Teaching Critical Thinking Examples in K-5

Carolina Jacobs

Feb 11, 2023
teaching critical thinking skills

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A man stands on one side of a full river and calls his dog. The dog crosses the river without getting wet. How? 

Chances are, you’ve heard a brainteaser like this and solved it using critical thinking, which is the ability to fact-check, solve problems, and analyze information. It’s an important skill at any age.

If you’re an educator, teaching critical thinking examples to elementary students will set your class up for success.

5 Activities for Teaching Critical Thinking Examples to Students

Here are five fun activities for teaching critical thinking examples for students to grasp this essential skill early on:

1. Solve a Real Issue

Ask students to think of a problem in their lives. Maybe they want a longer recess, hate stopping at red lights, or wish there were more flowers planted in the city. Then, have them come up with a potential solution. This can range from realistic to silly depending on their age. Encourage them to explain their proposed solution to the problem, and give them markers, crayons, and paper to illustrate it. 

2. Guess the Object

Show students zoomed-in photos of various familiar objects. Then, have them guess what they’re looking at. Some ideas for photos include a dog, pizza, or even a picture of your own face. It’s bound to be funny and engage their critical thinking skills. 

3. Worst Case Scenario

Break students into groups and give each team a scenario. This can be something like, “Imagine you got stuck in quicksand” or “Pretend you traveled back in time to when dinosaurs were still alive, but your time machine broke and now you’re stuck there.” 

Next, tell students to come up with unique solutions to escape each situation. If the scenario could really happen — like getting stuck in quicksand, as unlikely as that may be — you can also tell them what to do in real life. But the main goal is to encourage creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork. 

4. Save the Egg 

This classic team-building activity is also an exercise in critical thinking. Break students into teams and give each group a chicken egg. The challenge is to drop it from a certain height without breaking it. 

Provide students with materials so they can try to save the egg on its perilous journey. You can give them Tupperware containers, glue, wire, string, cloth for making a parachute, and more. Be sure to set this activity up in an area that’s easy to clean — you’re bound to be cleaning up a few broken eggs afterward! 

5. What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Display a photo that has several things wrong with it. For example, show students a picture of a woman looking in the mirror whose reflection shows the back of her head, and the clock says that it’s midnight even though it’s a sunny day. 

Then ask students to raise their hands and point out all the problems with the photo. Take it a step further and ask them to explain each issue. How is the woman’s reflection wrong? How does a mirror actually work? Even if they don’t know the exact science behind it, they can still explain that looking in a mirror shows your face. 

Teaching Critical Thinking Examples for Elementary Success

These examples should help you get started teaching your students how to think critically. This is far from an exhaustive list of games that help develop this skill, but students tend to respond well to these activities. Have fun, think hard, and don’t be afraid to break some eggs. 

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