Developing Critical Thinking in English Language Arts (ELA)


· Critical Thinking,English Language Arts,Writing,Teaching,Foundation

The Importance of Critical Thinking in ELA and Beyond

Critical thinking is an essential skill for academic success, and it’s particularly important in the world of ELA. Common Core Curriculum standards expect students to employ critical thinking in all related areas, from reading to writing, speaking, listening, and ELA college readiness goals. However, the importance of critical thinking goes far beyond English class. Being able to read and write critically is a powerful tool to help students navigate their lives in high school and beyond.

A study published in Research in Science Education found that when students were exposed to teaching strategies that promoted critical thinking skills, they demonstrated resulting qualities including:

  • Truth-seeking
  • Open-mindedness
  • Self-confidence
  • Maturity
Different colored shapes with the words truth-seeking, open-mindedness, self-confidence and maturity

Qualities like these not only help students achieve academic success, but also set them up for success in their workplaces and personal lives. They will be equipped to make well-informed decisions, identify and evaluate arguments, and recognize assumptions and biases. These skills will help students navigate a world of increasing misinformation, and will give them a competent and compelling voice with which to share their ideas.


Critical Thinking Skills in ELA

As an educator, you can develop critical thinking in many ways through your ELA coursework. Here’s a more in-depth look at how critical thinking is used and improved upon in the reading and writing techniques learned in ELA.

What Is Critical Reading?

Critical reading is a thoughtful and analytical approach to evaluating written material. It involves actively analyzing and evaluating the text and examining its structure, arguments, evidence, and underlying assumptions. This process helps the reader gain a deeper understanding of the material and develop an informed opinion.

Knowing how to read critically enables the reader to evaluate the validity and reliability of information encountered in daily life. In an age of information overload, it is more important than ever to be able to distinguish between credible and unreliable sources.

In addition, critical reading helps develop a reader's ability to engage in informed debates and discussions. By thoroughly examining and evaluating different perspectives and arguments, critical readers are better equipped to contribute to important conversations and make informed decisions.

Critical reading also helps to expand knowledge and understanding of various subjects. This is true even when engaging with fiction, where literary analysis can help to uncover authors’ perspectives and purposes. By critically analyzing the written work of others, readers can gain a deeper understanding of complex topics, as well as new insights into their own beliefs and values.

Critical Thinking and Writing

Critical thinking is an essential component of effective essay writing and written communication. It is the process of objectively analyzing, evaluating, and making judgements about information and arguments. When used in essay writing and written communication, critical thinking helps individuals produce well-reasoned, well-supported, and convincing arguments.

In essay writing, critical thinking helps to identify and evaluate the strength of evidence and arguments presented in one’s own writing and in the writing of others. This includes considering alternative perspectives and challenging assumptions, which leads to a deeper understanding of the topic and a more informed position.

Critical thinking also helps developing writers organize thoughts and present arguments in a clear, concise, and logical manner. By breaking down complex ideas into smaller parts and evaluating the relationships between these parts, critical thinking can help students effectively structure academic essays.

The importance of critical thinking also extends beyond schoolwork. In written communication like emails, articles, applications, and more, critical thinking will help young people communicate capably and confidently. This ability to communicate clearly can lead to improved relationships and increased effectiveness in personal and professional contexts.

How to Develop Critical Thinking in ELA

As students progress through their ELA classes, their critical thinking skills can be improved by:

  • Practicing critical reading strategies like surveying texts beforehand and annotating while reading
  • Learning how to identify trustworthy sources
  • Synthesizing information from multiple credible sources
  • Communicating findings through essays or Capstone Projects
  • Analyzing and evaluating informational texts using the THINKING PRO Competency Framework and critical thinking strategies

Exploring THINKING PRO interactive learning videos to expand critical thinking skills with a targeted and comprehensive gamified system

Here at Thinking Habitats, we use thinking tools to empower young people to lead successful lives and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities. Our online platform has helped students improve their critical thinking, reading comprehension, and news media literacy, and has had significant individual and community impacts. Try THINKING PRO today, and join our students who feel more empowered in decision-making, more mindful with their news engagement, and more connected to their local community!




Basso, F. L. (2020, September 21). How Reading Fiction Can Shape Our Real Lives. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from 

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2022, November). Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.

Critical Reading: What is critical reading, and why do I need to do it? CSU Ohio. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from 

Miri, B., David, B.-C., & Uri, Z. (2007). Purposely teaching for the promotion of higher-order thinking skills: A case of critical thinking. Research in Science Education, 37(4), 353–369. Volzke, D. (2017, February 22). How to Demonstrate Critical Thinking in Your Writing. Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from