Critical and Creative Thinking Strategies, Grades K-6 (Level I) (2024)

Level I services are open access and a part of the curriculum for all students. Teachers embed critical and creative thinking strategies in lessons across all subject areas and grade levels.

The advanced academic resource teacher and classroom teachers teach nine higher order thinking strategies across all subject areas and grade levels. The strategies are embedded in lessons that incorporate 21st Century thinking skills and extend and enrich the Program of Studies (POS) for all learners. Student responses to the lessons are also used to collect evidence of advanced academic potential in order to ensure equity and increase access to advanced academic programs.

In kindergarten through grade six, the critical and creative thinking lessons are designed to elicit a higher level thinking response. These lessons can also be used to identify and nurture gifted potential among young learners. The problem-solving skills, thinking processes, and student products that result from these lessons provide observable evidence of a student's ability to think and reason on advanced levels.

Each lesson is structured around a five-stage model which provides students opportunities to connect content to prior knowledge, engage in new ideas, use thinking skills to consider possibilities, reflect on new learning, and connect the lesson to future learning.

For example, one second grade lesson teaches the students the art of persuasion using a picture book titled,I Wanna Iguanaby Karen Kaufman Orloff. In the book, a child and his mother write letters about their points of view regarding adopting a pet.

Critical and creative thinking lessons are designed to be integrated in each K-6 classroom throughout the year. The advanced academics resource teacher collaborates with the classroom teacher to model and coordinate several response lesson experiences throughout the year for all students.

Each of the lessons teaches a specific thinking strategy. The lessons may be used to develop creative and critical thinking skills in all learners. Each thinking strategy can be used at any grade level and in any curriculum area. Students are taught the name of the strategy, how it can help them become better thinkers, and are then given opportunities to practice using the thinking strategies in different content areas. Icons provide a visual representation that helps students identify and remember the thinking strategy.

The nine different strategies are


Active learners are always questioning. Students who take responsibility for asking their own questions become more productive and engaged in their learning processes. Metacognition, or thinking about thinking, involves questioning our individual learning processes. Such questioning helps us solve problems by developing, implementing, and evaluating plans of action. Guiding the development of thinking skills in all students empowers them, increases their independence, and helps them develop to their maximum potential. Children always have a wealth of questions – encourage questioning in your child and work with them to find answers.

Fluency, Originality, Flexibility, and Elaboration

When students are able to come up with ideas (fluency), combine ideas in new ways or come up with unusual ideas (originality), then categorize and develop their ideas (flexibility and elaboration), they are more able to make inventive or creative connections between ideas. Students should become comfortable with generating lots of ideas without pre-judgment. The process of suspending judgment is important to brainstorming and maintaining an open mind. Fluency and flexibility open up the thinking of students to consider many possibilities, and originality and elaboration stretch the uniqueness of their thinking. This is a great strategy to use with your children to generate ideas for a family trip, a way to spend the weekend, the best pet for the family, creative solutions to problems that arise, and other situations that lend themselves to multiple ideas for consideration.


This strategy opens up student thinking by using sensory information to stimulate imagination with both spoken and written words. The process of visualization can also help students plan out an experience before execution. Students can “see” roadblocks and problems before encountering them. This strategy helps with planning, goal-setting, and organization. Research studies have shown that visualization greatly increases the level and depth of comprehension of both spoken and written words. Visualization can be a powerful strategy for helping your child set goals, picture the steps that need to be taken, consider alternatives, and visualize a plan to achieve their goals.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a method of visual note taking that helps students organize information in unique and personal ways. It is appropriate for all students because it helps them retain, remember, and recall information. It also helps students to see the whole picture at once and make connections among related ideas without interruption. As students begin to work with more information in the content areas, this is a key skill which is especially important for visual learners and students who enjoy making connections among ideas.Mindmapping is a lot of fun – you and your child can write a word or draw a circle in the middle of a page. Next, draw lines and new circles to ideas and words or pictures that connect to the original word. For example, maybe your child is interested in space. Together you could create a mind map of all that you know about space and then add things that you want to investigate.

Point of View (POV)

This thinking strategy allows students to explore an idea from multiple perspectives. This helps to broaden students’ thinking and demonstrates that an idea should be examined from many points of view before an opinion is formed. The discipline of examining an issue from many perspectives will provide students with a good model for open-ended receptive thinking and empathizing with the opinions of others. Everyone has a viewpoint! It is important for children to become comfortable sharing their own viewpoint and listening to and learning from others. Parents can help their children recognize different viewpoints through books and stories or conversations that encourage a discussion of questions that have no definite answers, e.g., what makes a good friend? Another example would be a discussion of a movie that you attend together that might lead to different viewpoints on the theme or message of the movie.


Analogies allow students to make connections at a more sophisticated level. This structure for thinking helps students relate material to previously learned concepts as well as generate new comparisons. A facility for working with analogies gives students a structure for generating creative ideas, seeing complex relationships, and making unusual comparisons. Analogies are fun – how is thinking like a volcano? How is a dandelion like a good book? They stimulate the imagination and lead students to deeper understandings by connecting things that do not always appear connected.


Encapsulation is the process of stating ideas in a concise, precise form. It is not a summary and does not involve simply stating the main idea or restating information or opinions. Encapsulation requires students to synthesize information and nuances in order to capture the essence of an idea, object, or activity, and then communicate their thoughts clearly.Vanity license plates are an example of encapsulating an idea with letters and symbols – try creating your own with your child!

Decisions and Outcomes

This strategy provides a framework in which students can assess and evaluate a variety of decisions and possible outcomes. Understanding cause and effect relationships helps students recognize the importance of examining the outcomes of multiple decision options before embarking on a course of action. The concept of examining outcomes is relevant for all students as they learn to consider both short-term and long-range consequences in the decision making process. For example, your child may want to make a purchase. This would be a great time to consider the short term consequences (the purchase may use up all of their savings, they may have to forego other purchases for awhile, etc.) and long-term consequences (it could be less expensive if they wait, a newer, improved model may come on the market, it may be impulse buying and later they may regret spending the money.) These are important considerations for children to think about that will carry on into adult life. This strategy also works well for decisions about what sport to play, whether or not they do their homework, and many others as they realize that all decisions have outcomes that must be considered.

Plus, Minus, Interesting (PMI)

The PMI strategy encourages students to think about many possibilities, and to explore the positive and negative aspects of ideas or activities. PMI encourages students to develop the habit of looking beyond the polarity of “yes or no,” “wrong or right,” “my answer or your answer.” The goal of PMI is to develop independent thinkers who consider a range of ideas and/or possibilities and see beyond the obvious. The “interesting” category can also include questions. This strategy works well when discussing books, events, family trips, musical instruments or any other ideas that can be considered through the lens of pluses, minuses, and interesting aspects. For example, your child is trying to decide which musical instrument to play. Together you make a chart of the plus, minus, and interesting aspects of each instrument that they are considering. Often the interesting column leads to insights that will help them make a decision.

Critical and Creative Thinking lessons represent a broad range of thinking strategies that extend and enrich the Virginia Standards of Learning and the Fairfax County Public Schools’ Program of Studies objectives. Each lesson can be expanded to encompass more complex thinking skills for those students ready for more advanced levels. Classroom teachers can introduce these “Thinking Lessons” in any order as stand-alone activities, or they can integrate the strategies with content-area material.

All students can be taught to sharpen their critical and creative thinking skills and to become more independent and effective learners. Using Thinking Lessons is the first level of gifted service and is one important way that classroom teachers can recognize and develop advanced thinking in all learners.

For more information about the model lessons, contact the Advanced Academic resource teacher at your local elementary school.

Critical and Creative Thinking Strategies in Action

Critical and Creative Thinking Strategies, Grades K-6 (Level I) (2024)


What is critical thinking skills PDF? ›

Critical thinking encompasses the subject's ability to. process and synthesise information in such a way that it enables them to apply it judiciously to. tasks for informed decision-making and effective problem-solving.

How to develop critical and creative thinking skills in the primary grades? ›

How to increase critical thinking skills as a student?
  1. Ask questions. It is often seen that students hesitate to ask questions in the classroom. ...
  2. Participate in discussions. ...
  3. Practice active learning. ...
  4. Study with the help of examples. ...
  5. Go beyond academic learning.
Nov 24, 2021

What is critical thinking in 6th grade? ›

Critical thinking is the process of using higher-order thinking skills in which students observe, conceptualize, apply, evaluate, and synthesize information that they learn in order to solve problems and make decisions effectively.

How can I help my 7th grader with critical thinking skills? ›

Critical thinking exercises for elementary education
  1. Ask questions. ...
  2. Encourage decision-making. ...
  3. Work in groups. ...
  4. Incorporate different points of view. ...
  5. Connect different ideas. ...
  6. Inspire creativity. ...
  7. Brainstorm.

What is an example of critical thinking? ›

Examples of Critical Thinking

A triage nurse analyzes the cases at hand and decides the order by which the patients should be treated. A plumber evaluates the materials that would best suit a particular job. An attorney reviews evidence and devises a strategy to win a case or to decide whether to settle out of court.

What is critical and creative thinking for kids? ›

Critical and creative thinking involves students thinking broadly and deeply using skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school.

What is critical thinking for elementary students? ›

Critical thinking happens when children draw on their existing knowledge and experience, as well as on their problem-solving skills, to do things like: Compare and contrast. Explain why things happen. Evaluate ideas and form opinions.

What is an example of critical thinking for students? ›

For example, students might apply critical thinking in their science lesson to work out the best way to approach their group project. They make decisions such as who will complete each task, in what time frame. They solve problems like how and where they will meet outside of school hours to work together.

What are critical thinking skills in ELA? ›

Critical Thinking and Writing

It is the process of objectively analyzing, evaluating, and making judgements about information and arguments. When used in essay writing and written communication, critical thinking helps individuals produce well-reasoned, well-supported, and convincing arguments.

What are the 6 keys to critical thinking? ›

The key critical thinking skills are identifying biases, inference, research, identification, curiosity, and judging relevance. Let's explore these six critical thinking skills you should learn and why they're so important to the critical thinking process.

At what age should critical thinking be taught? ›

At the age of 13 and older, children can begin to learn the rules of formal logic and further hone their critical thinking skills. Whether or not their children are learning these skills in school, parents can help by discussing how to analyze concepts and arguments.

What are the five easy steps to improve your critical thinking skills? ›

Here's how you can start improving today.
  1. Formulate your question. Know what you're looking for specifically. ...
  2. Gather your information. Now that you know what's relevant to your problem or decision, research it. ...
  3. Apply the information. What concepts are at work? ...
  4. Consider the implications. ...
  5. Explore other points of view.

At what age do you learn critical thinking? ›

Critical thinking in human development occurs from 5 to 9 years of age. This is the age where brain development is at its peak. Critical thinking can be explained as the ability to think rationally, understanding the logic behind the ideas and their connections.

How do you answer critical thinking questions? ›

Your answer should display how you were able to use logic and resourcefulness to come to a rational decision. When including an example in your response, focus on the thought process rather than the results.

Which choice is the best example of a critical thinking question? ›

Which choice is the best example of a critical thinking question? How can we find out if this is true? An important critical thinking question is: How strongly is your reasoning supported by management?

What is the difference between critical thinking and creative thinking? ›

Critical thinking is the ability to clearly and logically consider information that is presented to us. Creative thinking is about generating new, novel, or useful ideas.

What are the 5 C's of critical thinking? ›

That's why we've identified the Five C's of Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Leadership, and Character to serve as the backbone of a Highland education.

What are the 3 C's of critical thinking? ›

3C Thinking stands for critical, creative and collaborative thinking. Described simply, 3C Thinking is about helping students determine what to do with the knowledge they have at their fingertips, the things they observe around them, and the ideas they hear from others.

What do the five C's have to do with critical thinking? ›

The Five C's include critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration, and citizenship skills. Through application of these concepts across academic disciplines, students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed post-graduation.

What is creative thinking in kids? ›

Creative thinking is the ability to come up with new approaches and ideas. This critical life skill enables the child to connect the dots and see the bigger picture, and it's definitely worth developing in kids at an early stage. Creative thinking promotes imagination and concentration.

What is an example of critical thinking in primary school? ›

A sign of children thinking critically is whether they are able to agree or disagree with something. For example, you can encourage children to give reasons or examples as to why they agree or disagree with a topic. Pushing children to expand on their answer will help them think through their point of view more deeply.

How to measure critical thinking skills in elementary students? ›

The most effective way to measure critical thinking is to use a validated critical thinking skills test to assess the skills used to solve problems and make decisions AND to use a critical thinking mindset measure to assess the level of the person's consistent internal motivation or willingness to use his or her ...

How do students learn critical thinking? ›


Class discussions are an important method in developing students' critical thinking skills. Providing students with a safe forum in which to express their thoughts and ideas empowers them to think deeply about issues and vocalize their thoughts.

What is an example of critical literacy in the classroom? ›

Inviting students to write down the messages that they see in public transport, to take photographs of graffiti or billboards, to cut out advertisem*nts from magazines, or to collect sweet wrappers to bring to class helps them to read the everyday texts they encounter critically.

Why is critical thinking important for elementary students? ›

Critical thinking is one of the most valuable cognitive skills because it allows us to use discipline and logical skills to solve problems. It is also important for a child's brain and cognitive development.

What are the 7 critical thinking skills of the common core? ›

Pete details a three-phase teaching model and dives deep into how to teach seven key student proficiencies: critical thinking, creative thinking, complex thinking, comprehensive thinking, collaborative thinking, communicative thinking, and cognitive transfer.

Why do children need critical thinking skills? ›

They help us to make good decisions, understand the consequences of our actions and solve problems. These incredibly important skills are used in everything from putting together puzzles to mapping out the best route to work.

What are the four steps to improve critical thinking? ›

Key steps to improving critical thinking include analyze, interpret, present, and evaluate.

What type of questions promote thinking skills in children? ›

Personal resonse or open ended questions promote thinking skills in children.

What are the 6 thinking levels? ›

There are six levels of cognitive learning according to the revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy. Each level is conceptually different. The six levels are remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Is critical thinking class hard? ›

First, van Gelder notes that critical thinking is HARD. It is a higher-order skill that involves the mastery of low-level skills before you even begin to tackle the critical thinking part. For example, reading this blog post requires you to have mastered some basic reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.

How hard is critical thinking? ›

Critical thinking is hard. As with anything challenging, this means there is an aspect of attitude to critical thinking. It takes perseverance, patience, and forgiveness to be a critical thinker.

Why is it so hard to teach critical thinking? ›

One issue is that the common conception of critical thinking or scientific thinking (or historical thinking) as a set of skills is not accurate. Critical thinking does not have certain characteristics normally associated with skills — in particular, being able to use that skill at any time.

Are good critical thinkers born or taught? ›

Children are not born with the power to think critically, nor do they develop this ability naturally beyond survival-level thinking. Critical thinking is a learned ability that must be taught. Most individuals never learn it. Critical thinking cannot be taught reliably to students by peers or by most parents.

Can critical thinking be taught? ›

In schools, critical thinking is mostly treated as a general skill that can be taught in a generic way. The academic load sure makes adding the teaching of critical thinking a challenge, let alone teaching the specific skills for each subject and area of knowledge.

What is an example of critical thinking in everyday life? ›

Using your time wisely

Deciding how you use your time is another example of critical thinking. Continually evaluating how you spend your time can help you discover tasks and activities that may change how you prioritize your duties.

What is meant by critical thinking skills? ›

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

How do you explain critical thinking skills? ›

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze facts and form a judgment. It is a form of emotional intelligence. Someone with critical thinking skills can think clearly and rationally when the situation demands it. It allows them to perform problem-solving and decision-making more effectively.

What is critical thinking easily explained? ›

Critical thinking refers to the ability to evaluate information and to be aware of biases or assumptions, including your own. Like information literacy, it involves evaluating arguments, identifying and solving problems in an objective and systematic way, and clearly communicating your ideas.

What makes a person a critical thinker? ›

Dispositions: Critical thinkers are skeptical, open-minded, value fair-mindedness, respect evidence and reasoning, respect clarity and precision, look at different points of view, and will change positions when reason leads them to do so.

What is critical thinking for kids? ›

What Is Critical Thinking? Critical thinking happens when children draw on their existing knowledge and experience, as well as on their problem-solving skills, to do things like: Compare and contrast. Explain why things happen. Evaluate ideas and form opinions.

What are the 3 main critical thinking techniques? ›

Critical-thinking skills connect and organize ideas. Three types distinguish them: analysis, inference, and evaluation.

What is another word for critical thinking? ›

Synonyms for critical thinking include brainstorming, conceptualising, conceptualizing, deliberating, inventing, problem solving, reasoning, thinking, abstract thought and consideration.

How can I improve my critical thinking skills? ›

How To Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills
  1. Know exactly what you want. ...
  2. Deal with your biases. ...
  3. Consider the consequences of your options. ...
  4. Do your research. ...
  5. Accept the fact that you're not always right. ...
  6. Break it down. ...
  7. Don't overcomplicate things. ...
  8. 2023 Course Trends & Skills Outlook Report.
Apr 6, 2023

What is the main purpose of critical thinking? ›

Critical thinking helps people better understand themselves, their motivations and goals. When you can deduce information to find the most important parts and apply those to your life, you can change your situation and promote personal growth and overall happiness.

Do critical thinkers have a high IQ? ›

The researchers found that both intelligence and critical thinking predicted the occurrence of negative life events, but critical thinking ability was a stronger predictor than intelligence. This means that you can have high IQ but still make decisions that may lead to negative life outcomes.

How do you prove you are a critical thinker? ›

How to demonstrate critical thinking skills on your resume
  1. Describe a challenging situation at work that put your critical thinking and decision-making skills to the test.
  2. Mention a situation in which your answer to a problem was crucial for the success of a project.

Can critical thinking skills be learned? ›

Critical thinking can be learned, but it is quite difficult. Critical thinking is learned through a specific process of self-improvement called deliberate practice and it can take a long time to master it.


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