Free Critical Thinking Workshops for Primary and Secondary Schools
THINK! Is an introductory programme which has been designed for pupils in years 5 & 6. Pupils complete a workbook during the workshops, which is marked and returned with a certificate.
The aims of the workshops are to:
• equip young people with an understanding of what stereotyping means and the dangers of stereotypes
• provide young people with an opportunity to consider their opinion, where they get their information from and how opinions are formed
• help young people to recognise that information in the media, online or from family and friends can sometimes be biased or false
• help young people to think critically about the information they receive, to build resilience to approaches from negative groups and to reject prejudice and hate
The workshop begins with a fun, small group activity called ‘Dinner Party’ which introduces young people to the concept of stereotyping. Pupils’ assumptions about others are highlighted and they learn that they cannot know what someone is like just from a small amount of information about them.
The workshop moves on to explore where we get out ideas from and through a range of activities pupils look at how information may not be true.
At different workshop stations, pupils look at rumours, adverts, Instagram posts and letters to identify how information may be exaggerated or biased. Pupils look at persuasion techniques and think about what they can do to make sure that their opinions are based on the correct facts.
“I really liked the interactive approach and time for open and honest discussion. After today I hope that they will think hard about how and when they make judgments about others.” West Wycombe Combined School
“Excellent, everyone got involved in the workshop. Children will be more tolerant of differences and have learnt not to believe everything they read or hear” Holtspur School
“The activities challenged children’s preconceptions and encouraged deeper thinking. They learnt not to make assumptions based on little information. Wonderful – Thank you.” Cheddington Combined School
Our workshops are suitable for pupils in Year 7 upwards and are fully interactive and participatory. Workshops aim to:
- provide young people with the opportunity to consider their opinions and how their world view is formed
- help young people to think critically about the information they receive and recognise the dangers of stereotyping and misinformation
- help young people to identify bias, propaganda, and symbolism in the media
- illustrate how easily divisions can be created between groups of people, which can escalate into conflict, and how to deal with it
- explore the push and pull factors involved in joining groups and how young people can protect themselves and each other from involvement in extreme groups
- provide young people with tools to utilise their critical thinking skills to build resilience and reject prejudice, hatred and extremism
The workshops begin with an exploration of stereotypes. Young people consider their perceptions of groups of people in society, for example: teenagers, immigrants, Muslims and Gypsies and have the opportunity to deconstruct their ideas:
”I really liked the first activity because, for example, one girl wrote ‘dark skin’ on the Muslim poster, but I then explained and shared with the class that being Muslim is about what you believe, not where you come from or your skin colour.”
Young people then explore where they get their ideas from, the reasons why information may be biased or false; including social media posts, adverts and propaganda and the things that they can do to make sure that their information is correct. Here’s a diagram of their post-workshop responses:
For homework, the young people look at social media and newspapers for stories that they think might not be true and research the facts behind these stories to present back at the start of the second workshop.
During the second part of the workshop, the young people explore extreme groups such as Britain First, ISIS and the Animal Liberation Front. Young people explore the persuasion techniques that groups use to try to get people to join, the reasons why people might be tempted to get involved, the harm that these groups cause to those who join and to others.
“These groups use propaganda to entice people and have information that is biased in favour of their group and makes the people they are talking about sound bad.”
“Some groups can pressure people to do things that they don’t want to do, they can make people turn into bad people or just people who they are not.”
The workshops finish with exploring what the young people can do if someone they know is tempted to get involved with a negative group.
“I would talk to them about it and convince them to consider it deeper and understand the repercussions of what they are going to do.”
“Tell them the truth behind it and explain to them that they must check the facts before believing something.”
“Tell someone I trust what is going on and maybe ask our teacher to explain to our class and them why this group is bad and what they do”
“The activities were fun and they made me think and change my mind about people and my way of thinking. The staff were supportive and listened to your opinion.”
Workshops are available for schools throughout England and are currently completely free of charge for schools in Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Crawley, Enfield, Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Tower Hamlets, Westminster and Wycombe District. If you would like further information, or to explore how the programme could be delivered in your school please contact Kate Hollinshead – firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 01480 470660
We also run workshops for Secondary students called Second Thoughts! with similar themes and ideas, but adapted to target years 8-11. These workshops are also available across England, and free for schools in the areas mentioned above.