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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

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through teaching experience of his own, 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:

  1. The Foundation for Critical Thinking
  2. The Critical Thinking Workbook
  3. Critical Thinking Activities for Any Text
  4. Critical Thinking Question Stems and Response Cards

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

foundation-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:

  • Critical Thinking in Everyday Life: 9 Strategies
  • How to Study and Learn (4 parts)
  • The Art of Close Reading (3 parts)
  • Teaching Tactics That Encourage Active Learning
  • The Art of Redesigning Instruction
  • Socratic Teaching

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

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:

  • Activities for Communication include resources for analyzing and participating in conversations and determining the difference between fact and opinion.
  • Activities for Thinking Visually include visual puzzles and image association games designed to stretch students' memory and acuity.
  • Activities for Individual Skills include prompts for students to ask questions about themselves, ethics, and society.
  • Additional Activities include critical thinking activities for working with partners and groups.

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

critical-thinking-activities-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:

  1. Higher Order Thinking Activities That Can Be Used with Any Text
  2. Active Reading with Post-It Notes
  3. Discussion Stations for Quotation Analysis

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

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

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-questions-high-school

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:

  • What are the most important features of X?
  • What makes X possible?
  • How is X an example of Y?
  • Why is X significant?

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