White board and pens

Top 5 critical thinking exercises for existing lessons

Critical thinking has become the most talked about skill set in education. How can teachers incorporate an engaging critical thinking exercise into existing lessons plans?

Below are 5 fun ideas – which consider Macat’s unique PACIER critical thinking model, developed with The University of Cambridge – that you can implement today!

Critical thinking exercises for schools

5 whys

5 Whys

A classic interrogative critical thinking exercise, as well as a fun way of introducing critical thinking into lessons. ‘5 whys’ helps students to think more deeply, and interpret the underlying reason to a problem.

Start by asking students a question based on a current class theme or problem. Upon receiving an answer, ask why four subsequent times. For example:

“Why did Jim study so hard for the test?”
“To get into a good university”
“To be successful”
“To be rich”
“To buy his parents a house”
“Because he loves them dearly”

The 5 whys can be applied to almost any subject or topic, as a class, group or individual exercise.

PACIER skill exercised:

PACIER - Interpretation

Barometer debate

Barometer debate

This critical thinking exercise is a great way of discussing a particular topic as a group, whilst exercising student’s evaluation and reasoning skills.

Arrange chairs in a u-shape, with each side representing two opposite extremes of the argument and the middle being neutral. Then ask students to position themselves dependant on where they stand on that particular issue. Give each student the chance to contribute to the discussion, using “I” when stating their opinion. At the end of the lesson, test if opinions have changed by asking students to stand behind the seat that represents their concluding perspective.

PACIER skills exercised:

PACIER - EvaluationPACIER - Reasoning

f733d92d-21c1-4b5c-b121-00176f1fcef4Silent debate

Another great critical thinking exercise to spark a debate on critical thinking, but this time in complete silence! This gives those who are commonly quiet in debates or not as strong at verbal communication a level playing field with other students to express their views.

Break the class up into group of two or three, providing them with a large sheet of clipboard paper and pens. Again, start with a question, but this time ask the students to debate the topic by having the conversation entirely on paper, in complete silence. Opinions can be expressed in writing or pictures, making this a fun, creative exercise.

PACIER skills exercised:

PACIER - EvaluationPACIER - Reasoning


A visual critical thinking exercise, developing critical and creative thinking skills. This exercise can help students develop interpretation skills, by evaluating a number of different solutions behind a particular problem. This exercise is perfect for a variety of subjects, but can be applied directly into existing art lessons.

Use your favourite search engine to round-up six Droodles that can be used for this exercise. Print and hand these Droodles to the class, and ask them to write down individually what they think the Droodle represents. Next, place the class into groups to compare and discuss answers, and vote for the best answer. Students can then present and compare their answers with the rest of the class.

PACIER skills exercised:

PACIER - Creative ThinkingPACIER - Interpretation


Would I lie to you?

This critical thinking exercise idea is named after the popular UK TV show Would I Lie to You?. This is a great way of developing analysis skills in a variety of classes – especially drama!

Select a panel of three students. Provide one with the correct answer to a particular topic, and two with false answers. Ask the panel to present their answers to the rest of the class, then give the class time to ask the panel questions about their stories. After a set period of time, ask students to vote which story they think is the truth, before revealing the correct answer.

PACIER skills exercised:

PACIER - AnalysisPACIER - EvaluationPACIER - Reasoning

Find out more about Macat Learning resources for educators or employers on our website.

Last modified: Friday, 3 November 2017, 6:39 PM