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Critical Thinking and Study Skills

Thinking caps on.

Shmoop's Critical Thinking and Study Skills course has been granted a-g certification, which means it has met the rigorous iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses and will now be honored as part of the requirements for admission into the University of California system.

Critical thinking and study skills sounds about exciting as a tub of broccoli. It's good for you, but there's no flash. No razzle-dazzle. No ranch topping.

(Usually, that is.)

But just like broccoli is a key ingredient to life-long health, critical thinking and study skills are the tools you need to succeed in school—and, by extension, life. Once you learn how to memorize information and pass that all-important exam, problem solve like a pro, or learn how to form an argument better than Socrates himself, you'll be on your way to academic and career stardom.

This semester-long course, aligned to Florida standards, is jam-packed with lessons, handouts, and activities that'll help you form all kinds of school superpowers. You'll develop abilities to

  • apply various technology/life hacks to stay organized and on task.
  • identify and practice test-taking strategies and memory tricks for concept retention.
  • effectively identify, read, and annotate difficult texts of all types.
  • critique and build your own formal arguments using rhetorical appeals but none of the fallacies.
  • understand the purpose of and create the key components of an argumentative essay.

Basically: pass the broccoli. It's time to think critically.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. How to be a Student

Today, in Deep Thoughts with Shmoop: School is tough, but you're tougher. In this unit, we're getting primed for a scholastic shock and awe campaign with basic study/life skills like getting organized, whaling on time management, taking notes that are actually useful, slaying distractions, battling stress, and mastering those two magic words to students everywhere: Google and Word.

Unit 2. How to Study

This unit right here is where we're covering test-taking strategies for every kind of test in the teacher's arsenal, as well as memory tricks to dominate every course, every time. Plus, we included a special bonus section on how to not be the only one in the "group project" doing the work and still produce a killer presentation.

Unit 3. How to Read

In this unit, we're diving into the specifics of that most treasured of school pastimes: reading. We've got a heaping helping of text structures with a side of graphic organizers and a dash of online research (there's an essay lurking in unit 5), as well as lessons on how to read trickier stuff like textbooks, primary sources, pictures, and poetry.

Unit 4. How to Think

School contains lots of reading, sure, but the lynchpin is being able to think critically about what we read. In this unit, we're starting it off easy with a good talk on main ideas, summaries, and critiques. Then, we're analyzing formal arguments and rhetoric from top to bottom (and bottom to top). Brush up your Greek, because Logos, Ethos, and Pathos are coming out to play. Oh, and by the end, you'll form your own very special argument from all that research.

Unit 5. How to Write

Those mental analysis powers we've now got are very impressive, but unfortunately, not many teachers or universities will just take our word for it. We'll need to persuade them, and that means writing. In this unit, we're getting all up in that argumentative essay's face and showing it who's boss. We've got all the trade secrets about hammering out introductions, transitions, evidence, citations, conclusions, and even how to avoid jail time from plagiarizing, so get your game face on, boss.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 6: The Problem and Solution Structure

Consider this problem:

Mom is freaking out because we've been letting our dirty laundry fester in a gross little pile in the middle of our bedroom. It's been stinking up that corner for over a week and finally, Mom breaks down and tells us that we can't come out of the bedroom until we do something to take care of it.  This is a problem, right?

A car with signs warning people not to steal its parts.
Parking your car near the back of a parking lot is a weight loss strategy; having your car booted is a problem.

Likely, we aren't going to have to wrack our brains all day to come up with a way to solve this conundrum. Unfortunately, we have some dirty clothes to take care of before we are able to leave our bedroom. Therein lies the problem, so what's the solution? To eat a pizza? No. Watch another episode of Behind the Music and hope that the smell will go away? Not likely. Those of us who are hoping to breathe in some clean, fresh air sometime in the distant future are probably going to pick up those gross threads and throw them in the wash. Voilà, a solution!

The ability to come up with a solution comes from some well thought out brainpower. And surprise, surprise—there's a text type which channels your brainpower and does that very thing, investigates a problem and proposes a solution. It's called a problem and solution text!

Let's go spend some time with problems and solutions, shall we?

  • Course Length: 18 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Course Type: Elective
  • Category:
    • English
    • Life Skills
    • High School

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