The language classroom provides valuable opportunities to help improve critical thinking skills, even if students are not yet very competent in the foreign language. This article will suggest ways in which critical thinking can be fostered in elementary classes (CEFR A2).
Performing communicative activities
Unlike traditional approaches, in which memorization and mechanical application of rules were the norm, communicative language teaching features life-like tasks. As these require students to analyse facts and reach a conclusion, choose from various available options, negotiate a particular choice, or express agreement/disagreement, they should encourage students to take an active part in the discussions and their outcomes. Lower-level learners may benefit from “Useful Language” that will help them structure their views or reactions (“I don’t think so” / “Yes, but have you thought about…?” / “A is good but B is better because…”)
Steering clear from teacher-centred lessons
As a result of the above, students need the opportunity to become the central element of our lessons, especially now that teachers seem to take centre stage because of the nature of virtual platforms. When using communicative activities, there will not necessarily be right or wrong answers, and students can justify their views and question their peers’ while resorting to the language they already know plus phrases or patterns like those mentioned above.
Helping students develop language awareness
Even at low levels, students can learn that their linguistic choices may or may not be appropriate in certain settings. For example, they can distinguish the nature of written and spoken discourse when conveying similar messages, or decide whether a particular way of enunciating expresses a particular feeling or intention. Early exposure, in my view, could help incorporate the notions or appropriacy or register into students’ learning and, hopefully, turn them into very aware users.
Now it’s your turn
How do you foster critical thinking in your lessons?