Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking

15 Questions that Teachers and Parents Can Ask Kids to Encourage Critical Thinking

By Maureen Leming

Each student walks across the graduation stage, diploma in one hand and a proverbial toolbox in the other. Inside the box is every skill and piece of knowledge they've learned throughout their childhood. The contents of this toolbox will be their building blocks to success beyond high school.

In addition to impressive classroom discoveries — like producing electricity from potatoes or building their own paper mache volcano — there's a vital skill every student should possess: critical thinking. They'll use this skill to assess, critique, and create, propelling them to thrive in the real world as they participate in engaging conversations and offer constructive solutions to real-world issues.

Fortunately, this valuable skill can be developed both inside and out of the classroom. Teachers and parents can encourage kids to think deeply and critically about the world by asking good questions. We'll explore why, as parents and teachers, the questions we ask our kids matter — and what we can be asking to help them excel.

How Questions Guide Young Students’ Critical Thinking 

Critical thinking is about so much more than simply knowing the facts. Thinking critically involves applying reason and logic to assess arguments and come to your own conclusions. Instead of reciting facts or giving a textbook answer, critical thinking skills encourage students to move beyond knowing information and get to the heart of what they really think and believe. 

15 Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking

What is one of the best ways to encourage critical thinking? By asking excellent questions! 

We have compiled a list of 15 questions that you, as a teacher or parent, can ask to encourage kids to think outside the box. Let's dive in.

1. How Do You Know This? 

Whether it was by word of mouth, classroom knowledge, or a news report, this question prompts students to consider whether their source of information is reputable.

2. How Would Your Perspective Be Different If You Were on the Opposing Side?

This question encourages kids to role-play from an opposing person’s viewpoint and discover a perspective outside their own so that they can better understand the broader situation. Extracurriculars like debate class — mandatory for all Hun middle school students — is a powerful way to accomplish this goal, as students must thoughtfully anticipate their opposition's arguments in order to counter them.

3. How Would You Solve This Problem?

Finding creative solutions to common problems is a valuable life skill. This question is the perfect opportunity to encourage young minds to wander!

4. Do You Agree or Disagree — and Why?

Choosing a side in any debate challenges students to consider both perspectives, weigh the arguments, and make an informed choice. 

5. Why? Why? Why?

Just like when you were a young kid, ask why repeatedly to push students beyond a simple first, second, or even third answer, to get to the real depth. Be careful, though, not to ask them to the point of frustration — you want learning and exploring to be a positive experience.

6. How Could We Avoid This Problem in the Future?

Ask students to apply critical thinking by analyzing how they could prevent a certain issue from reoccurring.

7. Why Does It Matter?

Whether they're learning about a historical event or a mathematical concept, it's important to understand why the topic is relevant today.

8. What's Another Way to Look at This Issue?

It can be easy to learn one worldview and automatically believe it is the only, or the best, way. Challenging kids to think of a creative alternate perspective encourages them to think more broadly.

9. Can You Give Me an Example?

Inventing an example, or pulling from experience to share a real one, is an excellent way to apply critical thinking skills.

10. How Could It Have Ended Differently?

It takes some innovation and careful analysis to storyboard a different ending, considering "what could have been" rather than "what is." 

11. When Will We Be Able to Tell If It Worked?

Kids will be pushed to consider what constitutes success and how it can be measured in scenarios where the results aren't set in stone.

12. Why did you ask that question?

Instead of answering a question at face value, this question encourages kids to think about what the merits of the question may be.

13. Who Would Be Affected by This?

Students as the next generation of leaders and game-changers. When making any decision, it's important to consider who will be impacted and how.

14. What Can This Story Teach Us About Our Own Lives?

From literature to social studies, students interact with all kinds of different stories. Help them take these narratives one step further by examining how it relates to their lives.

15. Why Is This a Problem?

Analyzing why something is a problem — rather than just accepting that it is — will help students develop strong problem-solving skills of their own.

The Hun School of Princeton Teaches Critical Thinking

At the Hun School of Princeton, our teachers ask these questions, and more, in combination with our student-centered learning approach that helps kids of all ages think critically about what they’re learning. 

As a premier private school in Princeton, NJ, we aim to help students think deeply and develop well-rounded skill sets through immersive, problem-based learning

Schedule a tour today to see our program in action!

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