The Memorable Link: Designing Critical Thinking Activities That Stimulate Synthesis and Evaluation among Verbally Gifted Adolescents

By Dixon, Felicia A. | Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

The Memorable Link: Designing Critical Thinking Activities That Stimulate Synthesis and Evaluation among Verbally Gifted Adolescents


Dixon, Felicia A., Journal of Secondary Gifted Education


Abstract

There is a need for activities that foster critical thinking on a regular basis within secondary literature-based courses. The rationale for teaching thinking skills is presented, and activities that focus on synthesis and evaluation are presented and discussed The call for curricula that both model and encourage the thinking skills that students possess is a challenge for all educators who teach verbally gifted students. The call to action is for teachers to become critical thinkers in their determination of content, process, and product choices for high-ability verbal students.

Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

What are the necessary curricular links in the education of gifted adolescents in the verbal areas? What are the best materials to foster student engagement by providing activities worthy of the students' time in school? What challenges these students to think and make the connections that lead to important insights and worthwhile conclusions? How can educators make curricular decisions and then link these decisions to activities that generate thought so that all courses have impact on honing these students' nascent skills? In other words, what impacts gifted adolescents in the humanities?

Pondering these questions is essential because challenging high-ability students to think about worthwhile issues is key to their education. In addition, it is essential for students to have the opportunity to process good literature with other verbally gifted students, and it is equally essential for these students to create meaningful products as they respond to the literature read. In the long run, does it matter what educators know about the characteristics of gifted adolescents if they don't use that knowledge to help these students reach their own unique potential? This article is organized around these questions, and it is the author's firm belief that thinking about such questions is a productive start toward the goal of meeting the curricular needs of adolescents talented in the verbal area.

Necessary Curricular Links

Critical thinking is a term that is defined by scholars in a variety of ways. Although definitions vary, they share the commonality that it is an active process in which the thinker considers alternatives, combines ideas, takes risks to find new connections, and evaluates steps along the way to a conclusion (Barell, 1991; Dewey, 1932; Ennis, 1989; Glaser, 1984; Halpern, 1984; Kurfiss, 1988; Paul, 1996). Asking questions that lead to intellectual discussions among high-ability students is important in a class for high-ability students. Determining these questions or designing activities that help students formulate questions provides critical thinking activities for teachers. In essence, teachers are effectively challenged to challenge! Because good classes for high-ability students in the verbal areas focus on the strengths these students display, the teacher must consider the skills the students bring to a specific class and how these skills can be strengthened in all curricular choices within the class.

A basic assumption must be that verbally gifted students have the ability to work at the higher levels of thinking: analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. However, in making this assumption, the teacher must then design classroom activities to hone these skills. It is not enough to know that these students have the ability to think at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. As a result of such knowledge, a teacher must consistently develop activities that challenge students to use these higher level processes in order to respond to the curriculum. …

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