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
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
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
Critical Thinking Resources for Middle School TeachersBy Room 241 Team • November 9, 2012
Middle school teachers of all subjects are interested in fostering critical thinking in their classroom, but it’s not always an easy task to incorporate in the never-ending quest to match lesson plans to state learning standards. Here are seven resources that will easily add critical thinking to your lesson plans.
The Critical Thinking Community
The Critical Thinking Community is a resource site designed to encourage critical thinking in students. There are teaching strategies, a glossary of important terms, as well as articles by thought leaders in critical thinking, such as one by Bertrand Russell on the importance of developing critical thinking skills. Visit the site.
Here are some recommended pages for critical thinking strategies for the middle school classroom.
- Teaching tactics: Strategies teachers can use to encourage critical thinking in class. For example, asking students to read the instructions of an assignment and then repeat them in their own words. Visit the page.
- Remodeled lessons: How to take a routine lesson plan and remodel it to foster critical thinking. The page has five standard lesson plans, a critique of why they should be changed, and suggestions for improving the lesson plan. Visit the page.
- 35 dimensions of critical thought: Strategies are organized into three groups: Affective, Cognitive Macro-Abilities, and Cognitive Micro-Skills. Each strategy details its importance for student development. Visit the page.
Success story: tips for teaching critical thinking
KIPP King Collegiate High School has developed 10 ideas for teaching critical thinking. These methods are applicable for middle school aged students, giving them exposure to thinking critically before arriving to high school. One notable technique from KIPP is to teach students to constantly ask questions. Visit the page.
Critical thinking in the 21st century
Microsoft Education offers material for teaching critical thinking for the 21st-century student. What’s special about this guide is its focus on thinking critically on the Internet. Lesson plans focus on fine-tuning search skills, how to evaluate discoveries and then incorporate findings in student work. Visit the site.
Creative and critical thinking activities
On teachers.net Gazette, a teacher named Emmy recommends five specific activities that are easy to use, take little preparation, and stimulate creative thinking. The most popular feature of this site is its teacher collaboration. Visit the page.
Back to basics
This site details the basics about critical thinking: what it is, the characteristics, and why it should be taught. It also provides several differing perspectives about critical thinking for readers to consider. Different teaching strategies are also discussed, plus links to helpful resources. Visit the site.
Riddle me that
BrainDen.com has a large number of critical-thinking riddles and brain teasers that can be used in the classroom. The answers are provided for the teacher as well as tips for stimulating further discussion on the topic. Teachers can use the exercises as warmup activities at the beginning of class, or at the end of class on days when work is unexpectedly completed early. Visit the site.
Discovery Education has a “Brain Boosters” section listing specific logical thinking challenges and brain teasers that students love. The activities can be done with groups or individually. The answers are provided for the teacher. Visit the site.Tags: Engaging Activities, Middle School (Grades: 6-8)