Engage students in a metacognition exercise about critical thinking and also practice research and informational writing skills using ProCon.org's collection of critical thinking quotes.
Randomly assign each student one of the quotes from ProCon.org's collection of quotes about critical thinking. Post the quotes physically around the classroom or electronically (e.g., using VoiceThread, a social media site, or a class wiki).
In the first step of a three-part activity, review how to do effective online searches by inviting students to scan all of the quotes and pull out key words and phrases. Assuming that one is searching for "critical thinking," discuss which phrases are likely to produce the best search results and why. Brainstorm additional phrases or words that might be helpful but don't actually appear in any of the quotes. To help students stretch beyond Google and to make the point that different search engines produce different results, invite students to test phrases in a different search engines and compare results (e.g., the difference between Google and Google Scholar or Google and a Yahoo-based search engine like Goodsearch or DuckDuckGo).
In step two, assign students to research the source of their quotes and write two paragraphs: a brief biography of their quote's source and an explanation – in their own words – of what the quote means. These should be posted alongside the original quote. Do a live or virtual gallery walk to allow students to see one another's work.
During the gallery walk, have students cast votes for their favorite quotes. Tally the result and keep the top vote-getters posted for several weeks. Discuss what it was about these quotes that students found inspirational and why the quote's sources thought that critical thinking was important. Invite students to share the ways that they use critical thinking skills in the course of a typical day (not just in school).
As an assessment, have each student write their own dictionary-style definition of "critical thinking." Using the quotes from ProCon.org as examples, create their own meme/graphic to accompany their definitions. Let students decide whether, how, and with whom to share their memes.
Allow ELL's to use Google Translate to work from a translation of their assigned quote and, as needed, to complete their research.
Choose quotes only from sources with whom the students are familiar (e.g., Thomas Jefferson or Anne Frank), and have students work in teams to complete the tasks.
Make the lesson harder (click to expand)
Have students practice speaking skills by making videos of the quotes and their explanations.
Have students compare two (or more) quotes from people who lived in different time periods.
Assign students to find the original source for the quote and look carefully at the context in which it was said or written. Have them reflect on whether the context changes or affirms their explanation.