Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Critical Thinking Co.: Practical Critical Thinking/Teacher Manual (Review)

As the tendency for the general public to believe almost everything they are fed (hook, line and sinker) goes up at an alarming rate (evidenced by many facebook posts, newspaper and magazine articles and other social media outlets that tend to make much ado about nothing, and get everyone riled up over a tempest in a teacup, usually because someone forgot to use their brains, and stop and THINK for a minute before continuing to spout nonsense), the ability to read between the lines, or even simply determine Truth appears to be declining at an equally rapid pace.

Thankfully, The Critical Thinking Co.  (a well known name in public, private and homeschool circles) has been fighting against the stream of apathy and declining mental skills by creating books, puzzles, and software all engineered to build the brain's critical thinking skills. This is nowhere more evident than in their Practical Critical Thinking book (and Teacher Manual) for high school students, which Middlest has been working through for the purpose of review, and will continue through the year.

The consumable student text is a hefty book, filled with stories, puzzles, and worksheets designed to stretch and grow the parts of the brain that are required for Critical Thinking Skills. The book is filled with logic puzzles, text comprehension and deductive reasoning exercises to name a few of the activities.

The book covers 4 units, with two chapters each. Within the chapters there are approximately 6-11 lessons, some with multiple activities. You can download a sample that includes the Table of Contents as well as a few pages from the book directly from the product page on the Critical Thinking site.

The Teacher's Manual that can be purchased has two parts, a more compact "Answers" section that includes answers where there are concrete solutions, as well as information for the teacher on the "answers will vary" questions, which explain how the questions will help the student grow their critical thinking skills. The Teacher's Manual is fairly no frills, and could possibly use a little more explanation in places, but in general, it is quite useful. The greater portion of the book is the "reproducible" section that includes all of the activities and puzzles from the student manual. These are only black and white, not in color like they are in the student workbook, for reproduction purposes. This is very helpful particularly for the homeschool families of 2 or more children. *note: the license to reproduce is limited to a single family or single classroom, and capped at 35 copies of each page/classroom or family/year. 

While I can see how this would be a great classroom course, it is equally useful to the individual homeschooler. Discussions can take place amongst the teens in the house (if you have more than one), or with Mom/Dad, as they come up in the text. 

My son has been answering the questions on his tablet and sending them to me, so that I can keep track of where he is. For the more graphic pages (chapter 2 of Unit 1 includes a number of Mind Benders puzzles), he either writes in the consumable book, or on a reproduced page, depending on where we happen to be schooling (Since the text *is* rather hefty). 

Already I can see him beginning to think more deeply, and reconsider his answers when I ask him to "Explain! Explain! Explain!" 

Middlest has been enjoying using Practical Critical Thinking each day. He is finding that it is stretching and exercising his brain. I am thankful to have this to counter the effects of somewhat mindless video games that put *my* brain into a daze. ;)

His favorite activities so far have been the logic/deduction puzzles. His least favorite have been the more personalized "what do I think" sorts of questions, because it's always nerve-racking putting your own opinions out there. 

One other thing he appreciates is that he can pretty much plan on working on this 2-3 days per week in order to finish it by the end of the year. If he gets behind for one reason or another he can work through an activity each day until he gets caught up. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
The Critical Thinking Co. can be found on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest.
I highly recommend checking out their website/social media for samples and free downloads, so that you can get a good feel for what this company offers.

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this product, as well as others that were reviewed, including The Basics of Critical Thinking (grades 4-9), U.S. History Detective Bk 1 (grades 8-12), Surfing the Net: Science (grades 3-6),  and Fun-Time Phonics (grades PreK-2). As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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