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Critical Thinking Games For High School

10 Team-Building Games That Promote Critical Thinking

by TeachThought Staff

One of education’s primary goals is to groom the next generation of little humans to succeed in the “real world.”

Yes, there are mounds of curricula they must master in a wide breadth of subjects, but education does not begin and end with a textbook or test.

Other skills must be honed, too, not the least of which is how to get along with their peers and work well with others. This is not something that can be cultivated through rote memorization or with strategically placed posters.

Students must be engaged and cooperation must be practiced, and often. The following team-building games can promote cooperation and communication, help establish a positive classroom environment and — most importantly — provide a fun, much-needed reprieve from routine.

10 Team-Building Games That Promote Collaborative Critical Thinking

You can purchase a classroom-ready version of team-building games that promote critical thinking here.

1. If You Build it…

This team-building game is flexible. Simply 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.

Skills: Communication; problem-solving

2. Save the Egg

This activity can get messy and may be suitable for older children who can follow safety guidelines when working with raw eggs. Teams must work together to find a way to “save” the egg (Humpty Dumpty for elementary school students?) — in this case an egg dropped from a specific height. That could involve finding the perfect soft landing, or creating a device that guides the egg safely to the ground. Let their creativity work here.

Skills: Problem-solving, creative collaboration

3. Zoom

Zoom is a classic classroom cooperative game that never seems to go out of style. Simply form students into a circle and give each a unique picture of an object, animal or whatever else suits your fancy. You begin a story that incorporates whatever happens to be on your assigned photo. The next student continues the story, incorporating their photo, and so on.

Skills: Communication; creative collaboration

4. Minefield

Another classic team-building game. Arrange some sort of obstacle course and divide students into teams. Students take turns navigating the “mine field” while blindfolded, with only their teammates to guide them. You can also require students to only use certain words or clues to make it challenging or content-area specific.

Skills: Communication; trust

See also: 10 Team-Building Games For A Friendlier Classroom

5. The Worst-Case Scenario

Fabricate 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. Ask them to work together to concoct 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.

Skills: Communication, problem-solving

6. A Shrinking Vessel

This game requires a good deal of strategy in addition to team work. Its rules are deceptively simple: The entire group must find a way to occupy a space that shrinks over time, until they are packed creatively like sardines. You can form the boundary with a rope, a tarp or blanket being folded over or small traffic cones. (Skills: Problem-solving; teamwork)

7. 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.

Creative collaboration; communication; problem-solving

8. It’s a Mystery

Many children (and grown-ups) enjoy a good mystery, so why not design one that must be solved cooperatively? Give each student a numbered clue. In order to solve the mystery — say, the case of the missing mascot — children must work together to solve the clues in order. The “case” might require them to move from one area of the room to the next, uncovering more clues.

Skills: Problem-solving, communication

9. 4-Way Tug-of-War 

That playground classic is still a hit — not to mention inexpensive and simple to execute. For a unique variation, set up a multi-directional game by tying ropes in such a way that three or four teams tug at once. Some teams might choose to work together to eliminate the other groups before going head-to-head.

Skills: Team work; sportsmanship

10. 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.

Skills: Problem-solving; communication

While education technology is a basic and crucial component of the 21st century classroom, educators must still ensure that students are engaging with each other in meaningful ways. Team-building exercises are a great way to do this, and because of this, they will never go out of style.

See Also: 10 Team-Building Games To Promote Critical Thinking 

Aimee Hosler is a writer and mother of two living in Virginia. She specializes in a number of topics, but is particularly passionate about education and workplace news and trends. She hold a B.S. in Journalism from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and is a contributor to several websites including OnlineSchools.com; 10 Team-Building Games For Kids, Teenagers, or Adults

Engage Students in Critical Thinking Activities With These Great Applications

The most important gift that educators can give to students is the ability to think critically. Critical thinking is the ability to take information, then instead of simply memorizing it…

  • Analyzing it
  • Drawing Conclusions
  • Finding Practical Applications
  • Integrating That Information With Other Information
  • Forming Opinions Based on Information And Defending Those Opinions With Data
  • Recognizing The Difference Between Good Information And Bad Information
  • Summarizing And Synthesizing Information
  • Strategizing And Collaborating
  • Planning

Students who are taught good critical thinking skills grow into life long learners, productive employees, and active and engaged citizens. They also tend to make better life decisions. The key to getting students to pick up these important skills is to keep them engaged in the learning process. Web based technology tools can be a great tool to help facilitate student engagement.

Take a look at these 10 tools and resources for using technology to teach critical thinking skills (we've also noted the skills they can help teach!).

1. Mind Meister

This is a mind mapping app that can be used both in the classroom and at home to help students develop higher level thinking skills by helping them to:

  • See How Various Topics Relate to One Another
  • Take Insightful Notes
  • Engage and Collaborate With Other Students
  • Break Complex Concepts Down Into Simpler Chunks
  • Present Their Thoughts And Ideas to Others

In additon to these things, Mind Meister works for students with a variety of learning styles and can be used by children who face learning challenges.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered: Strategizing and Collaborating, Analyzing, and Drawing Conclusions

2. Neo K12 FlowChart Games

FlowChart Games are a simple but very enjoyable set of games that students can play to learn more about a variety of topics. These include, the phases of the moon, various biological life cycles, food chains, photosynthesis, the various organ systems of the human body, and much more. Students are presented with incomplete flowcharts representing whatever topic they are exploring. They are then required to drag and drop the missing elements of the flowchart to the right position. This helps students to learn about sequencing, cause and effect, and how multiple small elements make up a large process or phenomenon.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Summarizing and Synthesizing Information

3. Civilization V

This is the 5th edition of the extremely popular online strategy game. While many people might balk at the idea of using video games in education (or at least those that are associated with recreational game play), the truth is that that playing strategy games absolutely helps build critical thinking skills. Students playing Civilization V must take the human civilization from the time that man first walked the earth to future times. This includes solving social justice problems, discovering and using new technologies, and interacting with important historical figures.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Strategizing and Collaborating, Planning, Analyzing, and Drawing Conclusions

4. AugThat

If students are not interested and engaged, they are lost. They may phone it in when it comes to doing homework and studying to pass tests, but they are not going to get the things that they need out of the learning process. One way to get them engaged is through the use of augmented reality. Augmented reality uses trigger images and smart device technology to create augmented learning experiences that might include 360 degree environments, videos, 3D modeling, videos, and animations. Imagine a biology student being given the ability to examine the human brain from every possible angle. How helpful would it be for a student who is struggling with a concept while doing homework to be able to aim their tablet at an image on a worksheet and watch a video of their teacher giving them advice on the assignment? AugThat provides educators with a series of AR enhanced lessons that can be used in the classroom to create a more engaging learning experience.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Summarizing and Synthesizing Information, Analyzing and Drawing Conclusions

5. Spent

One important part of developing critical thinking skills is learning to think with empathy and to consider the views, experiences, and perspectives of others before drawing conclusions. Spent is an online game that plays a bit like a text based, choose your own adventure game from the eighties or nineties. The hook is that students playing the game play the role of somebody who is unemployed and homeless who must find a new job and get their lives back on track. Students gain insights into the social justice issue of poverty while also learning problem solving skills as they make decisions throughout the game.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Planning, Summarizing and Synthesing Information, Finding Practical Applications, Learning the Difference Between Good Information and Bad Information

6. Whooo’s Reading

If educators do nothing else to encourage students to pick up the ability to think critically, getting children to develop a love of learning is absolutely key. Whooo’s reading is an online reading program that teachers can implement to encourage students to read. The program provides students with coins as rewards for meeting reading goals that can be used to customize their avatar. In addition to this, students also have access to a fun, interactive newsfeed. Unlike other programs where students simply log their reading time or pages, teachers can be sure that students are understanding concepts by having students answer questions about what they have been reading.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Analyzing and Drawing Conclusions, Forming Opinions and Learning to Defend Those Opinions, Learning to Recognize the Difference Between Good Information and Bad Information

7. Discovery Education’s Puzzlemaker

This is a free, online crossword puzzle maker that teachers and students can use to create word puzzles on a variety of subjects. Sometimes, when students are struggling to learn concepts, they can be helped by reversing things and finding ways to teach and challenge others. By coming up with hints and answers, students can gain new insights. In addition to this, teachers can also use the puzzlemaker to create crossword puzzles that challenge students to employ higher level thought processes to interpret clues and solve those puzzles. When students gain the confidence to challenge other students with their puzzles, they might just gain important leadership skills.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Summarizing and Synthesizing Information, Finding Practical Applications, Drawing Conclusions

8. Edmodo

Edmodo is a social networking sight that has been created to provide students and teachers with all of the appealing elements of social media such as sharing thoughts and ideas, engaging in conversations, and collaborating. All of the less appropriate elements have been removed. As a result, students and teachers can engage in conversations, share ideas, and work with one another on group projects. Edmodo even gives kids means to interact with their instructors and to seek advice on assignments and in classroom lessons.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Strategizing and Collaborating, Planning, Forming Opinions Based on Information and Defending Them With Data.

9. Google Docs

This isn’t an educational tool per se. However, Google Docs and other related tools provided by Google are excellent for for students when it comes to sharing information and collaborating with one another. Collaboration is a key element in learning critical thinking skills because students are able to receive input from their peers on their ideas and thoughts. The Google suite which also includes Google slides has built in tools that allow students to research topics without exiting the documents that they are working on.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Strategizing And Collaborating

10. Socrative

Socrative is an interactive app that teachers can use to poll students, create quizzes on the fly, and even create formative assessments. Teachers simply create a quiz or question using Socrative’s teacher dashboard. Then, the students log in and select, or type in the correct answer. The teacher can then take the answers and use them to engage the students in further discussions about what they have learned and whether or not they are effectively applying critical thinking skills. The resulting discussion can result in a great exchange of ideas and further analysis.

Critical Thinking Areas Covered:Forming Opinions Based on Information and Defending Them with Data, Planning and Strategizing, Analyzing.


As long as educators are willing to keep an open mind and focus on what keeps kids interested and engaged, technology can be used to teach critical thinking skills. The ten apps listed above are great resources for teachers who want their students to reap the benefits of becoming curious individuals with the ability to think for themselves.


Patrick was born in Indiana, USA. He graduated from Indiana University High School and went on to higher education in Indiana University Bloomington. He is a freelancer and entrepreneur. His hobbies are writing, rock music and self-education. Find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Colen8P.

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