Help your children build critical thinking skills using local culture

| March 1, 2014 | Comments (0)

ramonaOne of the key shifts in education is the emphasis on critical thinking. It’s at the heart of the Common Core Standards. According to the site, “The Common Core standards for English Language Arts call for student-centered work in classrooms that build knowledge, develop writing skills, and produce confident and competent critical thinkers who are ready to take the next step toward college and careers.”

How can parents help their children develop these skills outside the classroom? It’s really much easier than you might think.

The Lookingglass Theater currently features “The Little Prince.” This show has been well-received with TimeOut Chicago saying, “The combination of immersive technical elements and charismatic acting cultivates an inviting atmosphere for all ages, making The Little Prince’s desert a wonderful place to get lost in this winter season.” What’s great about The Little Prince is that it’s based upon a book series.

Graphic Universe, a Lerner Publishing Group division, recently introduced the new adventures of The Little Prince via graphic novels. We received The Star Snatcher’s Planet and The Planet of the Night Globes for review. Our daughters loved the graphic novel format. They loved how the graphics brought the story to life, while still allowing them to use their imaginations for other parts of the story.

We haven’t seen The Little Prince on stage yet, but we did use the Lookingglass Theater’s study guide to discuss the books. By looking at the books through the study guide, we were able to talk about everything from a one sentence story relating to The Little Prince to practicing warm exercises before reading The Little Prince chapters. When we do see the play, we can compare the books to the play and talk about how our study guide games change when we see if through the stage lense.

Another good option uses the Ramona Quimby stories. Our girls love the books by Beverly Cleary. They started reading the books after seeing the movie staring Selena Gomez and Joey King. Recently Emerald City Theatre brought Ramona to the stage. Our girls read the books after seeing the movie. They talk about the differences between the books and the movie, often discussing which option they think is more true to the story.

Our friend Anna Dron brought her nieces to the press opening. She said of the show “My nieces, ages 5 and 8 loved, loved being part of the Quimby family, witnessing the demands and responsibilities of growing up: ‘doing what you need to, even if you don’t want to, at least for a little while.’ Little sister Ramona and her big sister Beezus provide young audience members two examples of how to react in a difficult situation–throw a fit, or contribute towards the solution. My nieces agreed that Beezus, who helped her family and little sister the best she could, was their favorite character.  The lovable Aunt B. shows youngsters that growing up can happen whether one is 8, 12, or 25 – and that it can be lots of fun, too.”  Now that the girls have seen the show, they are interested in reading the books. When they have read a book or two, Anna can use the Emerald City Theatre’s study guide to help her nieces think about the story through different lenses.

The critical thinking skills required by the Common Core Standards can be easily taught by using Chicago’s resources. The beauty of mixing books, movies and live theater is that your kids think they are having fun, which makes them want to do it again and again. And, you can keep the fact that they are learning valuable critical thinking skills to yourself.

Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of The Emerald City Theatre.




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Category: Shari's Corner

About Shari: Shari is a mom, wife, marketing communications professional, gardener, Chicago Blackhawks fan, college sports fan, traveler, quilter, community volunteer, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, Siberian Husky owner, Girl Scout troop leader and book lover. You can find Shari blogging about life with twins at Two Times the Fun and tweeting @slcs48n1. View author profile.

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