Critical Thinking: An Essential Teen Skill

With college essays and SAT’s on the horizon, how can you help your teen prepare for writing timed persuasive essays?

A big part of timed essays relies on quickly interpreting questions and developing well substantiated opinions. This requires critical thinking. For example, if a student is asked to write about whether school uniforms should be required in high school, he must be able to form an opinion and support it before any type of writing skills even come into play.

Sadly, it is in this critical thinking step that many teens fall short.

critical thinking

Practice critical thinking skills on a regular basis with your teen and share your own process of discernment. There are many sides to every argument: help him to see all sides and then choose one that most aligns with his views and that he can adequately support with logic and reason.

When? How?

Dinner time or a quick car ride to the store are both perfect times to practice critical thinking skills. Simply bring up a casual topic for debate –  controversial topics are all around us in the news, in the office, or at the playground.

“I met Mary at the bank today and she said that the city is debating whether to close the library or the rec center due to budget cuts. Which one would you close?”

Try to do as little of the talking as possible. This can be hard, but it is essential! Instead, listen and repeat back what you hear. Ask questions:

“Why do you think that?” 

Remember that with critical thinking the answer or opinion isn’t the important part – it’s arriving at a conclusion and having strong reasons to support it. If there are topics that are not open for debate in your home, avoid those. After all, the goal is to allow for opinions, even if they diverge from your own!

Practice critical thinking skills and then when it comes time for your student to write a timed persuasive essay, he will be prepared, confident, and ready to impress!

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