I think a lot of us are using the terms “critical thinking” and “comprehension” as if they mean the same thing.

Well…they don’t.

And we need to know the difference between the two in order to be successful in teaching kids both!

Comprehension is the ability to know and understand what you’ve read.

Critical thinking is the ability to determine whether you should believe it or not!

So why is it important that we know the difference?

Well…we have to explicitly teach kids the skills they need to understand what they read (comprehension) and that includes things such as:

  • Retelling
  • Recalling
  • Recounting
  • Text structure
  • Text features
  • Independent vocabulary figuring-out strategies (how’s THAT for scientific language!)
  • Understanding figurative language
  • …and on and on!

We also have to teach (most of which is done through tons and tons of modeling, by the way) how to critically think about text/topics/ideas/media/audio/video.  There are four “markers” of critical thinking:

  1. interpretation
  2. verification
  3. reasoning
  4. logical thinking

Both are essential for kids to be great thinkers, but it is possible that we could totally develop a comprehender without developing a critical thinker.  In fact, I wonder how often we say, “He can critically think about X!” when really what he’s doing is comprehending?