Teenage students studying the bible together fostering biblical thinking by kids

Best Practices for Fostering Biblical Thinking by Kids

Critical thinking is a mandate!  

Is that a true statement? 

Let’s define terms. Critical thinking, in an educational sense, is the act of drawing connections, using information in new situations, appraising ideas, and using them to produce something new. A mandate is an authoritative command. Do we see in scripture instruction to appraise and apply ideas? 

Absolutely, yes! 

  • In Colossians 2:8 we are given the directive to “see to it” that our minds are not taken captive by high-sounding nonsense and ideas that differ from God’s truth. 
  • Then, we are told in 1 Thessalonians to “Test all things; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from evil.” 
  • In Job 12:11 there is a sensory metaphor that encourages us to use our minds to evaluate ideas. “Does the ear not test words as the tongue tastes food?” 

Christianity does not operate on blind faith. God expects us to use our minds to analyze ideas and examine everything to determine if it is true. From there, we must commit to it despite popular opinion, opposition, or ridicule.   

When reviewing my PAQ coaches’ lesson plans during the PAQ training process, one of the elements I look for in a well-planned Christ-centered curricular unit is the opportunity for students to engage in critical thinking. At some point in the unit, the students must have a chance to conduct scripture analysis to formulate an answer to an essential question. 

Best Practices for Fostering Biblical Thinking by Kids 1

We always want our students to conduct scripture analysis in a developmentally appropriate way. When students conduct this analysis, they engage in a productive cognitive struggle. This cognitive struggle helps kids discover biblical truth from within the content. Critical thinking opportunities are non-negotiable in Christ-centered teaching; it’s a best practice of instruction and aligns with the biblical philosophy of learning.  

Best Practices for Fostering Biblical Thinking by Kids

Here are four best practices for fostering biblical thinking by kids that you can work to include throughout your lesson plans:

  1. Ask questions that foster discovery and inquiry, as opposed to questions that are literal, low-level-thinking questions. Literal questions prompt students to find, restate, or define concepts, vocabulary, or descriptive attributes in the text—the answers are “right there” in the words of the curriculum. Questions that foster discovery and inquiry are higher-level thinking questions. These questions ask kids to synthesize a collection of ideas or data to defend a position, formulate an overarching principle, or test a theory. Higher-level thinking questions require students to take the information in the text and look beyond that to think critically and solve problems.
  1. Plan for student collaboration. Collaboration provides supportive thinking practice through discussion and sharing of ideas. Think-pair-share, small group discussion, Socratic seminars, and jigsaw are just a few learning strategies designed to get kids to think about information, articulate their discoveries and inferences about the information, and learn from one another. Collaborative learning strategies have the potential to engage students’ willingness to defend their position, risk being wrong, and offer their suggestions. 
  1. Analyze the meaning of messages. Students need to develop skills in discerning the core ideas or presuppositions promoted in the messages they are confronted with.  Messages are rarely neutral. They are built on beliefs and biases. Sometimes the biases in messages align with biblical truth, and sometimes they don’t. It is important to help students see beyond the words of a message and determine the beliefs that undergird the messages. 
  1. Guide students in how to analyze Scripture. Students of any grade level can appropriately perform scripture analysis. The goal of scripture analysis is to determine the meaning of the message or, in other words, comprehend the text. All teachers, from grades K-12, help students build reading comprehension whether they are early readers or AP biology students. Focusing on the meaning of important words, understanding the message of the text, determining the author’s perspective, and evaluating the trustworthiness of claims are just a sampling of comprehension skills addressed in all subjects. Reading comprehension strategies also work for scripture analysis because scripture analysis involves reading comprehension; the two go hand in hand. Students need strategies to understand the message of Scripture so they can, over time, build the habit of comparing the message of scripture with other messages they encounter.

As students regularly have the opportunity to engage with these four teaching and learning practices, they will develop critical thinking skills that will carry them through life. And you know what? These critical thinking habits aren’t bad ideas for us as adults to incorporate too! 

Transformed PD Equips Educators in Fostering Biblical Thinking by Kids

Based on Romans 12:2, the vision of Transformed PD is to influence the thinking and practices of educators that align with a biblical view of learning, rather than the patterns popularized in the world today. Informed, research-based, practical, and friendly training are the critical aspects of professional development services provided by Transformed PD team members. Our professional development services will walk side by side with your educators to equip them to foster biblical thinking by kids and so much more. Contact us today to learn more and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for insightful news, encouragement, and practical teaching strategies. 

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