Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Critical Thinking Detective Review

One of the reasons we homeschool is that we want our children to be able to think for themselves, to be able to problem solve to find a solution. It is our job to prepare them for life, not just memorize facts from a book. While rote memorization is profitable in certain areas, we don't want to solely rely on that method for our children's education. We strive to give our kids the tools necessary to make clear, reasoned judgments. In other words, we want to develop their critical thinking. Critical thinking has been defined as "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." Or more simply, identifying and evaluating evidence to guide decision making. What better way to strengthen their critical thinking than by using products from a company with the same name.

The Critical Thinking Co. is "committed to developing students' critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life." They offer many books and curricula to prepare students, not by teaching through drill and memorization, but instead by teaching in a way that empowers the mind. Critical Thinking Detective Book 1, written by Michael Baker, is one such book.

This critical thinking book lets your child be the detective. It's filled with 12 cases in which to evaluate evidence and solve the crimes. The mysteries ensure that the students "read carefully and analyze and synthesize information to guide their decision-making." The book is recommended for grades 4-12, and though it is easy-to-use, it requires the student to pay attention to details and study the evidence.

My kids love mystery books and enjoy various series that focus on them, so I wasn't surprised that as soon as I got the book from the mailbox, my 12-year-old snatched it up. I was thrilled at his enthusiasm, but hindsight showed me that it wasn't the best decision.

When I sat down with my older kids (12, 10, 8) a few days later to work through the mysteries, I learned that my oldest already knew all the answers. He had read through each scenario. That in itself wouldn't have been a bad thing, I mean, I am all for independent learning and self-directed studies. The problem is that he quickly read the information, made an under-developed guess, and checked the answers. He did not take the time to fully strengthen his critical thinking skills.

He sat with the rest of us as we worked through each mystery and was disappointed that he remembered all the culprits and therefore missed out on the fun of solving the crimes. This time though, his critical thinking skills were put to the test, and he was able to reason through the steps of the process.

The book is set up so that each mystery is a two-page spread. The first page describes the situation and lists statements for four suspects. The second page is for notes and solutions. There is room to list each suspect and give evidence for their innocence or guilt.

The license for this book states that I have permission to copy each page for use in my home. That is so exciting when you have multiple kiddos! However, we chose to talk through the mysteries together. My kids are at the young end of the spectrum (seeing as one is at the youngest recommended age, one is a couple years too young, and one already knew the answers). I talked them through the first scenario and showed them how to evaluate the facts. I explained why certain suspects were innocent based on the information and proved who was the criminal. The second scheme was much the same, except I asked for their thoughts before giving my input. By the third, the kids were able to solve the crimes on their own. Of course, there were times when they were stumped. I would re-read the line(s) that contained the information they needed to deduce the next piece of the puzzle.

I love the format of this Detective Book. The descriptions are concise. Each sentence is numbered so that you can easily understand the solutions. The crimes are not morbid, but are appropriate for children (all thefts: lunch money, bath robe, plant, football, and even a couple lighthearted ones committed by pets).

The only aspect I don't like is the answer pages. Each mystery is listed and gives reasoning for guilt or innocence, but it also shows the lineup of the suspects with the criminal circled in red. It's tricky to look in the back for the answer of a specific scenario without accidentally seeing another culprit. The book should remove the images altogether and rely solely on the names for answers.

My kids immediately fell in love with this style of learning. In addition to developing their critical thinking skills, this book prompted me to introduce them to logic puzzles. As a child, I greatly enjoyed checking off those little boxes and using deductive reasoning to figure them out. My kids, too, think these puzzles are fun and have solved dozens of them since starting the Detective Book. Any book that encourages my kids to do extra learning is a plus for me.

The Critical Thinking Co. offers so many resources that look like fun. There is a Detective Book similar to this one, but the student solves the crimes by focusing on Vocabulary. In Something's Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha, students solve the crime by using forensic evidence such as fingerprints, ballistics, handwriting, and more. Students can decode riddles by relying on their language skills in Vocabulary Riddles Book 1. Whether you're looking for critical thinking activities, math books, science resources, or even full curriculum for every grade, The Critical Thinking Co.™ is sure to have something to spark your interest.

You can currently take advantage of coupon code TOSCREW18 to receive free shipping and a 15% discount off any size order! You can also sign up to receive free critical thinking puzzles delivered to your inbox by signing up on their site. My kids enjoy these weekly puzzles. Since you can choose which grade level(s) you receive, my kids each get a fun learning activity designed specifically for their age.

Thank you The Critical Thinking Co. for providing not only engaging and thought-provoking materials, but ones that are interesting and enjoyable, as well.

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