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Career Readiness | 21st Century Skills

Top 5 Critical Thinking Lesson Plans

June 6th, 2023 | 8 min. read

Bri Stauffer

Bri Stauffer

For nearly 10 years, Bri has focused on creating content to address the questions and concerns educators have about teaching classes, preparing students for certifications, and making the most of the iCEV curriculum system.

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As a career readiness curriculum developer, we speak with teachers like you every day. Many share that some 21st Century skills are easier to teach than others.

One topic that teachers frequently ask us about is critical thinking.

While we provide curriculum that teaches critical thinking, our solution isn’t the right fit for everyone.

iCEV is a comprehensive curriculum designed to teach dozens of skills such as career exploration, customer service, critical thinking, public speaking, teamwork, and more.

However, some teachers are only looking for supplemental critical thinking resources to add to their existing curriculum.

To help you teach critical thinking skills to your students, we’ve pulled together a list of other popular options.

Five of the best places to find critical thinking lessons and activities are:

  1. Critical Thinking Lesson Plans by TEDEd
  2. Critical Thinking Resources from Resilient Educator
  3. Critical Thinking Resources & Lesson Plans by Teachers Pay Teachers
  4. The Believing Game & the Doubting Game by Morningside Center
  5. 10 Tips for Teaching Kids to Be Awesome Critical Thinkers by We Are Teachers

After reading, you should have a better idea of the types of lessons available to decide what's best for your classroom.


1. Critical Thinking Lesson Plans by TEDEd


TEDEd — a subdivision of the organization famous for its “TED Talks” — is a goldmine of free, open-sourced lesson ideas that you can use to shake up your classroom.

TEDEd’s critical thinking subjects give you the ability to introduce video, discussion, problem-solving, and a wide range of critical thinking elements.

Some of these aren’t lessons per se, but fun classroom activities that present a challenge and require students to overcome it.

That includes instructions on time management, interactive math problems, physics paradoxes, psychological concepts, and good old-fashioned riddles.

With that in mind, TEDEd provides one of the most varied and diverse collections of critical thinking resources on the Internet.

Best of all, they’re ready to use with a single click. All you have to do is bring up the page on your screen at the front of the class (or have students access it on their devices) and click on the proper lesson.

Then, your students engage with the introductory portion of the lesson that establishes the concept.

After that, the lesson will prompt them to come up with a solution or answer. That’s when you can have students work individually, in groups, or as a class to exercise their critical thinking skills. 

TEDEd often splits these steps into Watch, Think, Dig Deeper, and Discuss.

TEDEd also gives you the expected answer at the end of each activity. The answer is then explained in a logical way that can help students refine their critical thinking skills, especially on a conceptual basis.


2. Critical Thinking Resources from Resilient Educator


Resilient Educator is a website created by teachers to help others grow professionally and stay resilient through everything thrown their way.

Among the resources on the site, they have a number of lesson ideas, including a list of critical thinking resources oriented toward 21st Century learning.

These resources are designed to help you teach critical thinking, as opposed to simply giving you pre-made lessons that you can use.

You may not be able to take their resources straight to your students, but you can adapt these resources to your own teaching style.

In that respect, you get something much more complex and skill-based than simple lesson plans. But the value you can derive from these resources lets you set the stage for continual professional improvement around critical thinking education.

Overall, that makes Resilient Educator's critical thinking resources an excellent start for any educator who has to teach students about 21st Century skills.


3. Critical Thinking Teaching Resources & Lesson Plans by Teachers Pay Teachers


Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) is an online marketplace where educators can buy, sell, and share their resources with others.

Because TpT always has its doors open to new material, there’s a constant flow of critical thinking lesson plans throughout the year.

Some teachers may create lecture-based lessons that work well in traditional classrooms. Others might include a few videos to make their lesson more diverse in terms of content. Still, others might write a script for student role-playing that takes one class period.

Depending on the depth and type of resource, you may find some that are listed for free while others are upwards of $60 for a bundle.

That means you can sort through the options and find the one that best fits your teaching needs and budget.

Once you hone in on what you're looking for, it’s just a matter of finding a compatible critical thinking lesson on TpT!


4. The Believing Game & The Doubting Game by Morningside Center


The Morningside Center is a community-focused non-profit organization that strives to increase ethnic equity in schools while promoting social and emotional skills. 

As a result, they’re natural experts on critical thinking skills.

Morningside Center’s resources for teaching critical thinking are “The Believing Game” and “The Doubting Game.”

These “games” are conversations based on perspective and playing devil’s advocate.

The Believing Game entails you giving your students a powerful quote or excerpt on a controversial topic, like civil disobedience. Then, you have students think of support and critiques.

You can also wrap this into The Doubting Game, which requires a similar preparation process of showing students an impactful quote or thought.

Then, you have students question the thought, ask questions, pose counterpoints, and otherwise pursue a critical viewpoint.

For both games, Morningside Center offers a number of examples you can use directly with your students.

Though depending on the age of your students, you may need to tweak the examples or come up with different ones.

Regardless of how you have to workshop the concepts, The Believing Game and The Doubting Game are two excellent additions to a critical thinking curriculum. 


5. Tips for Teaching Kids to Be Awesome Critical Thinkers by We Are Teachers


We Are Teachers is a well-known online education publication with thousands of readers every month.

They have a variety of articles to help teachers overcome challenges in the classroom, including tips to make students critical thinkers.

As opposed to the other items on this list, this blog post from We Are Teachers consists of general guidelines you can employ in a critical thinking curriculum.

This post stresses the importance of slowing down your class’s pace to ensure every student gets the chance to apply critical thinking concepts to your material.

It also provides ideas for prep work, like creating charts, planning classroom discussions, and figuring out thought-provoking questions before class begins.

These are great starting points, though you will have to do some work with these concepts to make them fit well with your class.


Which Critical Thinking Lessons Are Right for You?

At the end of the day, there is no single "best" option for teaching critical thinking. It all depends on the needs of you, your course, and your students!

Each of these resources can be a great supplement to your existing classroom materials.

However, if you need a comprehensive curriculum solution that includes critical thinking lessons among other career readiness and professional skills, consider iCEV.

Thousands of teachers like you use iCEV to teach career exploration, personal financial literacy, communication skills, professionalism, and more.

Overall, it helps you save time with planning, assessing, and grading student work all while maximizing student understanding and information retention.

Wondering if iCEV could work for your classroom? Check out our Critical Thinking curriculum module to find out:

Check Out the Critical Thinking Module >