8 Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking Skills to Students

Critical thinking extends beyond using rational thoughts to come up with a decision. Teaching students to come up with their own thoughts, embrace those thoughts and then formulate a conclusion is a crucial skill for their integrity as they develop through life. Here are 8 strategies for helping students learn critical thinking skills.

1.Take a Side

One of the classic strategies you can use is to ask two students to take the pro side, and the other one will take the con side. You will then read them a statement; such as “Hitler was a genius,” and ask them to come up with their own thoughts arguing why Hitler was a genius, and why Hitler was not a genius.

2. Instant Challenges

Put your students together in groups of 4 and give them a challenge they must complete. They will have X amount of minutes to finish that challenge. They will be told what they must do, but not how they must go about completing those tasks. This forces them to use their creative, out-of-the-box thinking in a practical fashion.

3, Begin with a Question

Develop essential questions to ask your students. This means asking them questions that force them to answer life-crucial questions. Avoid setting up to answer with a “yes” or a “no”. This method of discussing openly is a huge part of defining problems and solving those problems as part of the school science curriculum.

4. Compare/Contrast

A useful strategy you can use is to have your students compare and contrast different concepts, objects, etc. For example, comparing the CN Tower in Canada to the former World Trade Center; how are they similar? How are they different? This type of thinking will help them see both sides of major issues, allowing them to stay objective and in the present moment.

5. Collaboration

Write a problem on and index card and attach it to the top of something, where everybody can see it. Write several, different headings on index cards. These will be pinned below the first index card. Here is where the fun starts: your students must then come up with ideas based on the ideas of the heading cards you created. This helps their critical thinking skills by recognizing the core of what a concept is.

6. Reading

From increasing our emotional intelligence, to allowing our imaginations a home to roam, the impact of literary works never diminishes. The critical thinking skills of your students will be tremendously boosted by discussing the following literatures:

  • “The Critical Thinking Community”
  • “Shakespeare and Critical Thinking”
  • “Skeptic North”
7. Q/As

Use this strategy to see how well they grasp their newfound skills. The goal here is to build higher-order-thinking skills into them. Asking a variety of questions that require actual thought, instead of straightforward answers.

8. Socratic Seminars

In this exercise, students will read a text you assign them. They will then respond to the text in the form of a class discussion, completing a textual analysis together. Be sure to select a text that can be interpreted many ways (such as lyrics by Kurt Cobain) and are not so straight-forward.


These strategies are only the beginning. Critical thinking is a practical life skill that never vanishes, it only fades away the less time we spend using it. This gives them opportunities to foster more intriguing conversations. The power of critical thinking, aside from putting predictable answers to death, is its ability to reveal fresh ideas and startling insights that keeps society alive.

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