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Critical Thinking Activity: The Evidence Spectrum

The Evidence Spectrum – this is a card sorting activity in which you and your kid sort different cards along a spectrum of worst to best evidence. You will want to print the cards below and cut them out. Put them face down on the table. Next create the spectrum together.

bright multicolored papers forming abstract pattern

Draw a line across a paper and label one end “Good evidence” and the other “Bad evidence.” It makes it fun if you decorate it together. Draw question marks, cartoonish people looking confused, or thought clouds with strange things in them. You may want to put hash marks along the spectrum to indicate different degrees of skepticism needed (“kind of believable,” “sort of weird,” “probably true” and so on). Now pick a card from the pile and read it aloud. Discuss where it should go on the spectrum. Model the critical thinking skills and lead by explaining your own choices. Ask why the evidence for one claim is better than another, what would make the claim more believable, and what kind of evidence is needed for the different types of claims.

At the state fair there is a new booth this year. “Gizmonatron” the banner reads. In the booth a man in a white lab coat is selling electronic wristbands that cure boring dreams, poor reflexes, and excessive indecisiveness. All for the low low price of $300. He holds up a book he wrote to prove that it works.A medical doctor is on TV promoting her new book Quantum Tunneling to a Slimmer You. In the interview she claims we create our own reality at a quantum level, so if we just think we are slimmer we will become slimmer. As evidence she shows before and after pictures of people who lost weight.
A doctor comes to your classroom. She tells you that it is important to exercise every day and limit screen time. As evidence she hands out pamphlets from the American Academy of Pediatrics which cites research.A scientist who researches food safety publishes a study showing that corn grown with a new pesticide is safe to eat. She works for a university and has no financial stake in the company that makes the pesticide.
Sun-Ra-Bing-Ba, Sorter of Souls, Maker of Merch, Howler of Hades, The Grand Poo-Bah of the entire multiverse, demands your complete devotion. And a 10 dollar donation. Every month. He accepts online payments. As evidence of his mercy he will grant you good luck on the day you make a donation.A security guard at an art museum claims the paintings come to life when no one is looking. As evidence he tells the story of strange noises he has heard in the museum at night.
The owner of a hot dog stand recommends that you try his famous “Hot Diggity Turkey Dog” because it is the healthiest choice. As evidence he says he got the recipe from his family doctor.A historian from a prestigious university claims that she has discovered the long lost childhood drawings of King Tut. When asked for evidence he produces a drawing on a piece of papyrus.
Your teacher tells you that the North Pole is the coldest place on Earth. When you ask how he knows he changes the subject.A man on the street holds up a sign that reads “The End is Near.” As evidence that this is true he cites prophesy from an ancient book.
Make your own claim with evidence:

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