Critical Thinking in 3 Easy Questions

I wish I could remember where I was first exposed to these questions.  I do genuinely prefer to give credit where credit is due.  But, I can’t.  I did a quick google search and was directed to John Muir Laws website for nature stewardship, so I suppose it could have been from him.  But, as I have never been to his site before, perhaps he was interviewed by someone I listened to.  I don’t know, but, before I jump into the questions, if you know the source, please leave me a comment so I can thank them and send people in the right direction!

Given the insatiable curiosity of my kiddos, I typically haven’t worried about teaching them how to think critically.  When your 3 year old can negotiate better than you, you kinda figure their critical thinking will develop just fine. 

I did run into a problem, however.  Like many gifted kids, my 3 will dive deep and truly think deeply and critically about things that catch their fancy, but if the topic or experience is something brand new to them, they can be quick to dismiss it, throw out simple, superficial thoughts, and scurry on without giving the novel subject a chance.  And I ran out of my own tricks and techniques to engage them.

When suddenly . . . I heard a podcast or listened to a radio show or read a blog or a book or something (Ugh!  I really wish I remembered!) that laid out 3 questions that encourage kids to reflect more deeply.  Voila!  We’ve used these 3 questions when encountering everything now: books, movies, music, nature, sports, church, everything.  The level of discourse has greatly benefited and has brought about those fantastic rabbit trails of spontaneous, holistic learning.  The questions are simple enough for my 4 year old to answer and open-ended enough for my 11 year old to broaden his thinking.

1)      What do you notice?

Ahh . . . a simple form of narration.  We personalize and interpret whatever presents itself before us.  This simple questions teaches kids to focus, to pay attention, to trust their own personalized perspective of the art or the science sitting before them.  It teaches them to observe.

2)      What do you wonder?

I recently attended a conference in which a sectional speaker noted how little we need to wonder anymore.  She pointed out that back in the days of our childhood our minds would conjure a question and, most likely, we would simply have to sit and wonder about it.  We couldn’t ask Google or Siri.  We might take an extra trip to the library to research through the old dewey decimal card catalogue, but most often, we would just wonder.  Today, we need to find space for our own brains and our children’s brains to wonder.  Which is why I love this question.  It encourages my kids to ask questions (which, I know, can be a double edged sword with our gifted kiddos). It encourages them to be creative and to think and dream.  Sometimes this question leads to research and finding the information.  Sometimes it leads to quiet moments of wondering.

3)      What does it remind you of?

Yea for making connections!  Our gifted kiddos tend to make these connections naturally, but it’s nice to bring some intentionality to it.  And, honestly, hearing the answers my kids give to this particular question, usually fills my heart with joy and makes me laugh out loud.  To witness the brilliant and creative ways our kids make connections thrills me.  And, on those moments when my internal doubt thinks I’m not teaching my kids anything, this question proves that they have brains filled with knowledge and will be just fine.  They might reference a tv show, sure, but they might also reference a math problem or previous piece of music we’d listened to, or a story from history. 

I honestly have not found an area of life in which these 3 questions can’t apply.  Seriously, you could use them as you’re reading this post.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  What does it remind you of?  Or you could use them as you look at the pile of dog hair that’s gathered in the corner of the room during the spring shed-fest.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  What does it remind you of?  I find myself relying on these 3 questions in my own life to spark my creativity and get me out of a cognitive rut.  They encourage mindful awareness, acceptance, and thoughtfulness.  All in just 3 simple questions.