Critical Thinking at Hess Academy: Bobbie and Rosie’s Class
This is an ongoing series of blog posts about critical thinking and cultivating honesty and integrity within students across the grade levels. Check out last week’s post for a peek into our preschool’s approach to this mission.
This week, we accompany Katie into Miss Bobbie and Rosie’s class as she explores her questions about fostering critical thinking and a “supple core of honesty and integrity” at Hess Academy.
After talking with Miss Bobbie, Katie found that in kindergarten, like in preschool, a lot of the initial critical thinking work is done through literature. As they explore books together as a community, they can engage in questioning, predicting, and inferring. Students listen to and respond to the thinking of their peers. Literature can also be used to target community concerns in the pursuit of social and emotional development, in a safe setting that does not single out individual children while the group problem-solves.
Bobbie says that students cross lines at this age by unintentionally hurting the feelings of their friends. Students in kindergarten and first grade benefit greatly from dramatic play, and Bobbie sometimes uses class meetings for dramatic reenactments of social scenarios (without targeting a specific child and situation). In these discussions, students think about and enact different possible choices they can make and focus on problem-solving rather than attributing blame. It’s amazing to see how the students really internalize this approach; just recently, Bobbie says, a child brought a concern to the community about something that happened on the playground, and without being prompted to do so, he used a fictional name for the participants in the conflict rather than single out the individual child actually involved. This marks growth in his ability to consider the points of views and feelings of his classmates, and he can solve social problems without hurting or embarrassing a friend.
Bobbie also uses a STEM approach to encourage critical thinking in her kindergarten and first graders, which emphasizes collaboration and questioning. She says, “It was interesting when we created milk rainbows. I put two students in a group and they were really thinking together and asking critical questions about why the colors moved.” Bobbie provides students with experiences where they can creatively solve a problem. Creating is important, but even more important according to Bobbie’s philosophy, is learning how to go back in and redesign and make changes. “Failure is a good thing. It teaches kids to not always expect to be correct. Engineers are always using critical thinking to design and redesign. Critical thinking is finding a reentry point. Set up the problem to solve and then keep working towards a solution.” As kids become proficient in this higher level thinking, they also learn to verbalize and justify their points of view. According to Bobbie, when it comes to critical thinking, “defending their thinking is essential.” Watch the video below for a short sample of Miss Bobbie’s students doing just that as they explain how to catch a leprechaun with their invention!
Next week, we will explore how critical thinking and fostering emotional and social development is supported in Megan and Sherry’s class! Stay tuned.