Teaching Critical Thinking Routines

How do you teach critical thinking and problem solving?

To teach critical thinking and problem-solving, we have two core components of the curriculum that work together: authentic tasks and thinking routines.

For students to learn to think critically and solve complex problems, they need to have opportunities to do these activities in meaningful contexts. We provide this by having students engage in authentic tasks that require them to gather information, to evaluate facts, to formulate claims, and to solve problems. The major authentic tasks that students work on at Two Rivers are our learning expeditions, ten to twelve week multidisciplinary hands-on projects.

​However simply giving students tasks that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills is not enough to help them develop these skills. In addition to authentic tasks, we need to explicitly name the critical thinking and problem-solving skills we want students to learn, to give them multiple opportunities to practice these skills, and to provide specific feedback to help them refine these skills. At Two Rivers, we have found that explicitly teaching thinking routines to students provides students with the opportunity to practice cognitive skills and develop concrete habits of mind for approaching a wide variety of tasks.

What thinking routines do you use?

Building off of the work of Ron Ritchhart and the Visible Thinking Project at Harvard University’s Project Zero, we have borrowed and created thinking routines to aid students in developing their cognitive skills. Each thinking routine is aligned with one of our constructs of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

1. Claim-Support-Question (CSQ) is a routine for teaching effective reasoning.
2. The 4 C’s of Decision Making is a routine associated with our decision making construct.
3. The K-W-I is a thinking routine that we utilize to teach students about problem solving.

For more information about Project Zero’s work, watch this video!