Sunday, May 11, 2014

Analyzing Informational Texts and Teaching Critical Thinking

My son, like many little boys, is intensely interested in dinosaurs.  We often bring home dinosaur books from the library. This week, we brought home a book that had some glaring errors. It was a great opportunity to teach my children, ages four and five, about thinking critically.

As we opened the book, I pointed out the copyright date:1994.  That was twenty years ago!  A lot can change in in twenty years.  As we read through the book we found several facts that have changed. For example, Tyrannosaurus Rex is no longer the largest known carnivore.   

  Science, by nature, is always changing.  Anytime you research a scientific topic, it is important to make sure you are working with the latest possible information.  Realistically, kids books will never be sources of cutting edge information.  However, we can make an effort to note whether the information they contain is generally current.

 The book we were reading used the terms "ever" and "never" repeatedly.  I took this opportunity to show my children the danger of universal statements.  If the author had simply said, "large" instead of "largest" her work would still be relevant. T-Rex was big, even if it was not the "biggest carnivore ever." 

More importantly, we can not know everything that ever happened, nor observe everywhere.  Any time an author claims to be omniscient, we should be a little suspicious.

When we come across errors in our reading material, it is tempting just to substitute what I believe to be the correct information and move on. This was a start in teaching my children to analyze their reading material.  Hopefully, they will develop healthy thinking habits in the years to come.

What other types of fallacy do you think are important to note in informational texts?

Other Posts you may find useful:

Must Read Science Book :  A Review of Boy Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs

First Lessons

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