1 Super Simple Way to Add More Critical Thinking & Problem Solving into the School Day

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Activities for Elementary School

As teachers, our days are spent executing our perfectly planned lessons, hitting the standards, and making meaning for our students. But there’s something that almost every school day lacks…problem-solving and critical thinking. 

Sure, there are bits of this in science, math, and reading, but is there enough? Probably not. 

Let’s talk about how adding one simple critical thinking activity to your elementary school day can have a significant impact. 

The Importance of Critical Thinking Activities for Kids

There’s no argument that in theory, the better you are at critical thinking, the smoother and more manageable life will be for you. 

In fact, as adults, we face situations almost daily that can be made better or worse depending upon our critical thinking skills. We need critical thinking skills for situations as simple as finding the best value for items while grocery shopping, saving for our children’s college, purchasing a home, and more! 

So, how can we assure that our students wind up with the necessary problem-solving skills to become well-rounded, critical-thinking adults? 

How Adding One Activity to Your School Day Can Create Better Problem Solvers

Most students genuinely enjoy the brain-stretching activities that require critical thinking, a little creativity, and a whole lot of problem-solving. 

That said, what’s the best (and easiest) way to add these opportunities into our already jam-packed school day? 

I like to provide my students with brain teasers to address this need! 

These 10-minute activities help them:

  • Collaborate
  • Communicate
  • Be Creative
  • Critically think

Yes, that’s right, we’re focused on the 4 Cs!  

There’s no doubt that with the vast and rapid increase in technology over the last 50 years, students will need to be far better critical thinkers and problem solvers than the generation that came before them. 

So, how do we create opportunities for our students to develop these skills? 

Even better, how do we consistently offer our students opportunities to grow these vital skills? 

A Simple Way to Incorporate Fun, Critical Thinking Opportunities for Students 

I use Brain Teasers in my classroom to offer consistent opportunities to practice and grow their critical thinking skills! 

These Brain Teasers include higher-level thinking questions, and they don’t take long to complete. 

If you have an extra 10 minutes between activities in your schedule once a week, you can fit Brain Teasers in too! 

I like to use them between coming back from lunch/recess and beginning our math lesson for the day. You can also use them for fast finishers or as an extra activity for your sub tub!

Plus, you can save paper by projecting them on the Smart Board and using thumbs up or down, pair-sharing, or whiteboards for students to show their answers!

Brain Teasers for Upper Elementary Students

What activities do you include in your Brain Teaser Activities? 

  • Would You Rather – This skill focuses on weighing the pros and cons of events. Something very important in adulthood! We also work through our respectful debating skills and accountable talk with this one!
  • Two Truths and a Lie – These center around famous Americans. We don’t have the richest social studies curriculum at my school, but these questions help build historical background knowledge. 
  • Find the Pattern – These feature the ever-popular mathematical patterns to stretch and challenge the mathematical brain!
  • How Many ______ Can You Name? – This is a fun one to use with a timer! See how many ___s an individual student or student groups can name! (Love the collaborative component of this one if you use groups!) 
  • Analogies – I not only love solving the analogies, but I love the discussion kids have about why they work! 
  • Name That Continent – With these clues, I give several countries, and students need to determine which continent to which they belong. This, again, helps build those essential geography skills that most elementary school curriculums lack. 
  • Which Two Don’t Belong –  A list of related words with the exception that two do not belong. Sound easy? Think again! 

You can even use the examples above to create your own Brain Teasers for students! 

Need something already completed for you? I have a Brain Teasers resource in my shop that has all the work done for you! 

You can grab 40 pages of Brain Teasers for just $5.00! 

Kristen used these in her classroom and shared, “AMAZING START TO CLASSES! Students found this exciting and WANTED to participate and chat with their peers to solve! Thank you!”

Like this post? You may also be interested in these blog posts! 

Tracking Student Data: Why Measuring Student Reading Progress is Vital in Today’s Classroom

20 Amazing Amazon Finds That Are a Must for Teachers

Using Brain Breaks in the Classroom

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Hi, I’m Jenn! With 20 years of teaching in the classroom and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, my passion is to support teachers and their students by offering helpful teaching tips and quality resources. Thanks so much for joining me here!

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