The week before my sons took the PSAT I decided to do a review using the PSAT study guide. I started by reading aloud all of the information about the test. One fact hit me squarely in the face: reading and discussing literature improves critical thinking skills.
For years, my friends who attend LITClub with me have said that the club teaches and matures critical thinking in our children. I believed them but I really didn’t fully understand until I read this in the PSAT study guide on page 8 & 9.
“A good reader is an active reader, one who moves beyond what is literally stated and draws inferences about what he or she reads. To be an active reader, you should be able to do the following:
1. Understand the primary purpose or main idea of a piece. Is the author seeking to entertain, inform, or to convince? Try to distinguish between the main idea and supporting ideas.
2. Understand the tone or attitude conveyed by certain words and expressions. Do you see that the author is critical or enthusiastic? Earnest or humorous? Pay close attention to the connotaions of key words and what they may say about the author’s attitude. Become familiar with terms that characterize tones.
3. Understand the use of rhetorical strategies. Note the techniques ny which writers achieve their effects. Does the author use examples, figurative language, imagery, irony, overstatement, quotations, rhetorical questions or word repetition? Ask yourself why the author chose to express things a certain way.
4. Recognize implications and make evaluations. When you infer, you go beyond what is literally stated; you piece together what is implied by certain words, phrases, and statements. This may involve recognizing underlying assumptions, understanding how different ideas relate to one another or evaluating the limits of an argument.”
I’ve worked with literature clubs since 2002 and never realized we were accomplishing all four of these recommendations. Wow! And I thought we were just having fun and growing more mature in our worldview and relationships.
If you would like to read more about critical thinking pearsonassessments.com has an article, rather long, but very informative, called Critical Thinking: A Literature Review. I don’t employ all the means they discuss and I don’t agree with everything said, but it is a good article if you want to learn about different views regarding critical thinking. It sheds light on critical thinking from different vantage points. I do not claim to understand all the nuances of this subject but I firmly believe discussing literature in a group gives the members stronger critical thinking skills whether you fall into the philosophical, psychological or educational camp stated in the article.
Information from the PSAT guide or peason.com doesn’t change anything for me regarding our literature club process but it does encourage me to continue writing a book about how to conduct a literature club so that others can share the joy of reading and discussing great books together.
What do you think about critical thinking being improved by reading good literature and discussing it?