Monday, June 18, 2012

Deductive Thinking in the Middle School Classroom

I have noticed that the direct teaching of deductive thinking or reasoning diminishes the farther students advance in their public education.  This is unfortunate for the math student who has little deductive training and is thrown into the world of geometric proofs or the literature student trying to work  through Sherlock Holmes.

An easy way to integrate deductive thinking into your class is to use a word puzzle or rebus as a warm-up.  Bamboozables is a great source for word puzzles.  I copy the puzzle from the site and display it on the board as students are coming into class.  Students often don't make it to their seats before the bell rings when these puzzles are on the whiteboard.

If students are going to read an article or story in class, have them solve a couple of these puzzles first.  Then tell them, "You had to deduce the author's meaning by using the clues of the puzzle.  Today while you are reading, use the text to help you deduce the author's purpose/theme/main idea.  Use the clues in the text to determine what the author is trying to tell you."

This past year I wanted my seventh graders to have some experience with deductive thinking before we began reading Sherlock Holmes and other mystery's.  Weeks before we started talking about Sherlock Holmes, I would use these puzzles as warm-ups a couple of times a week.  It helped to build schema for deductive reasoning and gave the students context for how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle constructed the Holmes mysteries.

After students have some experience with solving these puzzles, flip Bloom's on its head and have them create the word puzzles.

Students begin by looking up popular phrases from around the country and then create their own word puzzles to display in class or post on the class website.  A great list of common phrases students can use to build their own word puzzles can be found at

Later in the year, once students understand the design of logical deductions, we introduce them to the idea of the logical fallacy.

Cutting people is a crime. Surgeons cut people, therefore, surgeons are criminals.

While creating propaganda for our dystopian literature, we discuss the logical fallacy and how it can be a dangerous tool in the art of persuasion.  Students try to integrate the technique in their propaganda campaigns for or against the dystopian society they are reading about.

If you have used deductive reasoning in your classroom, please let me know how it has been working for you.

For more in depth lesson ideas and full unit descriptions pick up a copy of Stand Up! Speak Out! The Social Action Curriculum for Building 21st-Century Skills available from Prufrock Press and Amazon and Barnes & Noble


  1. Elizabeth J. NealOctober 27, 2013 at 2:37 AM

    This blog is dedicated to bringing great ideas to teachers about how to tap into their own creativity so that they can awaken the creativity in their students. feng shui

    1. Thank you for the kind words. Every day I hope I am helping my students to see that the opportunity to innovate is all around them.