May 4, 2020

Encouraging Critical Thinking Through Stories!!

It’s evening 6:30 pm. I am sitting on my terrace in solitude wondering whether I am going through ‘akelapan’ (loneliness) or ‘ekanth’ (secluded). My confused brain is soothed with birds chirping and returning home towards this huge tree in front of our house blooming with amazing sunny yellow colors and I feel this surge of enviousness looking at the birds. This is my evening ritual during the last 35 days of Lock-down 1.0 and now in Lock-down 2.0. I have gone through.

I am an Early Childhood Educator for the last 18 years running four early care centers across different parts of Bangalore and that says it all about how busy and chirpy my life is! I begin my day early and get ready and enter one of my centers every day to hear the lovely giggles and noise of children shouting ‘Good morning principal mam’! . I do not realize and sense the time till sunset as I stay back with my children who are with us in the daycare. Since all my early care centers also double up as daycare I would say bye to many children at 6:30 pm and see them off being picked up by parents at the end of their long tiring days, but I would return home not so tired gleaming with joy from the very many experiences and stories of what children would have told me.

I felt the need to use this state of isolation connecting to parents and women sharing my experiences and listening to your reciprocation. My first favorite part of this blog would be storytelling. And I just started with mine!

During the next few weeks, I thought we will exchange thoughts and ideas on how we are going through this situation of self-isolation and social distancing to ensure we are all connected though, isolated and learn from each other on fun ways we are dealing with our day to day life during this period of lock-down.

Encouraging Critical Thinking through Stories

Stories have been narrated to children from centuries in various ways. Helping children to ask, imagine, analyze, evaluate and create their own ideas and thought processes can bring critical thinking and what better ways for a parent to use stories to bring this 21st century skill. Reading stories helps children to develop.

Children apart from memorizing the information learnt needs to analyze, compare, contrast and make inferences which invoke higher-order thinking skill (HOTS) in children. There is no one strategy to bring in Critical Thinking in children. Of course ‘Play’ both indoors and outdoors is so important for children as they understand ‘Cause’ and ‘Effect’ during the play process.

How can we bring this important critical thinking skills in children? Very simple follow the few steps below whenever you tell them a story.

Anderson and Krathwohl’s Taxonomy
(Anderson and Krathwohl’s Adaptation of) Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Attainment Levels (Overbaugh, and Schultz, 2010)

Active, experiential learning is an important component in information systems education, ensuring that students gain an appreciation for both practical and theoretical information systems concepts.
Remembering: Learner’s ability to recall information
Understanding: Learner’s ability to understand information
Applying: Learner’s ability to use information in a new way
Analyzing: Learner’s ability to break down information into its essential parts.
Evaluating: Learner’s ability to judge or criticize information
Creating: Learner’s ability to create something new from different elements of information.

The best way of telling stories (even if you feel you are an amateur) is ‘Reading Aloud’ storybooks. This not only helps in their reading comprehension but to become enthusiastic readers and help them fall in love with books.

The first read-aloud should be uninterrupted reading so children can understand the flow of the story completely. Before you begin reading the book, show the cover page of the book and read the title, author and ask them what they think the story is all about looking at the pictures on the cover page. Show the pictures as you read through the story.

Then follow these six simple steps. To keep it easy to understand I have kept the story as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ (Click on the link to download the PDF book of the story with read out loud link). I have personally read this story to children and asked these questions in the classroom.

Some fun facts: “Jack and the Beanstalk” is an English fairy tale. It appeared as “The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean” in 1734 and Joseph Jacobs rewrote it in English Fairy Tales (1890). Jacobs’ version is most commonly reprinted today and is believed to be closer to the oral versions than earlier ones because it lacks the moralizing.

Remember: Help the child recall the story by asking questions like who were the main characters in the story. Why did Jack’s mother ask to sell the cow? What did Jack get in exchange for selling the cow?

Understand: What happened at the beginning of the story, middle and how did the story end.

Apply: Have you seen a creeper anywhere? Have seen different kinds of creepers?

Analyze: Did you see any rhyming words in the storybook? What made Jack sell the cow to the old man and why?

Evaluate: What do you think was going on in Jack’s mind when he sold the cow. Why would Jack’s mother not believe that the beans were magic?

Create: Shall we look around in the neighborhood during our walks to identify creepers? We can make a creeper out of jute thread and paper leaves! If you were to be Jack how would you change the story without cutting down the creeper and hurting the giant?

PS: The answers I got for the last question – If you were to be Jack how would you change the story without cutting down the creeper and hurting the giant was just jaw-dropping.

Child1: Since giant did not have a mother I will ask him to come home and stay with me

Child2: I would ask the giant to come down the creeper and stay home with me as he did not have any friends there.

Child3: I would tell the giant to give me one thing out of the golden harper, bag of gold and golden laying hen!

I bet this is higher-order thinking skills. Enjoy reading stories to your children.

Start TODAY! Start NOW

Stay Well, Stay Safe and Happy Parenting

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