The other day while scrolling through my Facebook feed something caught my eye. It was a video from a student loan company. The 2 minute clip sped through all of the expenses associated with going to law school. From application fees, to textbooks, to the bar exam the estimated total cost was over $190,000.That is lot of money. The high cost of attending law school is definitely a barrier to entry. Yet the critical thinking skills taught in law school are important for all students.

It’s no accident that 25 past presidents, 35 founding fathers, and famous world leaders such as Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were all trained as lawyers. In law schools, students aren’t just trained about the law, they’re taught how to think, how to problem solve, how to negotiate, and how to structure an argument. These are skills that all students need.

Currently 1 in 10 educators teach critical thinking. That 10% of students receiving high-quality critical thinking instruction tend to be elite students at most elite schools. When we examine the level of critical thinking skills required for success in the 21st century marketplace in comparison to the number of students receiving targeted critical thinking instruction, the disparity is overwhelming.

So what should we do?

Why not take the critical thinking strategies taught in law schools across the nation and break them down in age appropriate ways for all students in grades k-12?

When we start to break down the type of instructional strategies used in law school some major activities begin to emerge: settlement and negotiation strategy, legal synthesis, investigation and discovery, analysis from multiple perspectives, rule-making, and persuasive writing. These are strategies that can be taught in all classrooms regardless of the content area or grade level.

For our youngest students, why not use nursery rhymes?  Take for example “The Three Blind Mice.” What was really happening?  Why were the mice chasing the farmer’s wife?  What’s hard about being a blind mouse?  What’s hard about being a farmer?  The farmer’s wife cut off their tails!  What could have been an alternative solution?  How could the farmer’s wife make the situation right?

Real-life legal cases are great platforms for critical thinking instruction with older students.  The lawsuits appeal to students’ inherent sense of justice and fairness.  But this approach is not limited to social studies. The law school approach can also be applied within each subject area.

In language arts, settlement and negotiation strategy could be applied to settle a conflict between two characters.  What’s really going on?  What’s at the heart of the conflict?  What solutions could be determined to solve the problem?

In science, students could become engaged in the material by preparing arguments against pseudoscience claims, such as the Flat Earth Theory.  What do we know about scientific laws?  How many times have these laws been tested?  What flaws exists in the pseudoscience claims and arguments?

In math, you can use law school strategies to approach data analysis.  What would be the economic impact of self-driving cars on the taxi and ride share industry? How many people could be affected?

These type of activities automatically push lessons to the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy by their very nature. They automatically push questions to become deeper.  And students are more engaged!  They love this way of thinking!  It’s empowering and propels them to begin to apply deeper thinking in all areas of their lives.

Try some of these strategies in your classroom and let us know how your students respond.

Pressed for time?  Our TPT store offers easy-to-use lesson plans that offer practical tools and support. (and they’ll cost you a lot less than $190,000) Together we can push our students to think more deeply!

To order a critical thinking assessment for your students or to learn how your school or organization can adopt thinkLaw’s standards-aligned program that helps educators teach critical thinking to all students, please click here to schedule a time to speak with someone on the thinkLaw team or call us now at (702) 318-7512. Join us on our next webinar: Thinking Like a Lawyer: Powerful Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking to All Students

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