Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Critical Thinking: Showing Relationships, Making Connections

Critical thinking tends to become most visible in essays in the second half of supporting, body paragraphs. After students have paraphrased their direct quote for readers, they then must turn to the important task of interpreting that quote, or saying what it means. This usually gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their creative intellectual powers.

Students should think of the critical thinking section as a location for multiple meanings. It is fine to offer two or more perspectives on the meaning of a quote.

* Connect the quoted material and passage back to your overall thesis statement. Highlight, perhaps, one of the big ideas from the thesis statement.

* Just after the paraphrase is usually an occasion for "close-reading," or the special practice of explaining what specific words from the quote mean.

* Introduce a keyword. Define the keyword. This will spur students to explain relationships between one idea and another. Students can then connect one idea from the text to another.

* Connect the material to another passage from the book. Find a "theme" that can shows up in the quoted material and one that appears, perhaps in another form, in another moment of the text.

* Refer the reader to another text altogether, or information from outside the text. Connect the paragraph to an idea from another course, or from another text in the same course.

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