Activities to help foster critical thinking in children:
submitted by Suzy Joseloff
Six-to-Six Interdistrict Magnet School, Connecticut

Wacky Wednesday
Read the story Wacky Wednesday by Theo LeSieg to the children on Tuesday. This book is a "What's Wrong Here?" type of story where everything is different from the way it should be. Tell the children that when they come to school tomorrow it's going to be "Wacky Wednesday." If they want to participate, they may do so by dressing in a way that is unusual, such as wearing a shirt inside out. On Wednesday, do several things to the classroom that are obviously unusual. For example, a table may be turned upside down or bulletin board characters could be reversed. Items could be moved from one center to another area of the room. The teacher could dress in an unusual way, such as wearing a pair of skates. Use your imagination, the wackier, the better. Let the children find all the things that are "wacky."

Is This Cup Full?
Fill a glass with pebbles. Ask the children if the glass is full. If they don't think so, have them add pebbles until everyone agrees that the glass is full. Then ask if they think anything else will fit into the glass. The children will say no. Pour either salt or sand into the same glass. The children will be surprised to see the glass hold more. Call their attention to how the salt or sand fills in the spaces left between the pebbles. Now ask again if the glass is full. The children will say yes. Pour water into the same glass. The children will again be surprised. Ask if anybody knows why the glass could hold water. Ask the children if the process could work in reverse, starting with a full glass of water and adding salt and rocks. Try their suggestions.

"Wacky Wednesday" and "Is This Cup Full?" activities taken from The Instant Curriculum, 500 Developmentally Appropriate Learning Activities for Busy Teachers of Young Children by Pam Schiller and Joan Rossano.

Weather Prediction Graph
Rationale:
Preschool children are very attuned to the weather, as it is something concrete they can observe and experience. It also affects their everyday lives, i.e. what clothes they will wear to school and whether or not they will ride bikes in the hallway or go outside during recess time at school. During the winter time, weather is a particularly relevant topic, as it often determines whether or not they will come in to school late or if school will be canceled all together.

Activity:

  1. On the day before variable weather is forecast, i.e. chance of rain or snow, have the children predict what the weather will end up being the following day, i.e. will they hear the sound of raindrops or will there be snow on the ground.
  2. Encourage them to consider a variety of factors in making their prediction, i.e. current weather (temperature, winds), what clothes they are presently wearing, what they have heard on the radio or from their parents.
  3. Set up a large graph and have the children place pieces of paper with their name on it above a picture of rain drops or snowflakes depending on which they predict will occur. Count the number of children who predict rain and who predict snow and compare the numbers.
  4. The following day, revisit the graph and discuss what actually happened and the end results of the weather that occurred (delayed openings, fog, getting wet on the way to school).
  5. Hang the graph at eye level in the classroom so the children can examine the graph on their own, counting the predictions for snow and rain and picking out the piece of paper with their name on it. Submitted by Deb Price from the Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School

In Block Area:
Children are invited to fill in, with blocks, a teacher created (tape) shape on the floor. As they fit shapes together, teacher questions children as to which shapes they might use. Some shapes/sizes of blocks will get used up. Teacher will question children, "What other shape could you use instead?" Shapes available to children will be square, triangle and rectangle at first. Children will be encouraged to work in small cooperative groups.

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