As the time draws near for U.S. citizens to exercise their voting rights, teachers have an opportunity to engage students in classroom discussions surrounding the presidential elections.
Students must be taught to frame their knowledge with deeper concepts than what immediately surrounds them. For example, French and Spanish territories in what is now known as Texas were governed by political ideologies of those countries. Asking if or how those early days influenced our current political environment broadens the scope of understanding and applicability.
Teachers encourage critical thinking development through instructional processes like scaffolding and modeling. Students who see their teacher asking questions that require in-depth exploration on a regular basis will begin to ask deeper questions about their own perceptions.
The development of critical thinking skills is segmented into several steps:
By leading students through this process, teachers trigger analytical thought and prompt students to look beyond their own knowledge base to expand their comprehension of concepts such as political ideology.
Using debate strategies as a conceptual starting point, educators can help their students become superior critical thinkers by gradually adding more challenging questions. Utilizing the presidential debates as an example, teachers can assign topics like taxes or government spending — two highly debated issues in the current election cycle. Preparing a classroom for one-on-one debates to improve critical thinking skills involves understanding the topic as well as other factors that affect audience perception.
Educators might ask students to consider the phrase, “I will not raise taxes if I am elected.” Building on this statement, students should be able to identify several areas for further exploration and thoughtful consideration such as the questions listed below.
Critical thinkers will find more complex questions as they carefully consider the statement.
Controlling body language during a debate is almost as important as the words and inflection. In recent debates between the incumbent and the challenger, news commentators have spent hours analyzing body language. Hand gestures, facial expressions, posture and encroaching on personal space can be positive and negative attributes. Teachers can ask students to observe candidates’ body language during a debate and consider these questions:
Debate coaches advise getting to know the competition by watching films, reading published commentaries or interviews and examining past actions or political voting records.
Allowing students to host mock-presidential debates is an excellent way to demonstrate the need to ask challenging questions. Every debate will reveal at least one weakness. Discovering these weaknesses provides openings for further understanding and more advanced critical thinking skills.
Teachers that incorporate presidential debate analysis and mock debates as part of their lesson plans will find ample opportunity to strengthen critical thinking skills.
Categorized as: Current Events