8 Ways To Improve Critical Thinking In The Classroom

While reading, writing and math are the basic elements that should be taught to students, there is so much more they should be learning. All students should be actively working on their critical thinking skills in the classroom.

So many of life’s situations require people to think critically to analyze data presented to them, choose the best course of action to take to solve the problem and follow through with their choices. The earlier students cultivate critical thinking, the more skilled they will be at producing sophisticated, thoughtful solutions to the challenges they face. Mastering this skill will carry them through the rest of their life.

So how does one improve their critical thinking skills? Eight professionals shared their own ideas on how to do so.

Move Away From Standardized Testing

My top tip for improving critical thinking in the classroom is for students to have more opportunities to utilize what they learn in the classroom, in a hands on way, in the real world. My other tip is for schools to not be so dependent on standardized testing to evaluate a student’s mastery of concepts.

Lloyd Hopkins, Million Dollar Teach Project

Individual Problem Solving

Improving critical thinking requires being challenged. Whether in a classroom or in the workplace, it is important to let people think and problem solve on their own. Teachers and supervisors will often do things for the student or employee and not show them or let them try on their own first. Letting a person wrestle with the problem at hand and come up with solutions on their own is how they are going to expand their critical thinking skills. It is important for the person in charge to let the student or employee think and even in some cases struggle with a problem before giving them the answer.

Denise Gredler, BestCompaniesAZ

Empathize With Others

Have students or employees learn to put themselves in someone else’s position. What would they do if they were someone else? How would that person handle this situation or think about this idea? It forces them to think differently than they probably would have and learn empathy in the process, as well.

Kenna Hamm, Texas Adoption Center

Activities Without Clear Cut Answers

Improving critical thinking comes down to challenging the children. Stimulating their minds with activities that do not have clear cut answers is a great way to encourage problem-solving and having to think about the bigger picture. Also, for younger children giving them toys that have an end goal and purpose, not just toys that entertain, is a great way to encourage critical thinking at a young age. It is all about creating an environment where the children are in charge of solving problems.

Ryan Nouis, TruPath

Slow Down

Take your time when strategizing and critically thinking through problems. Critical thinking is just deliberately and systematically processing information so that you can make better decisions. This is not something that can be rushed! When given a problem at school or work where you must think critically, take a deep breath, slow down, and deliberately employ critical thinking in ways of conceptualizing, analyzing and evaluating. This is what should be taught to students in school!

Kayla Centeno, Markitors

Active Virtual Engagement

Critical thinking requires active engagement. Removing distractions and enhancing focus will go a long way in supporting an active engagement environment. Cultivating personal responsibility for the task at hand is also pivotal.

Michael Herion, Carrot Eye Center

Recognize Thought Process Biases

An essential step to improving critical thinking skills is to be able to recognize assumptions and biases in your thought process. It is really easy to say “Our customers want this!” but is this fact or conjecture? Intuition is great and should lay the foundation for experimentation not critical decision making.

Lukas Ruebbelke, Briebug

Question Your Sources

To improve critical thinking, the first step is to evaluate what you hear and read. Don’t take anything at face value. You need to ask questions and do your research. Everyone has a motive and bias, so consider the source of the information.

Joanne M Elsen, CPA PC

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11 Tips For Preparing Your Child To Go Back To School After COVID-19

When schools across the country abruptly shut down their campuses in March, parents understandably found themselves with added stress. How do you teach a fifth-grader something you haven’t read about in twenty years? What can you give your kids to keep them occupied from nine to five?

As schools begin to release their plans for the 2020-21 school year, it’s important to make sure your child is prepared. Whether your child’s school plans to return to in-person learning or continue remotely, the world we live in is something children must be ready for.

Below, 11 thought leaders share their tips for helping your child go back to school after COVID-19.

Be in Communication With School Leadership

It is important that parents observe CDC health guidelines and recommendations concerning

COVID-19 and be in communication with their school leadership regarding what steps they are taking to ensure student safety. Both of these approaches should provide parents enough information to make a sound decision that they feel will work best for them and their families.

Lloyd Hopkins, Million Dollar Teacher Project

Teach Hygiene Basics

Understandably, parents may feel weary sending their children back to school with COVID-19 still fresh in everyone’s minds. Some of the best tips for parents to handle this are the same tips to avoid any kind of sickness. Teach kids how to wash their hands properly, sneeze or cough into their arm or shirt, promptly throw away their used tissues and mind other people’s personal space.

Denise Gredler, BestCompaniesAZ

Ensure They Have the Supplies to Be Safe

Going back to school can be scary for a child after all that has occurred surrounding COVID-19. One thing that is essential is making sure your child has the supplies to be safe. It is on the child to implement the instructions you give them, but it is on the parent to make sure they supply adequate items to keep their kids safe. Make sure your child has a mask, gloves and hand sanitizer in their backpack everyday before they leave for school. Make sure your child understands how to correctly wear the mask, put the gloves on and when to sanitize. It will be a dual effort on the part of the parent and child to be as safe as possible.

Dan Reck, MATClinics

Communicate with Your Child

Having an open line of communication with your child is going to be crucial when sending them back to school after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. You need to talk with your child about the safety precautions they should be taking while at school. Let them know that just because the other kids may not be following guidelines, doesn’t mean they should do the same. It is also crucial that you allow your child to communicate any reservations or fears they may have regarding going back as well. Give them a space to express their concerns and collectively talk about how the child can overcome them and have a positive experience back in the classroom.

Kenna Hamm, Texas Adoption Center

Lead by Example

Parents should work on implementing atomic habits that enforce healthy behavior like wearing masks, washing hands, etc. Nothing is more effective than leading by example and being consistent. It is also important to calibrate your messaging in a way that children understand, which can be in the form of imagery, story, games, etc. Do not underestimate the power of novelty.

Lukas Ruebbelke, Briebug

Keep Kids Remote

As a dad of 3 young kids in Arizona, child safety is one of the top concerns in life. For years, you send the kids to school with other booger eating kids (no shame – one of my kids is a mysterious booger eater too!) and know that they’re going to catch what’s going around at school. But this time, it’s different because there’s too many unknowns. I’m planning on following the lead of workplaces and will keep kids remote for as long as employees stay remote. You have to believe that Arizona schools will afford children with some remote option. At least, I hope.

Brett Farmiloe, Education SEO Company

Discuss “How” and “Why”

Upon returning to school, I would suggest that parents have conversations with their children and explain the importance of “how and why” we are taking increased measures with COVID-19. A better understanding allows students to have meaning and purpose with their actions, and that conviction will keep their masks on when others choose not to participate. Purpose leads to productive results and a passion for protection.

Nykki Stenger, Insperity

Encourage Dialogue

Kids will have a rough time thinking about their feelings and emotions. The explanation for this is sometimes not because a kid has little to say, but because nobody asked them the right question.

Search for open-ended questions from the children that encourage dialogue. Suggested questions include:

  • How do you benefit from heading back to school?
  • What instructors and friends are you ready to see?
  • What are things that will be easy about going back to school? What’s going to be tough?

Make sure to start the discussion once your child is already back at home. Avoid asking closed questions that they can easily address with a yes or no; concentrate on discussing what was good, what was terrible, who they communicated with and whether they’re looking forward to being back at school tomorrow or the next day.

Lesley Reynolds, Harley Street Skin Clinic

Approach It as an Ongoing Conversation

My wife and I are focused on getting our little daughter prepared to return by taking a holistic approach. From a physical standpoint, this looks like instilling habits designed to mitigate risk. We wash hands when we get home, wear a mask in public and model how it should be worn. Emotionally, we approach it as an ongoing conversation where we prep her for what to expect. From the probability of masks to being patient with the time that mitigation takes in a Pre-K setting. With our child being routine driven, this repetition is important to set her expectation.

Steven Brown, DP Electric

Keep Kids Inspired

Once your kids return to school, plan activities that keep them motivated in fun and enjoyable ways. This may be part of the daily schedule, such as making them play video games or enjoying their favorite snack when they come home from classes.

During the lockdown, if your kids were doing more of those ‘fun’ things, this could also help to reduce the sense of change they’ll feel. You should use that as an extra way to comfort the kids by reflecting on what has been steady over the last months.

Seek to retain social gatherings with this in mind that you might have set up during the lockdown. Whether you’re playing a board game together every evening for an hour or enjoying a stroll around the street, keep doing such. The completion of the lockdown doesn’t suggest you’re going to have to go back to any of your old ways, but make sure to maintain any of the good improvements you might have put into your life.

Dr. Vikram Tarugu, Detox of South Florida

Set a Good Example

Parents should treat this pandemic as a teaching moment and lead by example prior to their children returning to school. The parents should wear a face mask when around others, be socially distancing, and wash their hands often. This practice sets a good example for the children that are watching. Parents should also have a discussion with their kids about preparing them for the different safety protocols now enforced at school. It is a good idea to continue this dialogue with the children daily as the school year progresses to see how well they are coping with these new procedures.

Craig Rosen, InterviewFocus

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8 Volunteer Opportunities in Phoenix

9 Volunteer Opportunities in Phoenix

Volunteering is a meaningful way to become part of something bigger than yourself. Charitable organizations are always in need of support from individuals looking to make an impact, whether you’re looking to get your hands dirty or work alongside other members of your community collecting items for charity.

To give you some ideas on how to get involved, we asked eight thought leaders to share their favorite places to volunteer and other opportunities in Phoenix to make a difference.

Unique ways to support classroom teachers

The Million Dollar Teacher Project partners with schools to increase how their teachers are recognized, drive more support directly into classrooms and create innovative ways to impact teacher compensation.  A huge driver of teachers leaving the profession is their workload.  This can be addressed through strategic classroom based volunteer opportunities that are meaningful but also fit into your everyday life.  You can start with looking for ways to help your students’ classroom teacher.  If you don’t have kids you can contact the school nearest to you and inquire about ways you can assist.  This year there are many virtual opportunities being offered to tutor or mentor kids.  So, you are not limited to just in-person volunteerism.  Even just giving an hour a week can make a world of difference to a teacher.

Lloyd Hopkins, Million Dollar Teacher Project

Habitat For Humanity Central Arizona

Arizona’s best companies partner with Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona to build homes, communities, and hope. Partnering with Habitat gives corporations an opportunity to give back to the local community while offering employees a volunteer project with satisfying, tangible results.

Denise Gredler, Best Companies Arizona

St. Mary’s Food Bank

Our team volunteered at St. Mary’s Food Bank during the holidays to help pack meals for those in need while having a great time bonding as a team. It was a great experience! 

Kimberly Kriewald, AVANA Capital

Nonprofits in HR Issues

I regularly volunteer with nonprofits and schools to help with HR issues, special events, training and promoting communication.  I have loved my hands-on work with organizations such as Feed My Starving Children, to help feed hungry children around the world. Arts organizations are really struggling right now, so there may be even more ways for volunteers to help.  Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona and Phoenix Children’s Chorus come to mind.  Think deeply about all your gifts and the many ways you can give through volunteering.

Colleen McManus, Senior Consultant

UMOM New Day Centers

UMOM restores hope and rebuilds lives by providing shelter, services and affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness in the greater Phoenix area. They are always looking for volunteers for their “Read to Me” program as well as serving meals. This is a great opportunity to make a difference in the Phoenix community.

Zack McCarty, Qwick

Community Fund of Sun City West Inc.

A personal favorite of mine is the Community Fund of Sun City West Inc. They want to help those with low income in any way they can. They have helped over 150 residents and continue to do so.

Andrew Roderick, Credit Repair

Tempe YMCA

There are literally thousands of places to volunteer. You can choose based upon the type of work you like to do or the work the non-profit does. I volunteer with the Tempe YMCA. I love working with them because we have programs for all ages and needs.

Nicole Spracale, Coaching & Consulting

Powered by Veterans 

My favorite place to volunteer is with the Wounded Warrior Project and The Mission Continues. Both are community-focused and powered by veterans.

Victor Jabri, Investigations Manager

Giving Back Comes in Many Forms

Phoenix is home to a variety of nonprofit organizations in areas like Animals, Homeless, Food and Health. Places like the Arizona Humane Society and St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance are always looking for volunteers. Some of my favorite places to volunteer are Feed My Starving Children, Valleywise Health Medical Center, and my elementary school. I also donate blood at Vitalant. Giving back comes in many forms.

Kayla Centeno, Education SEO Company

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8 Teacher Appreciation Ideas

Teacher Appreciation Ideas

Teacher appreciation week just passed but it doesn’t mean you should stop showing your gratitude for teachers.

Below you’ll find 8 ideas for showing your appreciation for teachers year-round because educating future generations is a pretty heroic task.

Send Classroom Supplies 

Most of the time, teachers spend a large part of their modest salary on classroom decorations and supplies for students. Teachers will always appreciate receiving items they don’t have to ask for or buy themselves, so purchasing supplies you know they are in need of is the perfect way to say “thank you.” 

Peter Babichenko, Sahara Case

Have Your Child Write a Letter

Receiving handwritten letters in the mail is always a treat for teachers. Take time to sit down with your child to assist them in writing a letter to their teacher thanking them for specific things they learned during the school year. This is a sweet and personalized gesture that is sure to make any teacher’s day!

Kenna Hamm, Texas Adoption Center

Make a Self Care Package 

Teachers spend seven hours a day with 20+ children, teaching them vital information for their future in education. It is a very difficult and selfless job! Sending a teacher a package with gift cards to a nice restaurant, a movie theatre, or a retail store you know they like along with a bath bomb or nice candle will give them the permission they need to take some much needed time for themselves.

Denise Gredler, Best Companies Arizona

Share Their Impact

While teachers appreciate gifts, I think what is most valuable to them is to share the impact they’ve had on you and your children. Ten years from now, they’ll forget about the gift card, but they will remember your story.

Brian Stinson, The PEAK Fleet

Give Gift Cards and Goodie Bags

Gift cards are always a winner! To give them an extra kick, build a custom gift bag around the gift card. Ie: Starbucks gift card… Add a best-selling book, a cozy blanket, and maybe even a cute mug! A gift bag can be a really thoughtful way to express appreciation.

Candace Cotton, Halo Branded Solutions

Get Involved in a Campaign

In an effort to support local restaurants and show appreciation to teachers simultaneously we will be sending lunch to the homes of 100 valley teachers through our Take a Teacher to Lunch program. We will also be sharing videos from our #PasstheApple campaign. For this campaign, people share with us videos telling a story about their favorite teachers.

Lloyd Hopkins, Million Dollar Teacher Project

Recognize with Fair Pay

Increase their pay! COVID-19 has shined an even brighter light on the power of educators in our community. They deserve all the praise and the resources to get the job done, while also living a fulfilling life outside the classroom.

Michelle Diaz, Teammate Experience Manager

Homemade Cards

Our family signs and makes cards for teachers to show our appreciation for all they do. Nothing beats a heartfelt, Crayola crayon enhanced piece of paper that visually expresses the impact a teacher can have on the entire family. Slipping something into a homemade card – like a gift card – is always a nice touch. But, people just appreciate authenticity. Nothing is more authentic than a homemade card from a first-grader.

Brett Farmiloe, Education SEO Company

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MDTP launches #Continuethelearning Campaign to assist during COVID-19 Crisis


As our state wrestles with responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, to keep families safe, schools campuses have been closed down for the remainder of the school year and districts are now moving towards virtual or distance learning to deliver instruction to kids.   It has been incredible to see the resilience of our educators to adapt and, I think now, more than ever, families are reminded of the importance teachers play in our daily lives!  Even though moving classrooms online is a great approach to keep students engaged, it has exposed a huge gap that still exists in the pursuit of every student receiving an equitable education.

In many Title I School Districts, as much as 65% of their students can still lack access to the internet and devices they need to participate in virtual classrooms.  As we all work diligently to properly manage the current crisis in our state, another one looms if we can not keep kids connected.  As a response we have created an initiative named ‘Title I Tech’ to assist Title I districts with getting their students what they need to keep learning.  This is where we need your help.

Through our partnership with Mathew Blades of the Mix 969 morning show, Mathew & Priscilla, we have committed $15,000 at Target for the purchase of devices (laptops, tablets, etc) to immediately get these things in kids hands, but we need more so we can do more.  So, we have launched the #Continuethelearning campaign with a goal of raising an additional $25,000.  This will not only enable us to get students the devices they need but also assist with internet connections and any other needs that might arise around this area.  We are contacting you today in hopes that you can make a donation towards helping us reach our goal.  No amount is too big or small and as a community we can overcome any challenge.   So, we hope we can count on you for a contribution TODAY.   To learn more about the campaign, donate or apply for help please click here.

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