Guest Blog: How we… | Independent Primary School Buckinghamshire

Guest Blog: How we encourage Critical Thinking in our lessons

Enabling children to think critically at every stage of their learning not only encourages open-mindedness, but it also gives them the confidence and ability to question and challenge the status quo – skills which are so highly regarded and sought after by employers in today’s world. This week’s blog has been written by Mrs Gauntlett, teacher of English and Classical Civilisation, and will provide insight into the ways in which we encourage critical thinking in our lessons.

I tell the children that we are going to start with a game about truth. It is Thursday and so it is Critical Thinking for Year 6. I ask them to put their hand up, if the following statements are true about them. We start quite simply with statements such as ‘I am a boy’ and ‘I am wearing red’. I then remind them of the story of Pinocchio and ask them to consider what he would answer to the following statements: I am a real boy, I am made of wood, I have no mind. In groups, the children decide whether his nose will grow with each question. The more advanced questions that we will move on to, might be “Can wooden objects have a gender?”.

And so the lively discussion begins! Within the safe environment of the classroom, the children are beginning to practise the seven aspects of critical thinking:

Applying standards
Seeking information
Logical thinking
Learning how to transfer knowledge

Critical or philosophical thinking is now firmly embedded in our curriculum from Nursery to Year 6. Picture books provide a useful medium for the younger children, whilst in the Senior School we read The Odyssey during Classics lessons, and ask more Socratic questions such as, “What is Beauty?” and “What is War?” We also have great fun reading a story about an android boy built as a friend and explore what it means to be human.

The children enjoy these very accessible lessons because there is no right or wrong answer and they are entirely discursive. As the children leave the lesson, I often hear them still arguing the toss! If, as parents, you are interested and would like to engage with some philosophical thinking at home, I recommend this website: It contains good recommendations for books to read with your child. Being able to present your ideas in a debate, whilst listening to each other and learning to think more abstractly, is an important skill for the future and we are confident these skills will produce some future thinkers and movers!

Here’s one for the Sunday lunch table: How could we prove if a computer was thinking for itself?! Have fun!

Mrs Gauntlett
Teacher of English and Classical Civilisation
“Wisdom begins in wonder “- Socrates (Greek Philosopher c.350 BC)

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