How to Encourage and Nurture a Curious Mind for Common Core Standards Success

A significant aspect of the shift to the Common Core Standards involves developing deep and critical thinkers who are capable of examining information and drawing conclusions. Deep, critical thinkers are:

  • Honest: When they don’t know something, they admit it. The only “dumb question” is the one that you don’t ask!

  • Curious: They’re drawn to find out more about everything, especially in areas that interest them.

  • Eager: Their thirst for knowledge, understanding, and skills energizes them to pursue educational opportunities and take on new challenges.

  • Open-minded: They listen and are willing to entertain ideas that they may not initially agree with.

  • Rational: To counter their open-mindedness, they approach what they read, see, and hear objectively and skeptically, questioning its truth and accuracy and comparing it with what they already know or think they know.

  • Persistent: They don’t give up until they have the information, answer, solution, or understanding they sought or at least understand the limitations of knowing (for example, the limitations in technology for unlocking the mystery of the human brain).

Some children seem to possess these qualities innately, but you can encourage your child to ask questions, seek out details, and explore the many mysteries of the world. Here are a few suggestions on how to nurture curiosity and critical thinking:

  • Ask “why?” and “how?” Build a dependency on critical thinking by consistently asking your child to explain “why” and “how” answers are correct on their homework or to further develop their thoughts in casual conversations. These are good traits to build early.

  • Embrace the research process. Support good research habits early and often. Whether your child is completing a homework assignment or simply asking questions about a particular subject, let him dig into some resources in print or online in order to answer his own questions. Help him get into the habit of developing a question that needs to be answered and then utilizing resources to answer that question.

  • Subscribe to an interesting magazine. Validate your child’s interest in a particular subject by subscribing to a magazine of her choice. If that’s not a possibility, then periodically visit your local library and read magazine articles of interest.

  • Look behind the scenes. Explore opportunities all around you to encourage curiosity in your child. This may involve looking at how an appliance works (your toaster, for example) or exploring a common process (such as dough rising).

  • Keep a record of experiences. Encourage your child to write down information, thoughts, and other details relating to significant experiences he has when on vacations, trips, tours, or even when he sees something noteworthy on TV. This instills an appreciation for details and recordkeeping. Before you know it, he’ll probably be looking for new experiences to write about!

  • Create a space for exploration. Designate a certain space in your home that can serve as a place to read, write, draw, color, paint, and participate in other activities that fuel your child’s curiosity. If a dedicated space isn't possible, a container with materials for these activities can be put together and pulled out when the mood strikes.

    Add a place where you and your child can write questions that arise as you read and experience new things — for example, on a whiteboard. This is a common practice in many schools and is a good idea to replicate at home.

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