Fake News: Kids Need Critical Thinking Skills

Boosting Critical Thinking Skills for Teens

Dear Parents,

There is a lot of talk lately about REAL news versus FAKE news.

What is true? What is not true?  How do you tell the difference?

How do our children develop the critical thinking skills neccessary to discern fact from fiction?

Here are some ideas.  

Your Library




From a child's point of view there may not be a clear line between fact and illusion. It's a big world and there's a lot to know. 

This is where parents are a child's most important teachers. When parents nurture a child's critical thinking and comprehension skills, they provide them with lifelong tools for successfully negotiating life's unexpected twists and turns, the false from the true.

This deep nurturing happens in real time, everyday talk and attention. Children will develop their non-cognitive, critical thinking simply by modeling caring adults who hold on-going conversations about what is happening around them!

Also in reading stories and rhymes, in playing games and sharing riddles, and by encouraging them to explore and to question. This is Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns that expands as your child's world expands through school and education, through socializing and interactions beyond their intimate family dynamics.

Developing Critical Thinkers

Nurturing critical thinking skills happens in day-to-day conversations.

But where to begin, and what is appropriate for preschoolers, for elementary school students, for middle school students? And what about teens who are preparing for college?

Here are some suggestions:

I. Sharing Personal Stories

Sharing personal and family stories with your children will show them how you or other members of your family have responded to and thought about morally challenging, funny, confusing situations and more. Then, being open to their questions and concerns will expand upon the story's message or learning points. Also, asking your child pointed questions and discussing their response to the story is important.

II. READING Together

Reading stories and books together opens all kinds of possibilities for insights and patterns, contemplation and consequence, for colorful and lively conversations. 

Here are some suggestions for 1. techniques and 2. books to real aloud to your child and 3. books to co-read with your older child that support the development of critical thinking skills and reading comprehension:

Reading aloud together supports deeper thinking and reading comprehension.

1.Techniques for Reading Aloud that Support Critical Thinking
5 Easy Skills to Teach Kids During Read Alouds  ( *From Scholastic Parents):
  1. Predicting a logical guess about a story before the text is read.
  2. Activating schema - what readers already know.
  3. Questioning a skill critical for developing reading comprehension.
  4. Making connections to draw readers closer to texts. 
  5. Visualizing - have readers picture, or visualize, what they are reading*
--See more at Scholastic Parents: 5 Easy Skills to Teach Kids During Read Alouds


2. Read Aloud Booklists for Critical Thinking



Picture Books for Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Read Aloud to Your K/2nd Grader to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Read Aloud to Your 3rd/4th Grader and Develop Critical Thinking Skills


3. Co-Reading for Parents and Older Children to Build Critical Thinking Skills



Parents and 5/6th Graders


III. Nature Walks 

A simple walk around the block is an opportunity to stretch critical thinking with your child in a fun and engaging way. The sights, sounds, plant life, shapes of clouds, feel of the wind, and changing light are all topics for conversation and observation.


"The outdoors is a rich source of things to study, including weather, seasons, life cycles, sounds, physics, and the idea of change as a constant in life. Because there is so much information outdoors, children can sharpen their critical thinking skills by:

IV. Playing Board games

Playing games with your child is a fun way to build critical thinking skills and, at the same time, supporting a child's sense of self-esteem through special time with parents.

boardgame-family.jpgBoard games build brain power and support family bonding.

The Benefits of Board Games

...Playing games is an easy and excellent way to spend unhurried, enjoyable time together. As an added bonus, board games are also rich in learning opportunities. They satisfy your child's competitive urges and the desire to master new skills and concepts, such as:

  • number and shape recognition, grouping, and counting
  • letter recognition and reading
  • visual perception and color recognition
  • eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity
Board games can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen your child's attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game.*

 -- *See More at Scholastic Parents --The Benefits of Board Games  


More Ideas for Developing Critical Thinking Skills in Children 

- From Bright Horizons Family Solutions Childcare Centers

--Provide opportunities to play. It is during play that children test their thinking, whether dropping a spoon over and over again off the side of a high chair tray; rolling two marbles down a chute to see which is faster; seeing what happens when you dip chalk in water; or mixing cornstarch and water to make "goop". Providing space for playing, including time for outdoor or pretend play, can provide open-ended opportunities to try something and see the reaction; try something else and see if you get a different reaction. This informal process of testing how things work is crucial to critical thinking.

--Help children view themselves as problem solvers and thinkers by asking open-ended questions. Rather than automatically giving answers to the questions your child raises, help them think critically by asking questions in return: "What ideas do you have? What do you think is happening here?" Respect his or her responses whether you view them as correct or not. You could say, "That is interesting. Tell me why you think that." Use phrases like "I am interested to hear your thinking about this."  "How would you solve this problem?"  "Where do you think we might get more information about this problem?"


--Don't solve all problems immediately for children. Instead ask some of the questions above and provide enough information so children don't get frustrated, but not so much information that you solve the problem for them.


--Help children develop hypotheses. "If we do this, what do you think will happen?" "Let's predict what we think will happen next."


--Encourage thinking in new and different ways. By allowing children to think differently, you're helping them hone their creative problem solving skills. Ask questions like, "What other ideas could we try?" or encourage coming up with other options, "Let’s think of all the possible solutions."


--Support your child to research further information. You can help your children develop critical thinking skills by guiding them towards looking for more information. Say, "Now how could we find out more? Your dad knows a lot about this. Shall we ask him? Or shall we try searching on the computer?

Resources and Fact Checking for Teens (and Adults)


Teens can enhance their critical thinking skills with fact checking resources.

Parenting teens is when all of the previous nurturing and critical thinking skills development will come into action!

Teens will still rely on parents for guidance in life, homework, and social encounters, even as they "try the waters" of life on their own, even as they are less direct in their expression of their true needs. Casual - or pointed - conversations take on new significance. 

In the meantime, having resources on hand that we know to be reliable and fact-based will provide important ways to "separate the wheat from the chaff."  

Here are some suggestions on Research and Fact Checking Resources, Reliable Traditional News Sources, Critical Thinking for College Prep and, for further thought, information on Media Literacy.

Research and Fact Checking Resources teensoncomputers-(1).jpg


Reliable Traditional News Sources



Boosting Critical Thinking Skills for Teens


5 Tools to Develop Critical Thinking Skills Before College

1. Brain games: Recently, websites dedicated to training your brain have enjoyed increased popularity.

2. Logic puzzles: Before the Internet, puzzles intended to exercise your brain were published in books.

3. Board games: This suggestion may seem strange at first, but do not balk. Choose board games that require more than luck – namely, strategy – for players to win.

4. Journaling: Daily reflection – such as maintaining a journal – is a simple way to revisit your day, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to explore ideas. 

5. Book clubs: Students who read for understanding find it far easier to think critically than those who rush to finish.

Read more: US News and World Reports 
- 5 Tools to Develop Critical Thinking Skills Before College


**For further thought -


How to Spot Fake News (and Teach Kids to Be Media-Savvy) 


Media literacy skills can help youth and adults:

- Develop critical thinking skills

- Understand how media messages shape our culture and society
- Identify target marketing strategies
- Recognize what the media maker wants us to believe or do 
- Name the techniques of persuasion used 
- Recognize bias, spin, misinformation, and lies 

- Discover the parts of the story that are not being told 
- Evaluate media messages based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs, and values 
- Create and distribute our own media messages
- Advocate for media justice


How Kids Learn Resilience 

In recent years, the idea that educators should be teaching kids qualities like grit and self-control has caught on. Successful strategies, though, are hard to come by.

Through interactive discussions about word choice, illustrations, and characters,
students learn to become active participants and drivers of the learning process.
Kathryn Camp 


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