Monday, December 9, 2013

MindWare: Great Tools for Critical Thinking!

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, my class this year is unique! I knew early on that I needed to supplement my instruction with opportunities for the students to think critically. Unfortunately, all the resources I had on hand were to help below-level learners. I set out on a search to find some useful resources and stumbled  upon a fantastic website- MindWare! This company offers all kinds of items from toys to workbooks to satisfy learners of all types. 

To start out, I bought a sampling of things that sounded like they would fit our needs. First up, Perplexors. These are deductive reasoning puzzles that force kids to think critically. Based on a slim number of clues, students must match certain items with their correct descriptions. The puzzles are great for students who need a challenge and who love to solve puzzles, but they also are fabulous for readers who struggle with drawing conclusions. All of my students LOVE these puzzles!

MindWare also has Math Perplexors that are similar to the Perplexors, but require students to use a combination of logic and math concepts. They are fabulous! Obviously, my students who struggle in math have a harder time with these, but my GT students love the challenge. Even the struggling students can eventually reach the solution when paired with other students and allowed sufficient time. These puzzles really get your brain working!

Another resource my students love are the Analogy Crosswords. Students must draw on their background knowledge and make reasonable connections in order to solve the puzzles. Analogies are great tools on their own (and kids love them), but combined with the challenge of a crossword puzzle, it makes for great discussions and learning opportunities! We've had to make several trips to the classroom library when working on these puzzles to help us solve them!

All of these puzzles come in various levels of complexity. Because my students are third graders, we either use the Basic Level or the Level A puzzles, depending on which type of puzzle we are working with. Most puzzles range from Basic Level up to Expert Level (which is recommended for ages 13 and up), so they are great for students of any age.

My students literally cheer when I pass out a new packets of these puzzles. I'm excited to try out other resources from this company throughout the year. I'll let you know how it goes!

Do you have any other ideas or resources that encourage critical thinking? I'd love to hear about them!

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