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Introduction to Critical Reading and Writing

Unleash your inner critic.

Critical reading and writing. Contrary to popular belief, it's not flying through the latest pot-boiler only to post a scathing review of the author's comma placement on Amazon (though we've been known to do that). It's not even texting your BFFL about how OMG hilarious those critical reviews of the banana slicer are (although we've been known to do that, too).

What it is:

  • Paying attention while you're reading.
  • Using all the stuff you noticed as you were paying attention while you were reading to write about what you just read.

Of course, as most things in life tend to be, it's just a little more complicated than that. This course unpacks it for you. In it, you'll learn how to pre-read for maximum comprehension, what kinds of stuff you should pay attention to as you're reading, and how to turn everything you learn using all that good critical reading into a basic polished essay.

And if you want to use everything you learn here to write the next hilarious critical Amazon product review, you can definitely do that, too.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Introduction to Critical Reading and Writing

This course is designed for students who have never read or written critically before. We start by going over the basics of how to analyze, assess, and summarize arguments and then transition into teaching students to form their own arguments. Our goal is to ease students into the writing process by giving them a generalizable template for critical writing. We like to think of it as the solid foundation from which your students can launch into other, more improvisatory argumentative writing without crashing.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 1: Let's Get Critical

Picture this: You're going about your day, scrolling through your Facebook feed, when you click on a friend's post that takes you to a video of a baby animal doing something cute. Suddenly, a flashing ad pops up that says "CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE THE 1 MILLIONTH VISITOR! CLICK HERE TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE!" Annoyed, you click frantically around it until you find the hidden button that makes the thing disappear so you can go on marveling at the impossibly cute baby animal in peace.

Whoa. What just happened? Weren't you excited to be the one millionth visitor? Didn't you want to claim your prize?

Nope. What just happened in your head probably went something like this:

  • This thing pops up every time I visit babyanimalsbeingadorable.com, and it is statistically unlikely that I am the 1 millionth visitor every single time.
  • Flashing ads on websites usually take me to places where someone tries to get me to buy something.
  • I'm not going to click on the ad.

What you just did there was something called critical thinking. Critical thinking means being a little bit skeptical of just about everything, just about all the time. Well, okay, if someone says the sky is blue, you're pretty safe. (Except sometimes on those really stormy days when the sky can be all kinds of ominous colors.)

But other times, it means noticing what's right about something, too.

Good critical thinkers take an umbrella when the sky looks like this.


There are all kinds of ways to be a critical thinker. When we decide that maybe it's not the best idea to bike without a helmet, we've thought critically about the costs and benefits of helmet-wearing. When we try to convince our parents to let us borrow their car by arguing that we really are a responsible almost-adult—we even watered the plants last week!—we've thought critically about our parents' point of view.

When it comes right down to it, critical thinking means learning to "see" clearly, think deeply, and talk about what we've seen and thought more powerfully.

And when it comes to school, critical thinking usually takes two forms: critical reading, and critical writing. The reading comes first, because let's face it: you've got to have something to write about, and you find that something by reading. Become a critical reader, and you're one step closer to becoming a critical writer.

So what are you waiting for? Let's get critical.