Of the various types of writing exercises, critical writing tasks enable your child to apply logic, reason out, examine critically, analyse, evaluate and form judgements. All these sub-skills will go a long way in teaching her essential life skills. Here are some interesting and thought-provoking activities that draw from everyday life around us. You can encourage your child to take up these activities or even engage in them jointly with her. They will help sharpen her critical thinking skills.
Writing about books, movies, TV shows:
Books, movies and TV shows present slices of life in compact packages that can be unpacked and analysed easily. They make for great prompts for critical writing activities.
• Watch or read with your child and jointly or separately write comments about the piece. Rather than the report or review format used in schools, use a simple response format like, “What I loved or hated about this book/ movie/ show was …because ….” This allows you to give your opinions while asking you to give a reason. It makes you think about your preferences.
• Read more than one article/watch more than one show or movie about the same subject and analyse the differences in perspective. This is an important skill because it takes the child beyond analysis and into assimilation. It is important to learn how to get the best from several world views and form your own view of the world which is more than the sum of its parts.
Writing about ourselves:
We ourselves are always the most fascinating subjects! There are many ways you can have your child reflect on reasons and motivations.
• When they ask for permission to do something, have them write a short piece on why they should be allowed to do whatever it is they want to do.
• When they do not want to do something you want them to do, ask them to write a short piece on why they should not be required to do the same.
• When you disagree about something, each of you write out your arguments and see if you can compromise.
Writing about others and the world in general:
What books, movies and shows have packaged for us is really all around us in our everyday lives. Your child’s real questions are about the world around him/her. You can use that curiosity to spark critical thinking by getting her to write about what she sees.
Here are some effective prompts to help you encourage critical writing:
• Why should I ….
• Why shouldn’t I …
• Why do you suppose he/she….
• Ethical dilemma – who is right?
• Should he/she have ….
• What would happen if ….
• You could also see it as ….
Engaging in writing critically with your child will also make you think critically about things that you have taken for granted for a long time. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself changing some of those long-held opinions and ideas! As always, have fun with your child. If it is not fun it is not going to happen often!