Last week we read an article in the Huffington Post suggesting that 93 percent of employers agree that "a candidate's demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major." This wasn’t particularly surprising to us, but it did inspire us to share an activity that will help your students hone their critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills; it’s called the “Dear Elvis Advice Column” and it comes from our friend, Nothy Lane.
Dear Elvis, How Do I Teach Critical Thinking?
Here’s how the activity works: The class is presented with a question from a hypothetical advice seeker named Elvis (Nothy’s basset hound); the problem is that this canine is too busy to answer all of the letters he receives—that’s where Nothy’s students come in.
After she writes the question on the board, students work in groups to read and generate realistic responses to the anonymous advice solicitors.
Here is on example of a letter to Elvis that her students answer:
My kids wanted a dog, but I thought they were too irresponsible to take care of one. They insisted they would feed and walk the dog if I got them one. Now we have Spot and I am the one who does all the work. How do I get my kids to live up to their word?"
In addition to being engaging and fun, this activity supports persuasive writing, creativity, and critical thinking (because students get to work in groups and give advice rather than listen to it). Nothy has also found that this activity is a fun way to “teach them - and let them teach me…to examine an issue from different sides. Is someone right or wrong? Is this just an unfortunate event? Should the advice seeker get help or work things out himself?”
When they finish, students take turns reading their answers aloud. Following this, the entire class discusses which answers they like and why. You may be surprised at how purposeful and considerate their answers are.