Art and Critical Thinking Skills

What are “Critical Thinking Skills”?

Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that teaching critical thinking skills are of utmost importance in any subject. When your students interpret Corn Dog Art images, they are practicing critical thinking skills.  There are many interpretations of this term, but generally they include students being able to:

  • Observe details carefully
  • Identify and challenge assumptions
  • Recognize the importance of context
  • Imagine and explore alternatives
  • Develop reflective skepticism
  • Think divergently- understanding there are multiple answers to a question
  • Judge divergent perspectives and evaluate their legitimacy
  • Scrutinize arguments and engage in conversations recognizing multiple perspectives

While looking at and analyzing Corn Dog Art images, students are using all of these skills.  When they develop ideas about the meaning of the image, they are making inferences.  This process involves students participating in three ways:

  • Making judgments about the image
  • Sharing their thoughts about the image with others
  • Listening to and commenting on alternative perspectives

Fundamentally, we want students to trust themselves enough to share their thoughts with the group.  Often, students are reluctant  respond to questions because they think, “There is one right answer, and I don’t have it.”  While using these images, teachers can promote multiple answers to the question, encouraging reluctant students to participate. Simply ask, “What is happening in the image?”

When children learn how to think critically, they learn how to rationalize and interpret what they are experiencing.

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writing prompt see

Creative writing starts with keen observation.

How can a student become a surgeon without exemplary perceptual skills?

How can a student become an investigative journalist without being able to see what others miss?

How can a student become an entrepreneur without observing the needs and wants of a society?

It is important to build time into lessons for looking, thinking and making connections.  This may seem obvious but unfortunately it is not common practice.  Observation is the first step in thinking.  It is important for us as educators to teach children how to observe with intention – learn to look with a purpose.  The images we are bombarded with every day contain limitless information that we must sift through, prioritize, decipher and act upon.  Observation requires stamina and focused thought,  skills which can be taught and improved upon.

The more details students see and interpret, the richer their writing will be. Keen observation is an important part of the writing process.

Students need time to look, think and react before they write.

Asking kids to look critically and observe their environment is fundamental to critical thinking.  In Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind, the authors Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick argue that there are at least 16  specific intelligent behaviors that we all can (and should ) use when posed with challenges.  They include – persisting, managing impulsivity, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, gathering data through all senses, creating, imagining, & innovating, responding with wonderment and awe, and listening with understanding and empathy, among others.  All of the ‘intelligences’ address the fact that students of all ages need to be aware and intentional about their thoughts and how they problem solve. Using Corn Dog Art images and videos in the classroom can help students practice all of these intelligences.

How Corn Dog Art images can help increase your students’ observational skills and improve their writing.

  1. By using exciting, detailed images, writing activities are more engaging and thoughtful.  Before students can make meaning and write their thoughts in an organized way, they must be exceptionally aware of the information they are taking in.  With the mass use of electronics, it is more important than ever to increase your students’ observational skills, so they may judge what is important and what is not.
  2. By having a image to look at, students have a base of information and inspiration to start with.  Make writing less intimidating. Writing requires you to create something out of nothing- which can be quite intimidating to some children.  That fear intensifies when you are working with children who have little experience with the writing process.  Looking at these short videos which focus on a detailed illustration gives them somewhere to start. By looking at images that are rich in detail and that may be interpreted in a variety of ways, students have a list of ideas to start the writing process. Using Corn Dog art images allows students to  make meaningful connections between what they see, think and feel.
  3. By creating a sense of wonder and excitement. Corn Dog Art images are completely unique.  Each one is created for the sole purpose of inspiring creative writing, so they are purposefully ambiguous.  The more students look carefully and study the image.  The more they look, the more they will see.

    “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

    – Albert Einstein

    When we ask students to interpret an image, what we are really asking them to do is to make inferences.  Simply put, making an inference is the act of drawing conclusions based on clues.  Using Corn Dog Art Video Story Starters, you can teach children to infer in a fun and exciting way.

    Why should we teach students to infer?

    To infer, students must deduce, guess, interpret, read between the lines, understand, reason, analyze, judge, draw conclusions and make connections.  Whew! These skills are crucial for students to learn. Younger students can be walked through a series of questions to guide their thinking and help them analyze the picture.  When questioning, it is helpful to start with the concrete and then move to the abstract.

    When children learn how to think critically, they learn how to rationalize and interpret what they are experiencing.

    Time should be taken every day to teach critical thinking skills and strategies.  Students must know that there are more than one right answer to a question, and that it is desirable to share divergent ideas.  They also need to take time to think about why they have these ideas… ask students to use details in the image to ‘back up’ their thoughts.  This guides children to reflect on their thinking and not simply react.  As the teacher, your attitude is very important.  You must create an environment of safe risk tasking, where students feel they can share their thoughts without fear of  judgement.  This starts with students thoughtfully listening to the ideas of others, and then responding to those  thoughts.  This doesn’t mean that they must- or should- agree.  It simply means their goal should be to respond in a thoughtful way.  When children actively listen to each other, it validates their opinions, and they are truly ‘heard’.  Children want to be heard.

    For more teaching ideas and art infusion, be sure to subscribe to my blog. Simply go to my blog page and sign up at the top right corner.

    “I don’t know what to write!”

    Often heard by teachers, this thought strikes fear in the heart of students. Is there anything more intimidating than a blank piece of paper? Corn Dog Art Images help students generate ideas, gain confidence, and develop stories. Whether you are teaching character development, setting, mood, plot, sequencing, cause and effect, etc., using these images in class can make it more effective, and more fun!

    Students create stories based on what the see, hear and feel.  Ideas are turned into words, and these words are crafted into stories.  Rather than students thinking, “I don’t know what to write,” they are looking at and discussing art. Looking at art is an experience, and when children share their thoughts about this experience, they have countless writing opportunities.

    There are over 30 different ways Corn Dog Art writing prompts can help your students write amazing stories. Students can:

    • imagine the previous scene from the image
    • predict the next scene; draw conclusions based on the story
    • design a story based on the details from the image
    • synthesize various perspectives to formulate opinions
    • create new characters and setting for further stories
    • predict what is happening outside of the image
    • evaluate the hypothesis of others
    • critique story ideas
    • make inferences from the details in the image
    • sequence order of events
    • write from the perspective of a character in the image
    • recognize relationships between elements in the image
    • compare and contrast different opinions of the story
    • explain the significance of details in the picture
    • organize a sequence of events for the story
    • compare unique qualities of characters
    • attribute characteristics to the people in the image
    • relate image to things students are familiar with
    • develop titles for the images
    • apply previous knowledge to determine meaning
    • explain the time of day, mood and location of the image
    • apply vocabulary and integrate it into the story
    • incorporate a given sentence into the story
    • summarize feelings about the image
    • be able to verbalize feelings and perspectives
    • explain position using logic and reason
    • explain cause and effect of actions in the image
    • describe what is in the image
    • locate patterns, identify images
    • list colors, shapes and patterns
    • identify characters

    Try some now- Visit the Corn Dog Art Story Starter page and ask your students to write their own stories. Or, if you’re feeling courageous, write one of your own!


    How to Use Art to Inspire Creative Writing eBook

    Download my FREE ebook: How to Use Art to Inspire Creative Writing!

    Or try some Story Starters for your students.













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