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Get Kids Thinking!

Sarah Smith

Use this article with your teachers to help them develop critical thinking skills in children.

Scott memorized "Love thy neighbor as thyself" in Sunday school. He can quote it perfectly now, but he still fights constantly with neighborhood kids.

You may have a Scott in your class-or someone like him. You wrack your brain wondering, "What can I do to ensure that my students live what they learn in Sunday school and church?"

Sadly, there's no sure way to accomplish this, but there are ways to guide kids beyond simply reciting biblical principles to actually internalizing those principles. It's a simple process, and Jesus used it throughout his earthly ministry. He asked questions to get people thinking.

The types of questions you ask your students can affect whether children apply biblical truths to their lives or not. Our goal as Christian educators is to ask questions that'll require higher level or critical thinking skills in our students. We want our students to go beyond the obvious "fill-in-the-blank" answers. We want our students to think-to really think. How do we do this?

Many of us are programmed to ask questions that require only the lowest levels of thinking to answer. But if we want children to own their faith, we must help them develop strategies to think creatively and analyze complex problems.

Many theorists define and identify critical thinking skills. Benjamin Bloom is perhaps the most well-known. Bloom's Taxonomy identifies a hierarchy of thinking skills with each skill on the hierarchy being a prerequisite to the one listed after it. The levels of thinking as identified by Bloom are

  • knowledge,
  • comprehension,
  • application,
  • analysis,
  • synthesis, and
  • evaluation.

Jesus was a master teacher who utilized each of these six levels of thinking during his ministry here on earth. The results of his dynamic teaching left followers who were willing to give their life for the gospel and have perpetuated it for 2,000 years! Now that's life application at its best!

Let's take a look at Jesus' teaching methods, how they fit into Bloom's Taxonomy, and suggestions for use in your ministry.

What it is: At the lowest level of Bloom's Taxonomy of thinking skills is the capacity to recall facts. The ability to recall facts is based on one's ability to memorize. "How many books are in the Bible?" "Name the 12 disciples," "What did God create on the third day?" are knowledge questions with only one right answer. The recitation of memory verses is also an example of this thinking skill.

How Jesus used it: Jesus used recall many times when he was questioned by Pharisees and when he quoted Scriptures from the Old Testament. When a lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest law is, Jesus recalled Deuteronomy 6:5 as an answer-"You shall love the Lord your God..."

How you can use it: Use recall questions as a quick review to make sure kids understand the basic content. Then move on quickly to higher level thinking. If you use Scripture memory, make sure kids understand the verses and can apply them to their lives. There's a place for knowledge questions in our teaching, but let's not limit ourselves and our students by relying solely on this method.

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