• Feb 7, 2020

11 Activities That Promote Critical Thinking In The Class

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

What is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is a 21st-century skill that enables a person to think rationally and logically in order to reach a plausible conclusion. A critical thinker assesses facts and figures and data objectively and determines what to believe and what not to believe. Critical thinking skills empower a person to decipher complex problems and make impartial and better decisions based on effective information.

Critical thinking skills cultivate habits of mind such as strategic thinking, skepticism, discerning fallacy from the facts, asking good questions and probing deep into the issues to find the truth.

Importance of Acquiring Critical Thinking Skills

Acquiring critical thinking skills was never as valuable as it is today because of the prevalence of the modern knowledge economy. Today, information and technology are the driving forces behind the global economy. To keep pace with ever-changing technology and new inventions, one has to be flexible enough to embrace changes swiftly.

Today critical thinking skills are one of the most sought-after skills by the companies. In fact, critical thinking skills are paramount not only for active learning and academic achievement but also for the professional career of the students. The lack of critical thinking skills catalyzes memorization of the topics without a deeper insight, egocentrism, closed-mindedness, reduced student interest in the classroom and not being able to make timely and better decisions.

Benefits of Critical Thinking Skills in Education

Certain strategies are more eloquent than others in teaching students how to think critically. Encouraging critical thinking in the class is indispensable for the learning and growth of the students. In this way, we can raise a generation of innovators and thinkers rather than followers. Some of the benefits offered by thinking critically in the classroom are given below:

It allows a student to decipher problems and think through the situations in a disciplined and systematic manner

Through a critical thinking ability, a student can comprehend the logical correlation between distinct ideas

The student is able to rethink and re-justify his beliefs and ideas based on facts and figures

Critical thinking skills make the students curious about things around them

A student who is a critical thinker is creative and always strives to come up with out of the box solutions to intricate problems

Critical thinking skills assist in the enhanced student learning experience in the classroom and prepares the students for lifelong learning and success

The critical thinking process is the foundation of new discoveries and inventions in the world of science and technology

The ability to think critically allows the students to think intellectually and enhances their presentation skills, hence they can convey their ideas and thoughts in a logical and convincing manner

Critical thinking skills make students a terrific communicator because they have logical reasons behind their ideas

11 Activities that Promote Critical Thinking in the Class

We have compiled a list of 11 activities that will facilitate you to promote critical thinking abilities in the students.

1. Worst Case Scenario

Divide students into teams and introduce each team with a hypothetical challenging scenario. Allocate minimum resources and time to each team and ask them to reach a viable conclusion using those resources. The scenarios can include situations like stranded on an island or stuck in a forest. Students will come up with creative solutions to come out from the imaginary problematic situation they are encountering. Besides encouraging students to think critically, this activity will enhance teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills of the students

2. If You Build It

It is a very flexible game that allows students to think creatively. To start this activity, divide students into groups. Give each group a limited amount of resources such as pipe cleaners, blocks, and marshmallows etc. Every group is supposed to use these resources and construct a certain item such as building, tower or a bridge in a limited time. You can use a variety of materials in the classroom to challenge the students. This activity is helpful in promoting teamwork and creative skills among the students.

It is also one of the classics which can be used in the classroom to encourage critical thinking. Print pictures of objects, animals or concepts and start by telling a unique story about the printed picture. The next student is supposed to continue the story and pass the picture to the other student and so on.

4. Keeping it Real

In this activity, you can ask students to identify a real-world problem in their schools, community or city. After the problem is recognized, students should work in teams to come up with the best possible outcome of that problem.

5. Save the Egg

Make groups of three or four in the class. Ask them to drop an egg from a certain height and think of creative ideas to save the egg from breaking. Students can come up with diverse ideas to conserve the egg like a soft-landing material or any other device. Remember that this activity can get chaotic, so select the area in the school that can be cleaned easily afterward and where there are no chances of damaging the school property.

6. Start a Debate

In this activity, the teacher can act as a facilitator and spark an interesting conversation in the class on any given topic. Give a small introductory speech on an open-ended topic. The topic can be related to current affairs, technological development or a new discovery in the field of science. Encourage students to participate in the debate by expressing their views and ideas on the topic. Conclude the debate with a viable solution or fresh ideas generated during the activity through brainstorming.

7. Create and Invent

This project-based learning activity is best for teaching in the engineering class. Divide students into groups. Present a problem to the students and ask them to build a model or simulate a product using computer animations or graphics that will solve the problem. After students are done with building models, each group is supposed to explain their proposed product to the rest of the class. The primary objective of this activity is to promote creative thinking and problem-solving skills among the students.

8. Select from Alternatives

This activity can be used in computer science, engineering or any of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) classes. Introduce a variety of alternatives such as different formulas for solving the same problem, different computer codes, product designs or distinct explanations of the same topic.

Form groups in the class and ask them to select the best alternative. Each group will then explain its chosen alternative to the rest of the class with reasonable justification of its preference. During the process, the rest of the class can participate by asking questions from the group. This activity is very helpful in nurturing logical thinking and analytical skills among the students.

9. Reading and Critiquing

Present an article from a journal related to any topic that you are teaching. Ask the students to read the article critically and evaluate strengths and weaknesses in the article. Students can write about what they think about the article, any misleading statement or biases of the author and critique it by using their own judgments.

In this way, students can challenge the fallacies and rationality of judgments in the article. Hence, they can use their own thinking to come up with novel ideas pertaining to the topic.

10. Think Pair Share

In this activity, students will come up with their own questions. Make pairs or groups in the class and ask the students to discuss the questions together. The activity will be useful if the teacher gives students a topic on which the question should be based.

For example, if the teacher is teaching biology, the questions of the students can be based on reverse osmosis, human heart, respiratory system and so on. This activity drives student engagement and supports higher-order thinking skills among students.

11. Big Paper – Silent Conversation

Silence is a great way to slow down thinking and promote deep reflection on any subject. Present a driving question to the students and divide them into groups. The students will discuss the question with their teammates and brainstorm their ideas on a big paper. After reflection and discussion, students can write their findings in silence. This is a great learning activity for students who are introverts and love to ruminate silently rather than thinking aloud.

critical thinking class activities

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Teaching Expertise

20 Critical Thinking Activities for Elementary Classrooms

critical thinking activities

April 1, 2022 //  by  Seda Unlucay

With the barrage of mainstream news, advertising, and social media content out there, it's vital for students to think independently and learn to differentiate between fact and fiction.

This series of critical thinking activities, STEM-based design challenges, engaging Math puzzles, and problem-solving tasks will support students in thinking rationally and understanding the logical connection between concepts.

1. Teach Students How to Obtain Verifiable News 


There's probably no 21st-century skill more important than differentiating between real and fake sources of news. This editable PowerPoint bundle covers traditional media, social networks, and various target audiences and teaches students how to find verifiable facts.

Learn more: Teachers Pay Teachers

2. Watch and Discuss a Critical Reasoning Video


This kid-friendly video teaches students to break arguments down into claims, evidence, and reasoning. Armed with this lifelong learning tool, they will be able to make more informed decisions when consuming all types of information.

Learn more: Brain Pop

3. Complete a Critical Design Challenge

Screenshot 2022-04-01 122526

This science and designed-based classroom activity challenges students to find ways to prevent a falling egg from breaking. Pairing it with the classic Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme is sure to inspire many creative ideas.

4. Critical Community Engagement Activity 


This community engagement activity requires analytical skills to determine what items can be recycled in the classroom and in their neighborhood. By creating recycling bins from reusable cardboard boxes, students have an opportunity to contribute to the environmental well-being of their community while practicing social responsibility.

Learn more: Kaboom

5. Develop Logical Skills with a Then and Now Activity


We may no longer use candles for reading or quill pens for writing, but can your students identify the objects that have replaced them? This activity engages their writing, drawing, and logical skills while giving them a chance to reflect on all the changes in our modern world.

Learn more:

6. Play a Critical Thinking Game


This active learning activity requires students to use their critical thinking skills to make comparisons and create meaningful analogies. The fun animal safari theme is sure to inspire many funny and creative ideas!

7. Develop Social-Emotional Problem-Solving Skills 


Through this lesson, students will understand that while conflicts are a normal part of life, it's vital to have problem-solving skills to resolve them. This is also an excellent opportunity for developing their social awareness and relationship skills.

Learn more: ED Foundations

8. Desert Island Survival Game 


This classic game is sure to inspire student engagement, as they use their critical thinking skills to survive being stranded on a desert island. Students have to watch out for ideological assumptions and question ideas in order to determine the appropriate items to bring.

9. Play a Problem-Solving Treasure Hunt Game 


This exciting game for kids requires them to use key math skills to break a series of codes. With ample time, designated progress monitors, and sharp critical thinking skills, students are sure to find the hidden treasure.

Learn more: Twinkl

10.  Use Writing to Increase Critical Empathy


This activity builds writing fluency while giving students a chance to show appreciation for each other. As they reflect emphatically on their classmates' contributions and character, their base level of kindness and sense of ethical responsibility is bound to increase.

Learn more: Edutopia

11. Learn How to Make Logical Inferences


This activity for kids teaches the critical academic skill of making inferences from a series of texts. Students will surely enjoy playing the role of detective in order to draw their own logical conclusions.

Learn more:

12. Think Critically About Cultural Assumptions 


This engaging activity for students challenges them to think critically about why people from a variety of cultures decorate their bodies. It helps them to break through cultural assumptions while comparing and contrasting the different forms of hand and body painting around the world.

Learn more: Harmony

13. Big Paper Silent Reflection Activity 


After posing some open-ended questions, students silently write their responses with colored markers on large chart paper. After each group has circulated around the room, students can share their critical reflections and learn from the various perspectives of their classmates.

Learn more: Slideshare

14. Watch a TED Video About the Socratic Method


Socrates is one of the forefathers of critical thinking, who focused on making his students thinking visible by questioning their logic and reasoning. The accompanying quiz and discussion questions are an excellent way to reinforce student learning.

Learn more: Ted Ed

15. Brainstorm Ways to Help a Homeless Person


This lesson in civic responsibility teaches students about the causes of homelessness and guides them to find ways to help the homeless in their communities. It develops key problem-solving skills while building critical empathy.

Learn more: National

16. Guess the Object Game

This video features a series of twenty zoomed-in mystery objects. Students will love using their critical thinking skills to guess each one!

Learn more: Andy - The ESL Guy

17.  Solve Some Challenging Math Brain Teasers


This series of fifty brain teasers is an engaging way to sharpen problem-solving skills while testing students' memory and logical reasoning ability.

Learn more: Squigly's Playhouse

18. Complete a STEM Elevator Challenge

Screenshot 2022-04-01 124706

In this design and engineering-based lesson, students have to build a functional elevator that can carry an object to the top of a structure. It's a terrific way to encourage cooperative learning while sharpening their problem-solving skills.

Learn more: Georgia Youth Science and Technology Centers

19. Create the Perfect Farm 


There's no better way to develop critical thinking skills than by solving real-world problems. This video encourages students to think about ways to feed a growing global population in an environmentally sustainable way.

20. Solve Logic Grid Puzzles


These logic grid puzzles will motivate students to use logical reasoning skills and the process of elimination to solve a series of clues. But be warned, they are highly addictive and difficult to put down once you get started!

Learn more: Puzzle Baron's Logic Puzzles

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How can students own their learning with critical thinking activities they’ll really love? Allowing our students to take stands on issues that matter to them engages the classroom in a way that fosters great critical thinking.

Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?   When they can relate these questions to themselves and exercise personal self-reflection, we build community and “heart-centered” learning.

Let’s get to the critical thinking skills that really matter. From , here are some amazing critical thinking activities that you can do with your students.

10 Great Critical Thinking Activities

Attribute Linking—Building Community by Taking Perspectives

Students pair up according to similar physical attributes determined by the facilitator. These include hair color, eye color, hand size, and height. For each attribute, students discuss times when they were discriminated against because of it. They then take on the roles as victim, perpetrator, or bystander and discuss.

Barometer—Taking a Stand on Controversial Issues

When posed with a thought-provoking prompt, students line themselves up along a U-shaped continuum representing where they stand on that issue. The sides of the U are opposite extremes, with the middle being neutral. The teacher starts a discussion by giving equal opportunity for individuals in each area of the continuum to speak about their stand. The students use “I” statements when stating their opinion.

Big Paper—Building a Silent Conversation

Writing (or drawing) and silence are used as tools to slow down thinking and allow for silent reflection, unfiltered. By using silence and writing, students can focus on other viewpoints. This activity uses a driving question, markers, and Big Paper (poster-sized is best). Students work in pairs or threes to have a conversation on the Big Paper.

Students can write at will, but it must be done in silence after a reflection on the driving question. This strategy is great for introverts, and provides a ready made visual record of thought for later.

Body Sculpting—Using Theatre to Explore Important Ideas

Students are given time to consider their feelings on a thought-provoking abstract or concrete image. Next, they come up with words that describe their reactions—trapped, free, angry, joyful, etc. They are then paired up and one person is the sculptor, while the other is the “clay.” The sculptor poses the clay into a form that artfully displays the word they wish to portray. Here are some guidelines:

Café Conversations

Understanding different viewpoints is a great way to delve deeply into a topic. 5 to 10 students are given character sheets. These might include gender, age, family status (married, single, how many children, etc.), occupation, education level and significant life events. The group is also given a historical event or similar topic.

Students can create identity charts in collaboration with each other to determine their character’s viewpoint. When they can adequately represent their character, what follows is a “cafe conversation.” Don’t forget to go over guidelines on how to respectfully disagree! Allow at least 20 minutes for a conversation.

Other Critical Thinking Activities

Jigsaw—Developing Community and Disseminating Knowledge

Students take on the role of “experts” or “specialists” of a particular topic. Then a panel of experts is assembled to get the larger picture.

K-W-L Charts—Assessing What We Know/What We Still Want to Learn

Charts to document “What I Know” and “What I Want to Know” and after learning has occurred, “What I Learned.”

Think, Pair, Share—Facilitating Discussions in Small and Large Groups

A classic tool to guide students in relevant and meaningful discussion, and to build community.

Town Hall Circle

Like a real town meeting, individual students are “given the floor” and a time limit to express their views.

Reader’s Theater

In groups, create a dramatic script based on the ideas within a given text. Do not script word for word. The idea is to get off the page and represent the idea in the students’ own words.

Bring It to Your Classroom

Allowing students room to think deeply and discuss openly during critical thinking activities is the key to them taking true responsibility for the learning. Through these kinds of activities, we foster real thinkers and life-long learners. 

For a great resource for critical thinking activities that are instantly usable in your class and includes full assessment rubrics and more, pick up a copy of our Critical Thinking Companion .

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Mar 21, 2016, updated September 18, 2021

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Short critical thinking activities, what if you could....

What if you could WCTL 2.1 Transparent

Critical thinking does not always have to involve long, detailed projects! Incorporate these short activities in your existing curriculum to help your students challenge their assumptions, expand their mindset, and experience a class they’ll never forget.

Cognitive Appraisal

Explain to an extraterrestrial.

When we become deeply immersed in a topic, it can be easy to overlook basic principles that are nevertheless important. This activity encourages students to think in detail about the basic processes and assumptions underlying your course content.

Evaluating Assumptions

This activity challenges students to evaluate assumptions they may have made about the solution they have developed to a problem. What assumptions might not be true? What are the possible flaws in their plans?

Debate Dialogue

It can be easy to argue our own side in a controversy, but it can build our critical thinking skills to see the other side. This activity guides students through developing a dialogue between two characters with opposing views.

Questioning Evidence

Evaluating evidence.

The world – and especially the internet – is full of answers to our questions. But how do we identify reputable sources of evidence? This activity will help students evaluate the strength of evidence from multiple sources.  

Expert Testimony

What information would you be sure to share with the jury if you were called as an expert witness in a trial? Use this activity to help students compare and contrast evidence and arguments to determine what will make the strongest case.  

Fact vs. Opinion

It can sometimes be easy to confuse our opinions or the opinions of others as facts. This activity guides students through deciding what statements are facts and which are opinions.  

Building Awareness

How far have we come and where are we going? Use KWL charts to help your students track what they already know, want to know, and have learned throughout your course.  

Learning Journal

What works for one student may not necessarily work for others. Use Learning Journals to help students track their learning approaches and progress to identify the techniques that work best for them.  

Driving Forces

What is the current status of a problem in your field and what would the ideal state look like? Use this activity to help students identify the forces that facilitate and delay progress toward that ideal state.  

WCTL Critical Thinking Workshop

Quick wits: encouraging students to think more deeply  .

“How do you know?” “Has it always been this way?” “Is your source credible?”

Are you looking for innovative ways to encourage your students to think more deeply and critically? This one-hour workshop offers an overview of critical thinking skills and provides ideas for short class assignments that can easily be added to your current curriculum. We hope you enjoy this recording! 

Facilitated by Dr. Karissa Peyer, HHP, WCTL Faculty Fellow in Program Development.

Click to download the PowerPoint slides . Other Spring Events: Faculty Fellow Spring 2022 Webpage Further Information: Contact [email protected]

Walker Center for Teaching and Learning

ETR Resources

Critical Thinking Activities Recommended for Teachers to Implement in the Classroom


Someone with critical thinking skills is being able to understand the logical connections between ideas, identify, construct and evaluate arguments, detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning.

This skill is developed among students by engaging them in activities that require them to process questions and come out with solutions for the same helping them to develop this skill.

In order to help students develop this skill and come out with uncommon thoughts, it is important for educators to understand the role they play in developing critical thinking is different than the role they are typically playing.  For students to be engaged in critical thinking, the educator needs to act as a facilitator to allow for discussion and encourage a wider and open thought process, as well as to encourage understanding of the different perception of every individual that comes with thinking critically. Also engaged in this skill, it is important to understand that students do not always end with a right answer, but instead sometimes ends in more questions or differing evaluations of the topic.

Below are some activities recommended for teachers that they can implement in the classroom to help students develop critical thinking skill and prepare them for a better future.

1. If You Build it…

This team-building game is flexible. You simply have to divide students into teams and give them equal amounts of a certain material, like pipe cleaners, blocks, or even dried spaghetti and marshmallows.

Then, give them something to construct. The challenge can be variable (think: Which team can build the tallest, structurally-sound castle? Which team can build a castle the fastest?).

You can recycle this activity throughout the year by adapting the challenge or materials to specific content areas. Apart from critical thinking students also learn to collaborate and to work in groups.

2.   Think–Pair–Share

In this activity first asks students to consider a question on their own, and then provide them an opportunity to discuss it in pairs, and finally together with the whole class. The success of such activities depends on the nature of the questions posed. This activity works ideally with questions to encourage deeper thinking, problem-solving, and/or critical analysis. The group discussions are critical as they allow students to articulate their thought processes.

Re-group as a whole class and solicit responses from some or all of the pairs.

Advantages of the think-pair-share include the engagement of all students in the classroom (particularly the opportunity to give voice to quieter students who might have difficulty sharing in a larger group), quick feedback for the instructor (e.g., the revelation of student misconceptions), encouragement and support for higher levels of thinking of the students.

3. The Worst Case Scenario

Construct a scenario in which students would need to work together and solve problems to succeed, like being stranded on a deserted island or getting lost at sea/jungle/town. Ask them to work together and come out with a solution that ensures everyone arrives safely. You might ask them to come up with a list of 10 must-have items that would help them most, or a creative passage to safety. Encourage them to vote everyone must agree to the final solution.

4. Go for Gold

This game is similar to the “If you build it” game: Teams have a common objective, but instead of each one having the same materials, they have access to a whole cache of materials. For instance, the goal might be to create a contraption with pipes, rubber tubing and pieces of cardboard that can carry a marble from point A to point B in a certain number of steps, using only gravity.

5. Keep it Real

This open-ended concept is simple and serves as an excellent segue into problem-based learning. Challenge students to identify and cooperatively solve a real problem in their schools or communities. You may set the parameters, including a time limit, materials and physical boundaries.

6. Gap Fill In

Students are shown a picture, projected in the front of the room, if possible. At the top of their paper, students should write: “What is happening in this picture?” At the bottom of the page, they should answer with what they believe is happening in the photo simply in 1-2 sentences or according to the age/grade this activity is being done with.

In the middle of the page students write down all of the steps they took to arrive at that answer. Students are encouraged to write down the evidence they see that supports their conclusion. 

This activity not only uses evidence, but supports Meta cognition skills by asking what prior knowledge brought you to your conclusion. This is a good activity to Bell Work or “Do Now.”

7. Fishbowl

Set up an inner circle and an outer circle in your classroom. Students should not be sitting in this setup yet, but rather in their regular classroom seats. The class should be presented with a question or a statement and allowed to reflect individually for a few minutes.

During this reflection period, count the class off into small groups by 3s, 4s, or 5s.

Students should now transition to the fishbowl setup. In the numbered groups, have students facilitate a conversation while others on the outside observe without comment. (For example, a teacher may have all 1s go to the fishbowl, while the rest of the class sits in the outer ring.) 

Once the inner group has discussed for a bit, have the outer group evaluate two things: Their process is they actually listened to one another and their content from knowing whether they are providing evidence or just opinions.

8. Big Paper – Building a Silent Conversation

Writing (or drawing) and silence are used as tools to slow down thinking and allow for silent reflection, unfiltered. By using silence and writing, students can focus on other viewpoints. This activity uses a driving question, markers, and Big Paper. Students work in pairs or threes to have a conversation on the Big Paper. Students can write at will, but it must be done in silence after a reflection on the driving question. This strategy is great for introverts, and provides a readymade visual record of thought for later.

9. Barometer—Taking a Stand on Controversial Issues

When posed with a thought-provoking prompt, students line themselves up along a U-shaped continuum representing where they stand on that issue. The sides of the U are opposite extremes, with the middle being neutral. The teacher starts a discussion by giving equal opportunity for individuals in each area of the continuum to speak about their stand. The students use “I” statements when stating their opinion.

10. Journal Data Goals

Last but not the least, Students must be asked to maintain journals and update them on a regular basis. This can be done in the form of a blog as well. By doing so students become their own progress monitors and can assess the growth within oneself.

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critical thinking class activities

50 Super-Fun Critical Thinking Strategies to Use in Your Classroom

by AuthorAmy

Teaching students to be critical thinkers is perhaps the most important goal in education. All teachers, regardless of subject area, contribute to the process of teaching students to think for themselves. However, it’s not always an easy skill to teach. Students need guidance and practice with critical thinking strategies at every level.

One problem with teaching critical thinking is that many different definitions of this skill exist. The Foundation for Critical Thinking offers four different definitions of the concept. Essentially, critical thinking is the ability to evaluate information and decide what we think about that information, a cumulative portfolio of skills our students need to be successful problem solvers in an ever-changing world.

Here is a list of 50 classroom strategies for teachers to use to foster critical thinking among students of all ages.

1. Don’t give them the answers  

Learning is supposed to be hard, and while it may be tempting to jump in and direct students to the right answer, it’s better to let them work through a problem on their own. A good teacher is a guide, not an answer key. The goal is to help students work at their “challenge” level, as opposed to their “frustration” level.

2. Controversial issue barometer

In this activity, a line is drawn down the center of the classroom. The middle represents the neutral ground, and the ends of the line represent extremes of an issue. The teacher selects an issue and students space themselves along the line according to their opinions. Being able to articulate opinions and participate in civil discourse are important aspects of critical thinking.

3. Play devil’s advocate

During a robust classroom discussion, an effective teacher challenges students by acting as devil’s advocate, no matter their personal opinion. “I don’t care WHAT you think, I just care THAT you think” is my classroom mantra. Critical thinking strategies that ask students to analyze both sides of an issue help create understanding and empathy.

4. Gallery walk

In a gallery walk, the teacher hangs images around the classroom related to the unit at hand (photographs, political cartoons, paintings). Students peruse the artwork much like they are in a museum, writing down their thoughts about each piece.

5. Review something

A movie, TV show , a book, a restaurant, a pep assembly, today’s lesson – anything can be reviewed. Writing a review involves the complex skill of summary without spoilers and asks students to share their opinion and back it up with evidence.

6. Draw analogies

Pick two unrelated things and ask students how those things are alike (for example, how is a museum like a snowstorm). The goal here is to encourage creativity and look for similarities.

7. Think of 25 uses for an everyday thing

Pick an everyday object (I use my camera tripod) and set a timer for five minutes. Challenge students to come up with 25 things they can use the object for within that time frame. The obvious answers will be exhausted quickly, so ridiculous answers such as “coatrack” and “stool” are encouraged.

8. Incorporate riddles

Students love riddles. You could pose a question at the beginning of the week and allow students to ask questions about it all week.

9. Crosswords and sudoku puzzles

The games section of the newspaper provides great brainteasers for students who finish their work early and need some extra brain stimulation.

10. Fine tune questioning techniques

A vibrant classroom discussion is made even better by a teacher who asks excellent, provocative questions. Questions should move beyond those with concrete answers to a place where students must examine why they think the way they do.

11. Socratic seminar

The Socratic seminar is perhaps the ultimate critical thinking activity. Students are given a universal question, such as “Do you believe it is acceptable to break the law if you believe the law is wrong?” They are given time to prepare and answer, and then, seated in a circle, students are directed to discuss the topic. Whereas the goal of a debate is to win, the goal of a Socratic discussion is for the group to reach greater understanding.

12. Inquiry based learning

In inquiry-based learning, students develop questions they want answers to, which drives the curriculum toward issues they care about. An engaged learner is an essential step in critical thinking.

13. Problem-based learning

In problem-based learning, students are given a problem and asked to develop research-based solutions. The problem can be a school problem (the lunchroom is overcrowded) or a global problem (sea levels are rising).

14. Challenge all assumptions

The teacher must model this before students learn to apply this skill on their own. In this strategy, a teacher helps a student understand where his or her ingrained beliefs come from. Perhaps a student tells you they believe that stereotypes exist because they are true. An effective teacher can ask “Why do you think that?” and keep exploring the issue as students delve into the root of their beliefs. Question everything.

15. Emphasize data over beliefs

Data does not always support our beliefs, so our first priority must be to seek out data before drawing conclusions.

16. Teach confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is the human tendency to seek out information that confirms what we already believe, rather than letting the data inform our conclusions. Understanding that this phenomenon exists can help students avoid it.

17. Visualization

Help students make a plan before tackling a task.

18. Mind mapping

Mind mapping is a visual way to organize information. Students start with a central concept and create a web with subtopics that radiate outward.

19. Develop empathy

Empathy is often cited as an aspect of critical thinking. To do so, encourage students to think from a different point of view. They might write a “con” essay when they believe the “pro,” or write a letter from someone else’s perspective.

20. Summarization

Summarizing means taking all the information given and presenting it in a shortened fashion.

21. Encapsulation

Encapsulation is a skill different from summarization. To encapsulate a topic, students must learn about it and then distill it down to its most relevant points, which means students are forming judgements about what is most and least important.

22. Weigh cause and effect

The process of examining cause and effect helps students develop critical thinking skills by thinking through the natural consequences of a given choice.

23. Problems in a jar

Perfect for a bell-ringer, a teacher can stuff a mason jar with dilemmas that their students might face, such as, “Your best friend is refusing to talk to you today. What do you do?” Then, discuss possible answers. This works well for ethical dilemmas, too.

24. Transform one thing into another

Give students an object, like a pencil or a mug. Define its everyday use (to write or to drink from). Then, tell the students to transform the object into something with an entirely separate use. Now what is it used for?

25. Which one doesn’t belong?

Group items together and ask students to find the one that doesn’t belong. In first grade, this might be a grouping of vowels and a consonant; in high school, it might be heavy metals and a noble gas.

26. Compare/contrast

Compare and contrast are important critical thinking strategies. Students can create a Venn diagram to show similarities or differences, or they could write a good old-fashioned compare/contrast essay about the characters of Romeo and Juliet .

27. Pick a word, find a related word

This is another fun bell-ringer activity. The teacher starts with any word, and students go around the room and say another word related to that one. The obvious words go quickly, meaning the longer the game goes on, the more out-of-the-box the thinking gets.

28. Ranking of sources

Give students a research topic and tell them to find three sources (books, YouTube videos, websites). Then ask them, what resource is best – and why.

29. Hypothesize

The very act of hypothesizing is critical thinking in action. Students are using what they know to find an answer to something they don’t know.

30. Guess what will happen next

This works for scientific reactions, novels, current events, and more. Simply spell out what we know so far and ask students “and then what?”

31. Practice inference

Inference is the art of making an educated guess based on evidence presented and is an important component of critical thinking.

32. Connect text to self

Ask students to draw connections between what they are reading about to something happening in their world. For example, if their class is studying global warming, researching how global warming might impact their hometown will help make their studies relevant.

33. Levels of questioning

There are several levels of questions (as few as three and as many as six, depending on who you ask). These include factual questions, which have a right or wrong answer (most math problems are factual questions). There are also inferential questions, which ask students to make inferences based on both opinion and textual evidence. Additionally, there are universal questions, which are “big picture” questions where there are no right or wrong answers.

Students should practice answering all levels of questions and writing their own questions, too.

34. Demand precise language

An expansive vocabulary allows a student to express themselves more exactly, and precision is a major tool in the critical thinking toolkit.

35. Identify bias and hidden agendas

Helping students to critically examine biases in sources will help them evaluate the trustworthiness of their sources.

36. Identify unanswered questions

After a unit of study is conducted, lead students through a discussion of what questions remain unanswered. In this way, students can work to develop a lifelong learner mentality.

37. Relate a topic in one subject area to other disciplines

Have students take something they are studying in your class and relate it to other disciplines. For example, if you are studying the Civil War in social studies, perhaps they could look up historical fiction novels set during the Civil War era or research medical advancements from the time period for science.

38. Have a question conversation

Start with a general question and students must answer your question with a question of their own. Keep the conversation going.

39. Display a picture for 30 seconds, then take it down

Have students list everything they can remember. This helps students train their memories and increases their ability to notice details.

40. Brainstorm, free-write

Brainstorming and freewriting are critical thinking strategies to get ideas on paper. In brainstorming, anything goes, no matter how off-the-wall. These are great tools to get ideas flowing that can then be used to inform research.

41. Step outside your comfort zone

Direct students to learn about a topic they have no interest in or find particularly challenging. In this case, their perseverance is being developed as they do something that is difficult for them.

42. The answer is, the question might be

This is another bell-ringer game that’s great for engaging those brains. You give students the answer and they come up with what the question might be.

43. Cooperative learning

Group work is a critical thinking staple because it teaches students that there is no one right way to approach a problem and that other opinions are equally valid.

44. What? So what? Now what?

After concluding a unit of study, these three question frames can be used to help students contextualize their learning.

45. Reflection

Ask students to reflect on their work – specifically, how they can improve moving forward.

46. Classify and categorize

These are higher level Bloom’s tasks for a reason. Categorizing requires students to think about like traits and rank them in order of importance.

47. Role play

Roleplay allows students to practice creative thinking strategies. Here, students assume a role and act accordingly.

48. Set goals

Have students set concrete, measurable goals in your class so they understand why what they do matters.

No matter your subject area, encourage students to read voraciously. Through reading they will be exposed to new ideas, new perspectives, and their worlds will grow.

50. Cultivate curiosity

A curious mind is an engaged mind. Students should be encouraged to perform inquiry simply for the sake that it is a joy to learn about something we care about.

50 Critical Thinking Strategies - Cover Draft


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5 Critical Thinking Activities That Get Students Up and Moving

More movement means better learning.

Kimmie Fink

It’s easy to resort to having kids be seated during most of the school day. But learning can (and should) be an active process. Incorporating movement into your instruction has incredible benefits—from deepening student understanding to improving concentration to enhancing performance. Check out these critical thinking activities, adapted from Critical Thinking in the Classroom , a book with over 100 practical tools and strategies for teaching critical thinking in K-12 classrooms.

Four Corners

In this activity, students move to a corner of the classroom based on their responses to a question with four answer choices. Once they’ve moved, they can break into smaller groups to explain their choices. Call on students to share to the entire group. If students are persuaded to a different answer, they can switch corners and further discuss. 

Question ideas:

Gallery Walk

This strategy encourages students to move around the classroom in groups to respond to questions, documents, images, or situations posted on chart paper. Each group gets a different colored marker to record their responses and a set amount of time at each station. When groups move, they can add their own ideas and/or respond to what prior groups have written.

Gallery ideas:

Stations are a great way to chunk instruction and present information to the class without a “sit and get.” Group desks around the room or create centers, each with a different concept and task. There should be enough stations for three to five students to work for a set time before rotating.

Station ideas:

Silent Sticky-Note Storm

In this brainstorming activity, students gather in groups of three to five. Each group has a piece of chart paper with a question at the top and a stack of sticky notes. Working in silence, students record as many ideas or answers as possible, one answer per sticky note. When time is up, they post the sticky notes on the paper and then silently categorize them.

Mingle, Pair, Share

Take your Think, Pair, Share to the next level. Instead of having students turn and talk, invite them to stand and interact. Play music while they’re moving around the classroom. When the music stops, each student finds a partner. Pose a question and invite students to silently think about their answer. Then, partners take turns sharing their thoughts.

Looking for more critical thinking activities and ideas?

critical thinking class activities

Critical Thinking in the Classroom is a practitioner’s guide that shares the why and the how for building critical thinking skills in K-12 classrooms. It includes over 100 practical tools and strategies that you can try in your classroom tomorrow!

Get Your Copy of Critical Thinking in the Classroom

5 Critical Thinking Activities That Get Students Up and Moving

Kimmie is a Senior Editor at WeAreTeachers. She has 13 years of classroom teaching experience and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction. Kimmie was the 2009 Puget Sound Teacher of the Year.

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Business Education | Career Readiness | High School | 21st Century Skills | Critical Thinking

4 Best Critical Thinking Activities for High School

October 25th, 2022 | 6 min. read

4 Best Critical Thinking Activities for High School

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for AES, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students through listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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If you teach career readiness or business education in high school, chances are that you’ll be asked to teach your CTE students lessons in critical thinking. After all, critical thinking is one of the most essential skills needed to make decisions in the workplace.

But if your critical thinking scenarios aren’t relevant or engaging, your students might be unable to rely on this foundational skill when faced with tough decisions in the future.

In this post, you’ll discover some of the best critical thinking activities for high school:

After reading, you’ll better appreciate the kinds of critical thinking activities available so you can decide what’s best for your learners.

1. The Foundation for Critical Thinking


The Foundation for Critical Thinking is a California-based educational reform group that aims to improve the quality of students’ education. The Foundation believes critical thinking is essential to an intellectually rigorous education and provides resources to help promote critical thinking in schools.

Most of the Foundation for Critical Thinking’s resources focus on effective studying, analytical reading, and teaching designed around the Socratic method.

Some of the critical thinking activities the Foundation offers are:

The Foundation also provides a Glossary of Critical Thinking Terms , which can be helpful when introducing this subject to your students.

How Much Do These Critical Thinking Activities, and Who Are They For?

As a non-profit dedicated specifically to this one educational issue, the Foundation for Critical Thinking provides relatively robust materials for teaching students. To gain full access to the materials, you must purchase a subscription to the Center for Critical Thinking Community starting at $20 per month.

Most of the materials will require teachers to reexamine their instructional methodologies. To fully implement what the Foundation offers, you’ll need to think about how you can structure your own lessons to prompt critical thinking.

Many of the student-oriented activities are designed to take multiple class periods. So if you need a robust unit on critical thinking, this could be a great fit.

2. The Critical Thinking Workbook


The Critical Thinking Workbook is an online resource from the Global Digital Citizen Foundation. The Global Digital Citizen Foundation is a nonprofit organization that creates resources to help students learn digital responsibility and become ethical members of a worldwide digital community.

The Critical Thinking Workbook includes 32 pages with dozens of critical thinking games and activities that promote vital skills in secondary students.

The resources are generally divided by the skill they promote:

Each of these exercises can be used by itself or in conjunction with your other critical thinking lesson plans .

How Much Do These Critical Thinking Activities Cost, and Who Are They For?

Overall, the activities in this workbook are free and plentiful, making it easy to adapt to various teaching situations. Many exercises (like determining fact vs. opinion) are repeatable and would work at any grade level.

Because there is an entire section discussing communication, teachers covering business communication or written communication in their courses will find these activities especially useful.

2. Critical Thinking Activities for Any Text


Room 213 is a high school teacher offering resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, the digital marketplace where educators buy, sell, and share materials.

Among the activities she offers are Critical Thinking Activities for Any Text . Critical thinking often involves reading and evaluating sources effectively. Promoting these skills in your students will help them develop crucial analytical abilities they’ll need in their careers.

The Critical Thinking Activities for Any Text bundle includes three resources:

Each resource includes instructions, organizers, and worksheets to use with your students.

The bundle is priced at $8.99, a fair price if you plan to use more than one resource.

These resources can go a long way in ensuring that students can read and comprehend materials effectively, regardless of their occupational field.

However, you may need to make adaptations to ensure the lessons are relevant to your classes. For example, if you aren’t reading full-length books in your class, you can use the materials to analyze a news article for a current-events assignment.

If you don’t have the time to adapt these activities to your specific needs, you may want to consider a critical thinking activity you can more easily integrate into your classes.

4. Critical Thinking Stems and Response Cards


Critical thinking isn’t always about having the correct answers but asking the best questions. TeachThought is another Teachers Pay Teachers seller offering critical thinking materials.

The 28 Critical Thinking Question Stems and Response Cards are designed to help students ask better questions as they analyze readings, problems, and ideas.

Although the prompts are intended for grades 4-10, they are designed around universal questions and can work at any grade level.

A few of the prompt questions include :

You can distribute the cards to students as part of an activity or keep them to yourself as a reminder to incorporate these questions into your everyday lessons.

How Much Does This Critical Thinking Activity Cost, and Who Is It For?

Teachers can get a taste for the question prompts in the product preview, but to get all 28 questions, you’ll have to pay $6. Because the questions apply to a wide variety of settings, you can use them to promote critical thinking in almost any class.

Answering these prompts, however, will require students to write, speak, or share their answers. Because of this, you may want to consider additional activities that add more variety to your critical thinking curriculum .

Teach Critical Thinking to Your Students Today

Critical thinking is paramount to your students’ success in their chosen occupations. But without quality critical thinking activities, they might not have the opportunity to practice these skills in your classroom. For your students to be successful, you need resources that are relevant, engaging, and age-appropriate.

Thankfully, there are plenty of critical thinking scenarios and activities you can use to make sure they cultivate this essential skill.

Any resource in this article can help your students learn critical thinking in high school, but what if you want to start teaching right away?

In that case, consider downloading your free critical thinking resources from AES . The resources come with everything you need to teach the fundamentals of critical thinking, including presentation slides, supporting graphics, and speaker notes.

Download your free resources here and start teaching critical thinking today!

Get My Free Lesson to Teach Critical Thinking Skills


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