Critical Thinking Resource: Pieces of Learning

When it comes to critical thinking and science, Pieces of Learning has some great supplemental texts!  In case you haven’t heard of Pieces of Learning, I wanted to let you know that they specialize in differentiated learning.  Differentiated learning is individualized to meet the unique needs of students, which is exactly what homeschooling is all about.  With a background in gifted education, Pieces of Learning has been offering high quality resources for students and teachers since 1989.  According to them, “Our products will always make kids and educators THINK – at a higher level”  

Within the science section of their website, they carry the Challenging Puzzle series, which are filled with critical and creative reasoning problems.
According to their website, “[w]hen deductive and creative thinking puzzles are linked to content they can be used to:

  • teach facts
  • teach content vocabulary
  • reinforce research skills 
  • motivate students”
“Critical and creative reasoning puzzles can be used as curriculum extensions and as anchor activities in the differentiated classroom, for pre and post testing, or as an introduction to a new unit.”
Here are some of the titles Pieces of Learning carries in the Challenging Puzzle series:

Also, check out Primary Science Readers’ Theatre and The Scientific Method in Fairy Tale Forest, among many other titles, and not just in the field of science!  

If you have used any of these books in your homeschool, I’d love to hear about it— leave a comment!

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Critical Thinking: Internet Resources

After reading our post on Critical Thinking and Science, you may wish to review some additional resources.  Here are just a few from around the web —

Indiana University Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication
This site, formerly called ERIC, at the University of Indiana has many informative documents you can download, some of which are about critical thinking.
Documents on Critical Thinking

The Foundation for Critical Thinking
“Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.”  The link I selected here provides portals for teachers, students, business people, and… homeschoolers.  They have a tremendous (overwhelming) wealth of information on this site, and they also offer products to augment your curriculum.  Stop by and check it out, you’ll see what I mean.

Critical Thinking across the Curriculum Project, Metropolitan Community College – Longview
Site includes a history of logic, a discussion of the purpose of studying critical thinking, and a review of the language and vocabulary of logic, with resources for printing.

Critical Thinking, What it is and Why it Counts
This report by Peter Facione of Santa Clara University attempts to develop a concise definition of “Critical Thinking.” Discusses analysis, inference, explanation, evaluation, self-regulation, and interpretation.

How to Critically Analyze Information
Cornell University Library, Reference Services Division publishes this overview of how to critically analyze information sources.

What Is Critical Thinking?
This page is a concise summary of critical thinking, with other pages on grammar, ways to read, inference, choices, and critical reading.

The Critical Thinking Company
Formerly Critical Thinking Press.  Their core curriculum, including the Building Thinking Skills series, is phenomenal.  Check it out!

Strategies for Critical Thinking in Learning
Sections on:

  • Thinking critically I
  • Thinking critically II 
  • Thinking creatively
  • Thinking like a genius I
  • Radical thinking
  • Reading critically

Have you employed a Critical Thinking curriculum in your homeschool?  Leave a comment and let us know what you used!

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Friction for Children: 4 Tricks to Help Children Understand Friction

By Lorie Moffat

If you’re looking for ways to aid in teaching friction for children then keep reading. So your child comes home from school with questions about friction. How can you help your child understand this concept? Without friction life as we know it would not exist. Every surface would be more slippery than ice. You could not walk, run, write, or even feed yourself without friction. Friction for children is as easy as using common examples to guide your explanation.

Friction for children starts with the basics. Friction is a push, pull, or a force which works against the motion of objects that are in contact as they move past each other. When objects are touching their surfaces tend to stick together, like the tiny loops and hooks of Velcro. Heat and sound are also produced by friction. If you rub the palms of your hands together quickly your hands get warm and you can hear the sound that friction creates.

There are three types of friction; sliding friction, rolling friction, and fluid friction. Sliding friction is caused by two objects touching each other that slide past one another. For example, when you push a large wooden crate across a floor you push against sliding friction. The entire surface of the crate that is in contact with the floor slides against the floor, slowing down the motion of the crate. Rolling friction uses wheels. If you move the identical large wooden crate with a wagon then you exert a force against rolling friction. Only the bottom of each wheel is in contact with the floor. Rolling friction is less than sliding friction; it takes less effort to push the crate on the wagon than to push the crate that is directly resting on the floor. When an object is in contact with a fluid, a liquid or a gas this is considered fluid friction. Airplanes and race cars are streamlined to reduce fluid friction. They have smooth, curved surfaces to reduce the friction, called drag, with the air.

When teaching friction for children it’s important to stress how friction can be advantageous. You light a match using friction. As you strike a match, friction creates enough heat to ignite a chemical compound in the match head that then burns the rest of the match head. Automobile brakes work because of friction. As the brake pads rub against the car’s wheels, the car slows down. Shoes designed for some sports have special soles to use friction to your advantage. Baseball shoes and football shoes have cleats to increase friction by sticking to cracks in the ground. A violinist puts rosin on his bow to increase friction between the bow and the violin strings, therefore producing sound.

However, friction can also be disadvantageous. If a door hinge squeaks, the noise is caused by friction. The space shuttle’s nose and wings heat up dramatically as it returns to Earth from orbit. The ceramic tiles on the shuttle’s nose and wings are designed to dissipate this heat caused by friction. The moving parts of a car’s engine rub against each other and can stick together, causing the engine to seize and to stop working. Using oil in a car’s engine protects the parts from friction. Cooked foods tend to stick to pans. Teflon on non-stick cookware reduces friction between the food and the pan, causing the food to slide. Competitive swimmers wear specially designed racing suits to reduce the friction between themselves and the water so that they can swim faster. A bowler wears extremely flat-soled shoes to slide on the lane right before he releases the bowling ball. Silicone aerosols, oils, grease, graphite (the very soft form of carbon in “lead” pencils), and ball bearings are all used to reduce friction.

By using every day examples, you can teach friction for children and help them better understand this concept. The three types of friction, sliding, rolling and fluid, can either be beneficial or detrimental to the motion of objects. Friction between your pen or pencil tip and the paper you write on allows you to write on the paper. Friction between the ground or the floor and your feet allows you to run or walk along these surfaces. Friction between your food and a spoon or fork allows you to eat with these utensils.

Lorie Moffat has 20 years of teaching experience in both public school classroom and science museum settings. Contact her about special summer online tutoring packages.


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