Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
  • Critical Thinking
  • Tme0012
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
    Media Formats:
    eBook, Text/HTML, Video

    Critical Thinking: Course Map & Recommended Resources


    How to Use This Guide

    This document is intended to highlight resources that can be used to address the topic of Critical Thinking in a First-Year Writing Course.  All resources are Open Access and can be downloaded or added to a Course Management System via hyperlink.

      Introduction & Learning Objectives


      Critical Thinking is one of the five main learning outcomes for the Ohio Transfer Module’s Ohio guidelines for first-year writing. The Department of Higher Education states that by the end of the course, students should be able to:

      1. Use reading and writing for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating.
      2. Locate and evaluate secondary research materials, including visual texts such as photographs, videos, or other materials.
      3. Analyze relationships among writer, text, and audience in various kinds of texts.
      4. Use various critical thinking strategies to analyze texts.

      Critical Thinking is not something that can be covered in a single lesson. Rather, it forms the backbone of the writing course as students engage with their own writing and the writings of others. Critical thinking is best learned by doing. Many of the textbooks below provide reading and writing assignments within the chapters. The supplemental materials provide much of the same information without the readings or assignments, which can allow for easy integration with other course material or writing assignments.  

      The materials below range from introductory lessons to more in-depth and detailed explanations for the various processes in critical thinking. The materials are available as single lessons that can be used to supplement other course material and readings, or as standalone sections that can provide weeks of information and activities that can align with other writing assignments.

      Learning Objectives

      This module is designed to address the following learning objectives:

      1. Understand and define critical thinking skills, strategies, and practices

      2. Employ critical reading strategies

        1. Identify and understand claims

        2. Identify and understand support; Personal Experience and Research including: Inference, deduction, and reasoning, Secondary and Primary

        3. Identify the rhetorical situations

      3. Practice critical writing by producing work
        1. Analyze and evaluate the ideas and writings of others
        2. Synthesize the ideas of others
        3. Respond to the claims or ideas of others
        4. Assess one's own ideas, biases, support, implications, and conclusions

      Course Map

      The resources included here are intended to address the above listed learning objectives. They will cover each aspect of the critical-thinking process, although there are resources that may overlap. These resources can be used as standalone chapters, or in combination with other suggested resources from other chapters.

      Recommended Resources

      The Word on College Reading and Writing by Babin, Burnell, and Pesznecker

      • Written by five college reading and writing instructors, this interactive, multimedia text draws from decades of experience teaching students who are entering the college reading and writing environment for the very first time. It includes examples, exercises, and definitions for just about every reading – and writing – related topic students will encounter in their college courses. “Part 1: Working With Texts” provides in-depth content to read closely and develop critical thinking skills for reading and responding to the writing of others.

      Frameworks for Academic Writing by Steve Poulter

      • This is a downloadable PDF textbook written by a writing instructor. It contains an in-depth section on “Critical Analysis” starting on page 149. This section explains many steps and processes in critical or literary analysis: close reading, reader analysis, text analysis, author analysis, context analysis, and writing conclusions. At nearly fifty pages, this section provides similar information to The Word with additional exercises and practice sheets.

      College Success

      • This book provides an introduction and explanation to Bloom’s Taxonomy, an introduction to logical fallacies, examples of different types of thinking, and exercises to sharpen critical thinking and reasoning skills. Chapter 3 titled, “Thinking About Thought,” is divided into four sections: 3.1 “Types of Thinking,” 3.2 “It’s Critical,” 3.3 “Searching for ‘Aha!’” and 3.4 “Problem Solving and Decision Making.” There are many exercises throughout the chapter followed by section 3.5, which is a review.

      Writing Spaces: Volume 2, edited by Charles Lowe and Pavel Zemliansky

      • Volume 2 includes an essay, “Critical Thinking in College Writing: From the Personal to the Academic,” written by Gita DasBender. This essay seeks to explain critical thinking as used in the composition classroom to read and analyze a text. It refers to an essay by Annie Dillard, “Living Like Weasels,” and uses this essay to explore criticism and analysis. This chapter concludes with an annotated sample essay of a writing assignment that critiques the Dillard essay.

      Methods of Discovery by Pavel Zemliansky

      • This is an online writing guide focused on rhetoric and argument. Chapter 3, “Research and Critical Reading,” focuses on critical reading as a gateway to writing. It contains four sections: “Introduction,” “Key Features of Critical Reading,” “From Reading to Writing,” and “Strategies for Connecting Reading to Writing,” as well as activities throughout the sections and at the end of the chapter.

      Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence by Amy Guptill

      • Chapter 2, “What Does the Professor Want? Understanding the Assignment,” breaks down the writing assignment to help students understand the goal of what they are being asked to do. It also deciphers the academic language of the tasks. This is beneficial for critical writing.

      Supplemental Content

      UNC Writing Center Handouts – The University of North Carolina Writing Center

      publishes a great array of handouts for writing and research, all of which are CC

      licensed. Among the handouts pertinent to this set of learning objects are

      The Purdue OWL

      For information about the Purdue Online Writing Lab and their mission statement, use this link:

      Textbook Class Activities

      1. College Success has many activities throughout chapter 3, “Thinking About Thought,” that can be used in class to introduce students to the basics of critical thinking. There are self tests, reflections on how students have used different types of thinking, terminology reviews, analysis activities, and a chapter review quiz (Learning Objectives 1 and 2).

      2. The Word on College Reading and Writing has many activities throughout “Part 1: Working with Texts.” The chapter “Using Pre-Reading Strategies” contains a link to an essay and several questions to help with understanding what to expect from an essay, while the chapter “Annotate and Take Notes” directs students to another essay, asking them to identify the thesis and support for the essay. The chapter “Reflect” includes a link to an essay and asks students to respond to it. These readings could also be used to check student understanding of other concepts in the section, such as analysis, reflection, and synthesis. The chapters can provide several weeks worth of lessons, activities, and discussion (Learning Objective 3).

      3. Frameworks for Academic Writing has many writing prompts throughout the section on “Critical Analysis.” Each chapter provides focused writing prompts that help students analyze the writings of others, as well as their own writing, and to create their own claims. These chapters will be helpful when working on reader responses, when analyzing texts, or when drafting critical works of writing. It is similar to The Word, but does not refer to outside works. All examples are within the section (Learning Objective 3).

      Additional Class Activities

      In addition to the activities from the textbooks, below are several other activities to help students develop their critical thinking skills.

      1. Reading Responses: Students will write or discuss their reaction to an assigned reading. The response can be guided by a series of questions that relate to other learning objectives from the course, such as identifying the rhetorical situation, summarizing the source, agreeing/disagreeing with the author, writing a letter to the author, writing a letter to grandma that explains (summarizes) the reading, and explaining whether the student liked or disliked the piece. Typically, these are short writing assignments done in class.

      2. Reading Log: Students will conduct reading outside of class and keep a log or journal of what they have read. In the log, students should explain what they read and what they think it means. It might help for students to connect the piece to their personal lives. For instance, if a student reads a news article about immigration enforcement, that student might want to reflect on his/her own ancestry or whether his/her appearance makes him/her more or less likely to be scrutinized by law enforcement. Students can also share their reading logs with the class.

      3. Media Analysis: Whether as a longer paper or as a class assignment, students can select a form of media (website, television show, movie, magazine, app, etc.) to analyze for its rhetorical situations (purpose, context, audience, topic, genre, stance). Students can gain practice by analyzing short commercials through YouTube or examining print advertisements. Analyzing the advertisements for your college could yield some interesting conclusions.

      4. Music Video Criticism: As a class, students will create a list of what makes music videos good. Write this list on the board. Then, play a notoriously bad music video for the class, such as “Friday” by Rebecca Black. Point out where the video meets criteria for being “good,” then discuss why the video still is not “good.” Discuss what criteria was left out.

      5. Restaurant Review: Similar to the music video, students will create a list of what they expect, experience, and observe when they go to a restaurant. It might be good to differentiate between a fast food restaurant and a sit-down/fancy restaurant. By establishing the criteria for each type of restaurant, students are applying their understanding of rhetorical situations.