Critical Thinking Skills and Your Teen

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

A big part of timed essays relies on quickly interpreting questions and developing well substantiated opinions. 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.

The Good News

It’s never too late to build critical thinking skills – and you can do it as a natural part of your daily life!

Practice critical thinking on a regular basis and share your own process of discernment with your child. 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.

Dinner time or a quick car ride to the store are 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.

Use everyday activities to talk to your teen and stretch their reasoning skills.

“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.

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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