How to explain Criteria

Since the last school year I have, along with many other colleagues,  been working with our students in developing and using their critical thinking skills. In addition this year I have been diligently working with my students to understand their digital identity, to use social media and hopefully soon, to blog. Being able to do all of these activities effectively and efficiently requires an understanding of criteria. As educators we look at, develop, manipulate and use criteria throughout the school year. The dictionary defines criteria as a statement of needs, rules, standards, or tests that must be used in evaluating a decision, idea, opportunity, program, project, etc., to form correct judgment regarding the intended goal. Criteria is plural of criterion.

Great! I understand what criteria is, now how does one explain this to six students ranging in age and comprehension from kindergarten to grade five? Although I am sure there are many ideas, which I hope to hear about from my PLN and others who read this post, I chose to focus my explanation on something that my students and I enjoy; food.

I asked the students what belongs on, or in a sandwich. We agreed that we needed two pieces of bread for sure, but after that we could not agree on the toppings. We had everything from peanut butter to pickles and head cheese to tuna. Needless to say after about ten minutes we were done with our list. Since we couldn’t agree which toppings should be on a sandwich I said we could make a sandwich with everything on it and asked “who would like to eat this sandwich?”.  I had no takers, so I asked “why doesn’t this make a great sandwich?”. One of my students said, “Because some of those things don’t go together. They would taste yucky”. Another student said, “You didn’t say what kind of sandwich we were making.”

My kids had hit the nail on head. I agreed that criteria tells us what is needed and in some aspects how it should be. From this we worked on The Five W’s as most of what we are doing currently is writing in class, but if there are any ideas that you may have as to how to explain Criteria please feel free to share. All input and advice is welcome.


10 thoughts on “How to explain Criteria

  1. An easy way is to ask them what they would need to think of if they were buying a birthday present for their best friend. Then ask them what about if they were buying a present for their granny. Look at the two lists and see what is the same and what is different – not only can they understand criteria but they can also see how criteria are different in different contexts. The Future Problem Solving Program International does a great job of teaching kids how to write and apply criteria. (

  2. Robyn, thank you so much for the comment and the suggestion. I will definitely take a look at the link. The idea about the compare and contrast is great. I think that I will try that activity on Friday, would also make another great post about our class journey in Critical thinking and Criteria.

    Thanks again, it is appreciated.

  3. Bingo! That was the critical challenge. Develop criteria to a group who has difficulty understanding what criteria are. These kinds of activities stimulate discussion, foster appropriate conversations, and provide your students with a sense of accomplishment and well being. They led you to discover the answer, rather than you leading them to the well and forcing their heads under until they learned to spell water. Great lesson, Shawn, thank you for sharing it with us!

    • Thanks for the comment Todd, it is very appreciated. I didn’t think of it as a critical think challenge but, looking back you are right.

      Thanks again for the comment.

  4. I have a great resource on using chocolate bars (or health bars etc) to help kids to write criteria and use a grid to choose a best solution. If you are interested I can email this to you.

  5. Robyn that would be excellent and greatly appreciated. Yesterday we worked through your suggestion for the Birthday present activity. It went wonderfully, thanks again. I will be putting up a post about that activity and the work produced by the kids.

    Thank you again, so very much for your help.

  6. Pingback: Implementing an PLN idea – Thanks Robyn « Learning to Lead, Inspiring to Change

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