Teaching students to think critically is a challenging, but essential, task. Critical thinking is necessary in our everyday lives, even to our safety and well-being. There are many component skills that help build critical thinkers. The abilities to observe, infer, question, generalize, use prior knowledge, draw conclusions, and support thinking with evidence are just some of the skills that students must master and apply.
One of the most effective strategies I’ve used in the classroom to help develop critical thinking is our Analyze the Picture of the Day activity. It’s simple and extremely low-prep. You can use it over and over and it’s always fresh and new. Students learn and grow by their own participation and by hearing what their peers contribute.
Preparation for using Analyze Picture of the Day as a year-long activity is so simple. I always provide students with a template that gets glued/taped into their Science notebook. You could put the template in any notebook. Some that I've used look like this.
Students are challenged to write two inferences and two questions based on what they see in the picture. I direct students to write full, complete sentences following this model, "I can infer ______ because _______." It get kids familiar with the concept of inference and supports writing complete sentences. The same is true of the questions. I encourage questions to begin with, "Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Does? or Is?"
As we're learning the process, it's amazing how much you can pull from one picture! Check out some of the inferences/questions we pulled from the picture below!
Kids love knowing that you can hardly ever be wrong as long as you can point to evidence in the picture to support their inference or question. I keep reminding them that, "Inference requires evidence."The beauty of analyzing a picture is how well it transitions to analyzing literature. With careful modeling, students begin to form in their minds pictures of what is taking place as they read.
If you're interested in some of the materials I use, check out my "Critical Thinking: Analyze the Picture of the Day" product on TPT. I've included 12 pictures in the product to get started and suggestions for other photo resources. Best wishes!