, etc.  The possibilities really are endless!

My dear husband is quite the smarty pants sometimes...

Now I'm working on other Washi Tape project that I'm pretty excited about.  I'll pop back in again when it is done!  In the meantime, I hope you all are enjoying your summer!


  1. Love your question board!! You just gave me an idea to set up my answers for my math class. I can't wait to put my washi tape to work! Excellent critical thinking set

    1. Could you please post your math answers that are not numbers? I teach 5th grade math. Tks a lot!

  2. The question board is an awesome idea!

  3. I love your board, already have an idea where I'm going to put mine. Any chance of putting your answers on TPT? I'd love to have them rather than recreate the wheel.

  4. I love the idea for the question board! I made a generic board like that for which I can change out the title. Definitely adding that to the list!

    Also, LOVE the critical thinking question sheets! I've added them to my wish list on TPT -- I think they'd make great morning work! :)

  5. I love the idea of these what's the question boards. I did one last year and the kids loved it! I actually just posted about it, too.

    P.S- I'm your newest follower!

    Colleen Patton
    Mrs. Patton’s Patch

  6. Do you think you could post some examples of some of the Answers and Questions that the kids come up with? I need some ideas! Love your Question Board. It's so pretty and useful!

  7. I would totally buy your "answers" if you posted them. I LOVE this idea. I am going to be teaching a gifted/academically talented class this year for the first time and I would love to give it a try.


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  9. Today I re-purposed an old, ugly calendar set with washi tape after being inspired by your post! Not the numbers, just the poster where you display them. The grid lines are already there. Thought I could use number stickers in each of the squares. I plan to use it for a quick math assessment with sticky notes. It was very easy and looks great. Thanks!!

    Hokie Teach