Teaching Critical Thinking Skills to Fourth Grade Students Identified as Gifted and Talented
by Debra Connerly
Graceland University - Cedar Rapids, Iowa - December 2006

In this action research study, gifted elementary students benefited from the involvement in critical thinking activities. The gifted education community has frequently discussed the development of our learners’ thinking skills. As an educator of elementary gifted students, I have often been frustrated with the lack of depth I find in my students’ thinking, as well as the lack of challenge they experience in their regular classrooms. My goal for this action research study was to move a group of fourth grade students identified as gifted and talented from being naïve and self absorbed about their thinking to taking ownership of their thoughts. The primary materials used for this study were from The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking for Children (Elder, 2002). The study focused on a combination of affective and cognitive skills, and applied the intellectual standards of clarity, accuracy, relevance, logic, and fairmindedness to students’ thinking. Activities that did not use the above materials are not mentioned in this modified text.

The characters of Selfish Sam, Naïve Nancy, and Fairminded Fran (Elder, 2002) allowed learners to become aware of and understand both positive and negative thinking behaviors in themselves and others. All students commented about personal application of the standards. In addition to understanding each standard, students saw the interrelatedness of the standards. Pre- and post-surveys showed an increased understanding and personal application of the standards.

More work must be done to help all teachers understand and teach critical thinking skills to their learners. Teachers of gifted students need to create classrooms where critical thought is taught, practiced, and expected. The findings of this study would also suggest elementary classroom teachers, as a whole, are not comfortable with teaching and recognizing the intellectual standards of critical thought. Only when the language and practice of critical thinking are incorporated into daily use, will it become internalized by our young thinkers.

Since the completion of this action research study, I have continued to use the language of critical thinking in my classroom. I am more aware of the standards and work to incorporate them into my lesson planning. This unit of study will become the initial unit for my fourth grade gifted learners each year and will be incorporated into my fourth and fifth grade lessons.
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