Miss B.'s Classroom » Teaching critical thinking skills

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Category Archives: teaching tips

Teaching and explaining the various types of creative thinking skills to parents

Creating a ‘Tradition of Giving’

After substituting is a 4th grade class this week, I was reminded again of just how excited children get whenever they think about giving to others. We were talking about the meaning of the word volunteer, and after a lot of enthusiastic discussion, the class came up with their own definition, which was: To do something for others because you want to, not because you’re going to be paid for doing it.

Since they had been so creative with their ideas, I decided to extend the activity and asked them this question, “Can you think of some ways that you could volunteer to help someone during this Christmas Season?”

Oh my goodness! This was a brainstorming session on steroids.:)The enthusiasm and creativity of their responses made my day. Again and again, I was reminded of just how giving children really are. Some of their ideas may not have been the most practical (‘I could bake cakes for everyone in my neighborhood.’) or cost effective (‘I could buy a new collar and leash for every dog at the humane society and then take them for a walk.’) - BUT - they were all meant from the heart.

That got me thinking. As parents and teachers, we have such a wonderful opportunity during this season of the year to give a lasting gift to our children. We can help them to develop a tradition of giving by surrounding them with activities that will encourage them to share their creativity and love with others. You can help them to create positive memories about the joys of giving!

Giving isn’t complicated. It can be as simple as baking some cookies for a friend or helping a neighbor rake up their leaves. True giving just comes from a willing heart. I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie recently and one of the characters said, “It’s not the presents that come wrapped in ribbons and bows that count as much as the ones that come from the heart.” YES, I do watch every Christmas Movie I can, and YES, I am a dedicated Softie; but, what a great concept for our children to grasp – heartfelt gifts count!

Sometimes what may seem like the smallest of gifts can bring lasting joy to the one who receives it. A personal example of one of those gifts is a ‘whale bookmark’ that my granddaughter made for me when she was three. It doesn’t resemble a whale in any form or fashion and it’s drawn and cut out from a piece of notebook paper; but, I have treasured it for over four years.:)In giving, it really is ‘the thought that counts’.

An easy and effective way to help your children begin to think creatively about giving to others is by asking them some brainstorming questions such as:

  • “Can you think of some ways we could help one of our neighbors this Christmas Season?”
  • “What could we do to show your teacher how much we appreciate him/her?”
  • “Think of something that we could make for Grandpa and Grandma that would show them how much we love them.”

Of course, you’ll probably want to fill in the underlined parts with your families (or classrooms) suggestions. Then, after choosing some of the ideas, work with your children to help them give to others. Remember, not only do you get to spend quality family-time together, but  you’re helping your children to create a ‘Tradition of Giving’.

Celebrate together as you think…imagine…create,

Miss B.

p.s.  To help you with ‘creating a tradition of giving’, some great projects for friends, family and holiday meal settings are coming soon!


Creative Activity | Make a Mind Movie

Your children will love the opportunity to fantasize about and then star in their own “movie” by using this creative activity.  Making a movie in their minds will capture their imaginations and spark their creativity!  They’ll never guess that they are actually using five of my ‘Top 10 List’ of creative thinking skills (imagining, creating, perceiving, elaborating and performing) when they come up with their own unique scripts!

Here are the simple steps for creating a ‘mind movie’ with your children.

  1. Set up the “movie” scenario.  This is so much fun because you get to use your skills of imagining and performing. You get to set the stage for the magic to begin!  In your most dramatic voice, and using those skills of elaboration, set up a scenario like this: “We were sitting at home watching TV one day, when suddenly a news-flash came on.  The announcer said, ‘All parents must immediately stop what you’re doing and go do something very special for your children.’  Then you ask your kids, ”What would you want me to do for you?”
  2. Your children begin making up a movie in their mind of what they wish you would do for them.  You may need to use a few prompts at first, just to give them some ideas of where to go with their movie.  (i.e. “Where do you want me to go?  What am I going to do for you?  How will you feel after I do something special just for you?”)
  3. Give them time to think.   “Losing track of time” is OK in this activity. :)
  4. When they are ready, ask them to share their ‘Mind Movie’ with you.  You’ll be in for an experience of pure delight and fun!

S-t-r-e-t-c-h those brain cells even farther by having your children design and create a movie poster announcing their new ‘Blockbuster’.  It is a wonderful way for them to be able to remember and share their ‘Mind Movie’ with family and friends.

Here are three more scenarios for other mind movies.  With imagination, you and your children will also be able to come up with oddles of blockbuster movie scenarios.  Please share some of them with me!

  • You are outside one night looking at the stars.  All at once you see two huge, round lights coming slowly across the yard.  What in the world is happening?
  • You are playing a game on your iPad and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get to the next level.  All of a sudden you hear one of the game characters talking to you.  Are you going crazy? What is happening?
  • You are a little mouse that has sneaked aboard the Mayflower.  You just heard the Captain tell his crew that there are 5 mean cats on the ship.  How are you going to keep out of the way of those cats?

The stars of this activity are your children.  Celebrate with them as they “think…imagine…create”!

Miss B.


I’ve used this process many times as a pre-writing activity and have always been surprised and pleased with the unique narrative stories that were produced.  Usually, I would give 3 scenarios and after considering all of them, the children would choose one prompt as their inspiration for a  ”mind movie”.  The students often told me how much it helped, because they were able visualize their whole story (beginning, middle, end)  before they even picked up a pencil to write.

Thinking Skills | Two Ways to Think about Thinking

Oh the thinks you can think quote from Dr. Seuss

I’d like to briefly explain the two main types of thinking skills, critical and creative so that you will understand what I’m meaning when they are mentioned in posts here on Miss B.’s Classroom. As a retired gifted and talented teacher, I found that all children who develop both types of thinking skills became the more well-rounded learners.

Critical thinking skills train your children to focus in on what they know and understand, in order to evaluate and solve a specific problem that’s been given to them.  Most of the subjects that are taught during a child’s education emphasize the skills found in the critical thinking areas.  Critical thinking is a very essential part of the thinking process; but, it is only a fraction of the skills your children will need if they are to become effective, productive and life-long learners.

My ‘Top 10 List’ of critical thinking skills would be:  hypothesize, interpret, evaluate, compare, classify, identify, judge, analyze, summarize, and problem-solve.

On the other hand, creative thinking skills will help your children learn how to develop many original ideas and make oodles of imaginative discoveries and inventions.  These skills will enable your children to move in new directions in their thought processes, so that they’ll be able to come up with unique and inventive ways to solve their own problems.

My ‘Top 10 List’ of creative thinking skills would be:  imagine, create, perform, elaborate, design, invent, construct, develop, transform, and perceive.

Most of the activities shared in Miss B.’s Classroom will concentrate on the creative thinking skills; because, I believe that every child wants to “think…imagine…create”.

Miss B


P.S.  I LOVE doing research about thinking skills! Do you have a different ‘Top 10 List’ than mine? If so, let me know what YOUR favorites are!

Teaching Tip | It Takes Time to THINK.

Do you realize how important TIME is in the creative thinking process? Sometimes, when we’re interacting with our children, we assume that they should be able to give an answer to our questions in just seconds or minutes. Without meaning to, we try to hurry up their thinking process. We sometimes forget to let our children have those fascinating conversations with their own brains. Our world today is so full of fast-paced activities, that it’s really hard to TAKE the time to just slow down and allow our children the joy of thinking. This is one of the most important things that you as parents can model, teach, and encourage  your children to do: take the time to think.

This is an easy exercise that will help you to recognize how many different processes there are, and how much time it takes, for your brain to solve a simple problem. In essence, try to think about what you are thinking about!

Plato Quote

Here is a question for you to consider: What are you doing for dinner next Saturday?

I can imagine the conversation you are having with your brain . . . “What do we have on the calendar next Saturday? I wish I could remember what time the game is. I wonder what the weather will be like? Will it just be the family or should we invite some friends? Hmmm . . . Do I want to make things simple and easy? I wonder if I’ve got a recipe on my Pinterest board for an appetizer. I’ll probably need to go to the store. Maybe we can just barbecue chicken and do a salad. I’m going to call and see if Ray and Anne could make it at 5:30.” (And so on, and so on, the thinking process goes!)

How much time did that take for you to go through the process of thinking about next Saturday’s dinner? There was a lot to consider wasn’t there?  It would have been difficult for you to have had to ’hurry up’ your thinking process.  Now, consider the questions that you ask your children throughout the day.  Do you allow them enough time for simply thinking through the conversations going on in their heads?

While you are having fun with the activities from Miss B.’s Classroom, remember that you are helping your children succeed  when you give them the time that it takes to think…imagine…create!  :)

Miss B.


Teaching Tip | Yes, You Can!

One of the most exciting and important things that you can do for your children is to help them reach their Thinking Potential.  It may sometimes seem like an impossible and daunting task, but YOU CAN DO IT!  Learning how to think is one of the most valuable tools that you can teach your children, because it will to help them to achieve success in every area of their lives. It will give them a brighter future! Thinking is actually a skill that can be learned, just like math and reading, and you will be able see a lot of improvement with consistent practice and positive encouragement.  You may have to remind yourself once in awhile that great thinkers aren’t made overnight, it does take some time.  But the reward is, that you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the process of teaching your children to become imaginative and creative thinkers.

Quote from thinking skills expert, Miss B. of Miss B.

Miss B.