Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It’s in charge of making sure things get done. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. The more you know about the challenges, the better you’ll be able to help your child build her executive skills and manage the difficulties.
Critical Thinking Defined
Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions. It requires wanting to see what evidence is involved to support a particular argument or conclusion. People who use critical thinking are the ones who say things such as, ‘How do you know that? Is this conclusion based on evidence or gut feelings?’ and ‘Are there alternative possibilities when given new pieces of information?’
Additionally, critical thinking can be divided into the following three core skills:
- Curiosity is the desire to learn more information and seek evidence as well as being open to new ideas.
- Skepticism involves having a healthy questioning attitude about new information that you are exposed to and not blindly believing everything everyone tells you.
- Finally, humility is the ability to admit that your opinions and ideas are wrong when faced with new convincing evidence that states otherwise.
A well-cultivated critical thinker:
- Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
- Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
- Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
- Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
- Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems
6 Crucial critical thinking skills (and how you can improve them)
While there’s no universal standard for what skills are included in the critical thinking process, we’ve boiled it down to the following six. Focusing on these can put you on the path to becoming an exceptional critical thinker.
The first step in the critical thinking process is to identify the situation or problem as well as the factors that may influence it. Once you have a clear picture of the situation and the people, groups or factors that may be influenced, you can then begin to dive deeper into an issue and its potential solutions.
How to improve: When facing any new situation, question or scenario, stop to take a mental inventory of the state of affairs and ask the following questions:
- Who is doing what?
- What seems to be the reason for this happening?
- What are the end results, and how could they change?
When comparing arguments about an issue, independent research ability is key. Arguments are meant to be persuasive—that means the facts and figures presented in their favor might be lacking in context or come from questionable sources. The best way to combat this is independent verification; find the source of the information and evaluate.
How to improve: It can be helpful to develop an eye for unsourced claims. Does the person posing the argument offer where they got this information from? If you ask or try to find it yourself and there’s no clear answer, that should be considered a red flag. It’s also important to know that not all sources are equally valid—take the time to learn the difference between popular and scholarly articles.
3. Identifying biases
This skill can be exceedingly difficult, as even the smartest among us can fail to recognize biases. Strong critical thinkers do their best to evaluate information objectively. Think of yourself as a judge in that you want to evaluate the claims of both sides of an argument, but you’ll also need to keep in mind the biases each side may possess.
It is equally important—and arguably more difficult—to learn how to set aside your own personal biases that may cloud your judgment. “Have the courage to debate and argue with your own thoughts and assumptions,” Potrafka encourages. “This is essential for learning to see things from different viewpoints.”
How to improve: “Challenge yourself to identify the evidence that forms your beliefs, and assess whether or not your sources are credible,” offers Ruth Wilson, director of development at Brightmont Academy.
First and foremost, you must be aware that bias exists. When evaluating information or an argument, ask yourself the following:
- Who does this benefit?
- Does the source of this information appear to have an agenda?
- Is the source overlooking, ignoring or leaving out information that doesn’t support its beliefs or claims?
- Is this source using unnecessary language to sway an audience’s perception of a fact?
The ability to infer and draw conclusions based on the information presented to you is another important skill for mastering critical thinking. Information doesn’t always come with a summary that spells out what it means. You’ll often need to assess the information given and draw conclusions based upon raw data.
The ability to infer allows you to extrapolate and discover potential outcomes when assessing a scenario. It is also important to note that not all inferences will be correct. For example, if you read that someone weighs 260 pounds, you might infer they are overweight or unhealthy. Other data points like height and body composition, however, may alter that conclusion.
How to improve: An inference is an educated guess, and your ability to infer correctly can be polished by making a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible before jumping to conclusions. When faced with a new scenario or situation to evaluate, first try skimming for clues—things like headlines, images and prominently featured statistics—and then make a point to ask yourself what you think is going on.
5. Determining relevance
One of the most challenging parts of thinking critically during a challenging scenario is figuring out what information is the most important for your consideration. In many scenarios, you’ll be presented with information that may seem important, but it may pan out to be only a minor data point to consider.
How to improve: The best way to get better at determining relevance is by establishing a clear direction in what you’re trying to figure out. Are you tasked with finding a solution? Should you be identifying a trend? If you figure out your end goal, you can use this to inform your judgment of what is relevant.
Even with a clear objective, however, it can still be difficult to determine what information is truly relevant. One strategy for combating this is to make a physical list of data points ranked in order of relevance. When you parse it out this way, you’ll likely end up with a list that includes a couple of obviously relevant pieces of information at the top of your list, in addition to some points at the bottom that you can likely disregard. From there, you can narrow your focus on the less clear-cut topics that reside in the middle of your list for further evaluation.
It’s incredibly easy to sit back and take everything presented to you at face value, but that can also be also a recipe for disaster when faced with a scenario that requires critical thinking. It’s true that we’re all naturally curious—just ask any parent who has faced an onslaught of “Why?” questions from their child. As we get older, it can be easier to get in the habit of keeping that impulse to ask questions at bay. But that’s not a winning approach for critical thinking.
How to improve: While it might seem like a curious mind is just something you’re born with, you can still train yourself to foster that curiosity productively. All it takes is a conscious effort to ask open-ended questions about the things you see in your everyday life, and you can then invest the time to follow up on these questions.
“Being able to ask open-ended questions is an important skill to develop—and bonus points for being able to probe,” Potrafka says.
Become a better critical thinker
Thinking critically is vital for anyone looking to have a successful college career and a fruitful professional life upon graduation. Your ability to objectively analyze and evaluate complex subjects and situations will always be useful. Unlock your potential by practicing and refining the six critical thinking skills above.
Most professionals credit their time in college as having been crucial in the development of their critical thinking abilities. If you’re looking to improve your skills in a way that can impact your life and career moving forward, higher education is a fantastic venue through which to achieve that.
There is no way we can ever thank our mother enough for all she does for us. #MothersDay is the best time to say in words how much we love and care for our moms.
Happy mothers day to all mothers in the world.
Your love is like no other.
You lead by example.
You nurture us when we feel defeated.
You stand proudly with us in our struggle, and forgive us when we lose our way.
Happy Mothers Day!
I found this amazing article on using your children’s unique Skills that I wanted to share with you:
“I use a strengths-based approach in the classroom, and I look for ways to tell my students, “Man, I am so lucky to have you as a student!”
A child’s reality is created by the words adults use to describe him. If adults continually talk about student deficits, the student will define himself by what he lacks. This is often the case for kids with attention and learning disorders, who are reminded daily of the skills they’re missing. They think: If they see themselves as deficient, then what’s the point of trying at school?
Using a strengths-based model of teaching kids with disabilities gives kids the chance to redefine themselves and their education in terms of what makes them great — and kids with ADHD have a lot of great qualities. They tend to be more creative, innovative, hyperfocused, and have an incredible sense of humor, which are among the reasons I so love working with them.
Kids come with strengths and weaknesses, and harnessing the strengths leads to improvement across the board. It also creates a more engaged learner. In fact, a collection of Gallup data reported that kids who were taught in a strengths-based model earned higher GPAs and were absent from school less often. This is also true in the grownup world. We choose jobs based on our natural strengths, and probably wouldn’t show up to work if we didn’t have opportunities to use our skills on a daily basis.
Helping a child discover and leverage his unique skills helps him develop the confidence to be a learner, and the courage to overcome his weaknesses. Creating that positive atmosphere also makes collaborating with other teachers more productive and enjoyable as they begin to acknowledge one another’s aptitudes.
While adopting a strengths-based model consists mainly of shifting to a positive mindset—acknowledging and creating opportunities for students to let their skills shine— there are some tricks to effectively shift the balance.
1. Measure strengths. Some kids have an idea of their own abilities, but many don’t know for sure. Even if they do, taking a quiz gives them a chance to say, out loud, what makes them great. You can find a series of great tests at UPenn, which contribute to a body of research. You can also find a lower-key Multiple Intelligences questionnaire for free at Scholastic.
2. Notice and tell kids’ about their strengths daily. It’s important to a) identify what exactly students did well, and b) pair it with an acknowledgement of their effort. Talent alone doesn’t get anyone to the Olympics, my friends, and hard work needs its due credit. If you’re feeling like something is missing in your classroom, challenge yourself to compliment each student daily.
3. Bait for success. Some kids give up on school at a young age when they feel like a perpetual failure. As a teacher, it’s difficult to acknowledge a student’s talents if she never demonstrates those talents. It’s very important — especially for difficult students — to create situations where those learners can be successful, in order for you to point out how skilled they are. They might have a creative solution, a unique insight, or the ability to be helpful when no one else was around. Give them bonus points if they see that no one else was able to accomplish that task (even if it’s because no one else was there). Every day, find some way to tell them: “Man, I am so lucky to have you as a student!”
4. Give options. It can be hard to plan for a group with wide-ranging abilities. Did I say “hard?” It’s impossible. Almost. Providing options for a kid to show what he knows allows him to put his talents front and center and to take charge of his own education. This increases engagement and creates a more independent and self-advocating learner. It is an investment.
5. Teach collaboration. None of us accomplishes anything alone, and nobody is good at everything. Allow children to recognize each other’s specialties and use them together to create something great. Plan group projects, teach students to ask each other questions if they get stuck, and compliment one another throughout the process. Then watch your class collectively develop a great attitude as they learn!”
Source can be found here.
Music has a profound effect on our mood, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Research indicates that music strengthens areas of the brain (that, in a child with ADHD, are weak.) Music strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain. These areas are tied to speech and language skills, reading, reading comprehension, math, problem-solving, brain organization, focus, and attention challenges.
Parents of children with ADHD should know that there are methods beyond medication and counseling to treat ADHD. One of them is music. Confirmed by multiple research studies to play a significant role in cognitive development, music can be used to help children organize their thoughts.
But not any music will do. Only certain classical music builds a bigger, better brain. Listening to jazz or pop doesn’t have the same beneficial effects. A study conducted by Donald Shetler, Ed.D., of the Eastman School of Music, found that kids who listened to classical music for 20 minutes a day had improved speech and language skills, a stronger memory, and greater organization of the brain.
Classical music is peaceful and harmonious making it one of the best options to listen to when studying. It seems that there is evidence that Mozart improves mental performance. They call it the “Mozart Effect.”
It is said that to study it’s necessary to have a quiet environment without distractions. However, for some, studying in a quiet environment can backfire. This ‘quiet environment’ can make you end up fighting boredom and succumbing to the allure of sleeping at your desk! This is why the importance of choosing the right music for studying can’t be underestimated.
Although some studies say that listening to music while you study isn’t good, for many people it’s vital. It’s calms them down, which can lead to productive studying. Music can also help elevate your mood and motivate you to study longer.
It helps you focus, reduce distractions, maintain your productivity and retain information when working, studying, writing and reading.
Music stimulates the brain
‘Nothing activates the brain so extensively as music’. So says Oliver Sacks, a doctor and researcher at Columbia University, who has used music as a complementary treatment for many of his patients.
Research backs up his claim. Pleasurable music is known to increase dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for regulating motivation, working memory and attention ( which is often found in lower levels in people with ADHD.)
This is one of the main reasons why there are benefits of music for kids to train their brains and achieve higher levels of self-control and focus – both at home and in the classroom.
Music provides organization
Children may struggle to focus and regulate their thoughts and behaviors to maintain a linear path. Music has a defined structure and can help regain a sense of organization. It can also guide them – many kids with attention issues have trouble following directions, and music can help them to stay attentive and interpret the rhythm and melody as direction.
Music therapist, Kirsten Hutchison, claims that the structure of music has a positive impact on kids’ ability to structure their activities in a timeline, as well as strategize their responses to the things around them. ‘The structure helps a child plan, anticipate and react,’ she says.
Music has a soothing effect
Music has the power to change our moods and influence our emotions. That’s why it’s only natural that certain types of music, mostly slow and tranquil, present a great opportunity for reducing the impulsiveness and restlessness that children with attention issues often suffer from.
But that’s not all. Music can also help to alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Music is social
Writing, practicing and performing music are all social activities. That’s why music therapists are eager to use these forms of social practice in order to help children with ADD to learn appropriate behaviors in social situations.
Children can learn how to listen to others with attention, recognize how to anticipate changes, get to know the social rules of taking turns in performance and generally follow cues that might not be as effective when generated outside a music therapy session.
Music therapy means many things – it can be listening to music, creating it or playing together with recorded music. It can even be composing music or writing song lyrics. All of this helps children to communicate their moods and feelings, while simultaneously reducing their level of anxiety and restlessness. Music therapy is versatile and readily available – a great option for complementing traditional treatments of ADD in children.
Feel free to use my Youtube Playlist on music proven to help focus: