Reading Skills: A Missing Link in the Teaching of Critical Thinking Skills – Wawan Setiawan
Critical Thinking has been considered one of the necessary skills that students must acquire. Thus, it is believed that teaching this skill in our classroom – whatever discipline we are teaching – will help our students to scrutinize any “underlying issues” some steps beyond any surface phenomenon they encounter. The process of this high level of thought is predetermined by the intelligence recreation in which the students are demanded to go through a much lengthened and demanding thought processing that involves higher level of concentration, incorporation of knowledge of the world, sharpened questions, formulation of hypothesis, and other information to direct to. Critical thinking skills training embedded to the teaching of language skills lays the foundation crucial to establishing strong grounds on the basis of which language learners can extrapolate broad connections of some phenomena. The true sense of bringing a communication gap to class is most realistically materialized when the teaching of language skills sheds conjuring ideas during a critical analysis or discussion on the matters that students find highly related to their lives.
However, in the Indonesian classroom context, to integrate critical thinking into language teaching poses great challenges. Culturally speaking, being critical has long been labeled as an act of impoliteness. In the homes of many families children are predominantly dogmatized that having critically different ideas towards their elders is deemed taboo. Family rules are viewed as parents’ prerogatives to shape acceptably-mannered children. The consequence leads to the creation of students having stumbling blocks to articulate opinions, not to the extent that they have no idea but to that they are afraid of getting bad labels. Another challenge facing the integration of critical thinking into language teaching is the fact that the reading habit does not take root in the lives of most students. Meanwhile, reading activity does not take place on the students’ own accord. It’s a mandated or imposed activity as part of any given curricular scheme, many of which are not aimed at fostering comprehension skills on the part of the students and with the reading materials going far beyond the students’ interest. They stop reading when the obligatory mission is accomplished. To my understanding, such realization of reading assignments is not the nature under which an extensive reading program is supposedly carried out for a valuable reading activity to take place. As critical thinking is a high order thinking activity that requires them to incorporate their knowledge of the world in critically analyzing any given phenomenon, asking students to become involved in a classroom demanding critical analysis in which they have to put their internalized knowledge to show how to anticipate a new problem and to cope with that is impossible to manifest when students lack an understanding of what happens around their lives.
A hope is still there if we go extra miles regarding this, and the choice is clear, that is, to adopt reading instruction approaches that could help students coalesce reading skills important to the development of students’ critical thinking skills and that provide missing channels for articulating opinions. Such approaches may take any of several forms.
1. Building Circles of Critical Readers
Encourage students to engage in critical reading activities by dedicating special rooms in the real world as well as in the virtual world. The reading selections of different genres are not only to be interesting to the students but also to be accompanied by tasks. These tasks are meant to be stimulus for the students to activate their thinking faculties. Regular posts on the school’s wall bulletin on different discussion topics followed by the chained responses contributed by students will reduce the feeling of being obliged to answer reading comprehension questions as compared to the same mechanism done in the classroom. The era we live in now even offers more attractive platforms in the virtual world in which our students are even better at doing. What lies ahead of us is facilitating them for the maximum use of technology.
2. Realigning Students’ Motivation Doing In and Out of the Class Reading Activities
It’s not a big problem whether the motivation to read is extrinsic or intrinsic. As most of the students’ time is spent outside the class, our main job as a language teacher is make sure that they are provided with reading materials that are interesting, familiar but challenging, have connections with their lives, enlighten them so that they find them useful in preparing their future, lend themselves to vocabulary development, indigenous in developing students’ reading micro skills, and allow the promotion of reading fluency. Meanwhile, what happens in the classroom should be the sort of reading instruction that will empower students in doing out of the class reading activities, in which the reading classroom interactions are geared towards not only the teaching of how to comprehend texts but also the training of how comprehension is achieved through the application of reading micro-skills. Embedding productive aspects of the language with reading instruction is really worth an effort. Teachers may develop questions that ask students to relate the reading content with those incidents they encounter in their daily lives.