How to encourage deep thinking in kids – Why great leaders inspire action

My daughter is learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement.  Great opportunity for some deep thinking skill building, right?

I grew up in Philadelphia and as kids we had a strong connection to the civil rights movement. Maybe it was being a child of the 70’s and seeing how much, yet little, things changed at the time but we saw first hand that we still needed to fight for equality on a lot of different levels.

In my daughter’s class the students watched a movie and were given questions about the Civil Rights Movement. Looking at the questions it really inspired me to have one of those passionate talks with her about life. I wanted to connect her to my own experiences and share the importance of civil rights and how we can inspire change while building her deep thinking skills.

I reviewed the questions and asked her to share what she thought her answers might be.  Her answers were surface type answers and lacked passion and deep thinking so it was a perfect teaching moment. How could I connect her to the importance of the speech, the struggles of the time and help her understand the impact on history of a leader like Dr, King? It was a tall order and, for me, an important one I wanted her to understand.

I decided she could benefit by watching the entire “I have a dream speech” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the hopes that she would emotionally connect with his special qualities and charisma.  I asked her to observe a few key things during the speech:

  • Where the speech was held
  • Dr. King’s appearance and body language
  • The words Dr. King repeated in the speech
  • The audience – age, race, quantity, body language

During the speech I asked her to close her eyes and pretend she was a girl in the audience. What might her life be back then, why would she have come to the speech and what might she hoped or dreamed after hearing that speech. For every answer I challenged her to delve deeper by asking why, how and what would that feel like.

We then reviewed her observations and talked in detail about the historic relevance of those observations.  After talking to her I felt I got a much richer set of answers. She had an experience that connected her to history and the result was the assignment was completed with a better idea of what the teacher was looking for in terms of deeper thinking.

Full text of the speech can be seen on American Rhetoric – Top 100 Speeches.

Have you had similar experiences with you kids? How did you connect with them? I’d love to hear your ideas, please used the comment area below!

Other inspirational videos to share with the kids:
What would you do if money were no object?

Does Winning Always Count?