A web site for the developing language teacher

Critical Thinking—What the Mainstream Classroom
Can Learn from the ESL Classroom
by Steve Schackne
- 3


Debate and discussion in Western society is often superficial, relying on emotion, eschewing logic. There is a noticeable lack of critical thinking both in the media and in public discourse. This uncritical approach to contemporary issues, relying on emotion and imagery, avoiding serious analysis and discussion, may be unintentional; that is, our public communicators may be incapable, both intellectually and temperamentally, of engaging in serious debate. It also may be intentional, a cynical ploy in order to deceive or manipulate.

Critical thinking skills are addressed in the ESL classroom. Through problem solving, and persuasion and argumentation, students are taught how to support an opinion with evidence, and how to refute an argument with detailed analysis, counterargument, and refutation.

A renewed emphasis on critical thinking skills must be instituted in our mainstream classrooms before students reach university. A logical starting point would be to look at how critical thinking skills are handled in the ESL classroom.


Anatomy of English Writing

A. Introduces the essay
B. Generates interest in the essay
C. Contains thesis statement (controlling idea)
1. Introduces the topic of the essay
2. Is always the last sentence in the introduction

A. Topic Sentences
1. Usually is the first sentence in the paragraph
2. May be a statement of intent or a statement of opinion
3. Can be limited in eight different ways
a. time
b. place
c. aspect
d. number
e. similarity
f. difference
g. cause, reason
h. effect
B. Supporting Sentences
1. Details, description
2. Examples
3. Anecdote, personal experience
4. Facts, statistics
5. Expert knowledge
C. Coherence
1. Sentences must be in proper order
D. Unity
1. Sentences must all refer directly or indirectly back to topic sentence

A. Signals the end of the essay
B. Can not introduce any new material
C. Can summarize, predict, suggest, or conclude

The Topic Sentence
A more thorough discussion of topic sentences can be found at
Log on to class Z508Z2W93-Writing 201

Supporting Sentences
A more thorough discussion of supporting sentences can be found at
Log on to class Z508Z2W93-Writing 201

A more thorough discussion of argumentation can be found at
Log on to class Z5Z047WZ5-Writing 301

Textbooks and Listening
Gardner, P.S. New Directions: Reading, Writing, and Critical Thinking. Cambridge University Press, 2005
The Laffer Curve
Numrich, C. Consider the Issues. Pearson ESL, 2003
Numrich, C. Face the Issues. Pearson ESL, 2006
Numrich, C. Raise the Issues. Pearson ESL, 2009
Numrich, C. Critical Thinking 1 & 2: The Importance of Critical Thinking
Numrich, C. Critical Thinking 1 & 2: The Importance of Critical Thinking
Sosa, R.G. The Devil's Advocate Reader, Longman, 2007


Steve Schackne has spent 25 years in the field of linguistics. In addition to teaching, his background includes teacher training, program administration, and online-distance learning. He was educated at the University of North Carolina and the State University of New York, and has taken post graduate language training at Taipei Language Institute and the University of Macau.
His postings have included Taipei Language Institute, Tunghai University (Taiwan), Kansas University, Culver Educational Foundation, University of California--Santa Barbara, Oklahoma State University, University of Macau, Ming Chuan University (Taiwan), and Fooyin Institute of Technology (Taiwan). He has lectured and published all over the world, but is now best known for his educational resource web site, Schackne Online.

To the beginning of the article

Print-friendly version

To the articles index

Back to the top

Tips & Newsletter Sign up —  Current Tip —  Past Tips 
Train with us Online Development Courses    Lesson Plan Index
 Phonology — Articles Books  LinksContact
Advertising — Web Hosting — Front page

Copyright 2000-2016© Developing