Deer Park Middle School focuses on strengthening critical thinking skills

Deer Park Middle School in North Charleston is working hard to create and nurture a critical thinking environment. We’re in Charleston county for our Cool School of the week.

Walk into most classrooms at Deer Park Middle School, and you will here a lot of focused discussion. “Quiet is not good. I don’t want to hear quiet. I want to hear kids talking. I want to see the thinking from the talking and the discussion,” says principal Paul Padron. “We’re really focused on getting kids to think critically. All of our classes are collaborative classes. No more rows and teachers talking and lecturing. Kids discussing, talking, and kids defending their answers. So it’s not ok just to give a good answer. You have to be able to defend your answer, and why it’s the best answer,” says Padron.

The Socratic Seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text that includes open-ended questions, which fosters critical thinking. Students in Ms. Grimes seventh grade class are identifying evidence in their books to to justify their thinking. They then have a discussion around the character. Padron says, “There’s nothing better than to hear a kid who normally would not speak defend their answers and say this is why I think this, this is the best, and have another say I agree with you but I would like to add this to it, nothing better than that.”

Deer Park is now in its second year. Teacher Angie Grimes says, “We have been very successful with implementing the Socratic Seminars. We’ve done a lot of discussion about how conversations should look and sound, mini discussions, short discussions with focused topics that builds us to larger discussions where we do the seminar. The whole class goes into a discussion circle, and we practice everybody inputting their opinions.” Seventh-grade student Antwon Brisbane says, “I think it’s complex, but not that hard to do. She posed an in depth question and we like go in to different conversations about it . We might switch the topic once or twice to get our mind thinking about something else. Then we come back to it. It helps me by getting the chance to really go in depth with something.”

Coming up Friday on News 2, we’ll present Deer Park with our Cool School award.

We want to hear about the good things that are going on at your school. Just send an email to Octavia at omitchell@ wcbd.com.

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