FUN Critical Thinking Activities

For Students in Any Subject


The experts on STAAR, such as the Texas Education Agency, the Lead4Ward team and Regional Service Centers tell us that there are some very specific things that we need to do, and other things we should let go of in order to prepare our students for the state assessment. In addition, these strategies can also deepen and broaden their knowledge.

  1. Allow for more collaboration on rich content between students (student-centered)
  2. Provide higher level thinking questions
  3. Give ample wait time
  4. Increase critical thinking through authentic instruction
  5. Follow the DETAILS of your TEKS
  6. Know the vertical alignment of your TEKS and collaborate with other grade levels

The following are ideas for activities that you can use in conjunction with our curriculum in order to help meet some of these criteria, as it is necessary to adjust our mindset from TAKS driven packets to STAAR rich conversations and activities.


Talking Chips

1. Pass out a colored chip to each person
2. One player at each table scribes ideas on chart paper
3. Each person contributes an idea that answers the question
4. Afterwards, the player places their chip in the center of the table.
5. Listen while others contribute their views
6. Instructor clarifies/verifies

Pair - Square - Share

Informal Response Activity
Teacher poses a question to the class
  • Yes = Stand
  • No = Sit
  • Depends = Sit and Raise Your Hand

3 Facts and a Fib

This helps with distinguishing between multiple choice answers.

1. Have students write 3 facts and a fib on a sticky about a subject, content or problem
2. They will trade with a partner to find the fib
3. Discussions
4. Instructor clarifies/varifies

FACT or FIB Slam Down

1. Get 2 sticky notes
2. Write "Fact" on one
3. Write "Fib" on the other
4. Instructor will read a statement
5. Instructor will count, "1-2-3" ...then slam your answer down in the middle of the table
6. Compare responses
7. Instructor clarifies/verifies

Differentiation and Multiple Representations

Pass and Play

This helps with students distinguishing between and creating their own multiple representations.

  1. A word problem is posted on a graphic organizer (different problem for each person in the group).
  2. Boxes are strategically placed on the graphic organizer with various representations.
  3. Students choose the box they like, place their name in the box and complete the activity.
  4. When finished, they pass it to the group member to their right.
  5. Now everyone has a new problem
  6. They read the new problem, check their partner's box and complete a different box.
  7. Continue to pass and play.


Students work from a 2x2 or 3x3 grid in a tic-tac-toe format

Activities in each box represent Bloom's type activities, such as:
- create a drawing that shows...
- write 3 sentences that correctly use the terms _________, ___________, and _______________.
- create a comic strip that includes...
- make a game in which players ....

Cubing and Think Dots

1. Teacher creates a numbered 6 box graphic with varied activities on a student expectation.

2. Students roll die to determine which 3 activities to complete.

3. Students work together to record their answers.


My number has nine digits

It is evenly divisible by 100

The value of one of the digits is 700,000

The digit in the millions place is both even and prime

The digit in the hundreds place is the temperature at which water freezes

The digit in the ten millions place is triple the number in the millions place

The digit in the thousands place is the number of fluid ounces in a cup

The digit in the hundred millions place is a special number because it is a factor of every number.


  1. Place butcher paper around the room with different question stems, problems or activities.
  2. Students are in groups of 2-5 students in each.
  3. Each group has a different colored marker.
  4. They go to each poster for 2-4 minutes doing the activity required.
  5. After they are prompted by the teacher to switch, they check the other groups response with: a check if they agree or a correction if they disagree and WHY
  6. They then create their own question stem, problem or activity for the upcoming group.

academic vocabulary

Thinking Bubbles

This activity is to be facilitated by the teacher and is for the groups collaborating as much as it is the main student who is guessing the word.

  1. A vocabulary word is held above a student's head where they cannot see it.
  2. The other students in the room collaborate to find the best clues for the vocabulary word.
  3. The student calls on each group to give them their best clue/clues. (make sure they are giving acacemic rich clues)
  4. After AT LEAST 1 clue from EACH group, the student tries to guess the word above them.

*It may be good to provide a list of academic vocabulary words from which to guess.

Frayer Model Vocabulary

This can be done many different ways. I will give you a very collaborative one that I like.

  1. Vocabulary word goes in the center of a 2x2 grid for each group and one large one for the whole class.
  2. Student groups brainstorm words/phrases to place in the upper left corner of their Frayer.
  3. Groups discuss with the entire class, while a scribe posts the words/phrases to the class Frayer.
  4. Each student group uses the class words/phrases to brainstorm their BEST definition and writes it on their group Frayer.
  5. Each definition is written with different colored markers in the right corner of class Frayer, while corrections are made in a polite, productive manner.
  6. When finished, the class will have the BEST student made definition in their upper right corner.
  7. Students write examples and nonexamples in the bottom boxes of their group and class Frayer Models.

Student Self Monitoring

Interactive Journal

Simply copying notes from the board is a low level thinking skill, so please promote higher level thinking by providing appropriate graphic organizers, question stems or reflective prompts, which help students recognize their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses through effective critical thinking.

Journal Data Goals

Students become their own progress monitors.

  1. Students write down their goals for the year.
  2. Students write down all of their grades.
  3. Monitor with graphs and charts to view progress.
  4. The goal is not to compare to one another, but to show growth within oneself.

Huffman ISD - Curriculum

STAAR requires us to provide more opportunities for collaboration and reflection in order to promote critical thinking skills. We hope that some of these activities will help you in brainstorming ideas to use in your classrooms. Please contact us if there are any questions or needs.