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Nurturing Critical Thinking Skills in Elementary School


Teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the minds of the next generation. One of the key skills that will help your students to become successful individuals in the future is critical thinking. In this blog post, we’ll explore the significance of critical thinking skills and provide practical tips to help you nurture this essential ability in your elementary school students.

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Understanding Critical Thinking:

Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information to make informed decisions and solve problems. Developing critical thinking skills from an early age lays a strong foundation for lifelong learning and success. Students who are adept at critical thinking can approach challenges with confidence, creativity, and resilience.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchy of skills to help students develop a deeper way of thinking.

Why It Matters:

Critical thinking skills prepare students for the future. In an ever-evolving world, critical thinking is a crucial skill that enables students to adapt to new situations and make sound decisions in various contexts. It enhances problem-solving abilities. Critical thinking equips students with the tools to identify, analyze, and solve problems systematically, fostering a mindset of resourcefulness and resilience. Critical thinking skills also encourage independent learning. By promoting critical thinking, teachers empower students to seek knowledge independently, fostering a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom.

Practical Strategies for Nurturing Critical Thinking Skills:

How can we nurture critical thinking skills? Here are 5 easy ways to help our students think critically:

  1. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage students to think beyond simple answers by posing open-ended questions that require thoughtful responses. This practice promotes curiosity and the exploration of different perspectives.
  2. Promote Classroom Discussions: Create a classroom environment where students feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas. Engage them in discussions that challenge their assumptions and encourage active listening and respectful disagreement.
  3. Incorporate Problem-Solving Activities: Integrate hands-on activities that require students to apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios. This could involve group projects, puzzles, or even real-life situations that encourage collaborative problem-solving.
  4. Use Literature to Spark Critical Thinking: Select literature that prompts students to think critically about characters, plot twists, and moral dilemmas. Encourage them to express their opinions and support their arguments with evidence from the text.
  5. Encourage Reflection: Provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning experiences. Ask them to consider what worked well, what challenges they faced, and how they could approach similar situations differently in the future.

Resources to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Here are some resources from Endeavors in Education on TPT that will help your students think critically.

General Critical Thinking Skills

This image is the cover image of the crack the code bundle.  On the cover is a picture of school supplies that surround a crack the code joke page

This Crack the Code Bundle will have your students using critical thinking skills while having fun. There are 10 monthly themed sets for the school year in which your students will crack the code to figure out the answer to funny jokes and discover new words. This activity is differentiated!

On Friday afternoons in my fourth-grade classroom, we would have HOTS time. HOTS is an acronym for higher-order thinking skills. During this time my students would be challenged to think hard to solve a problem, riddle, brain teaser, etc. Check out the Higher Order Thinking Questions and Activities here.

This image shows a which doesn't belong worksheet with a purple pen laid on top of it.  Around the sheet is a clipboard and an array of sticky notes in different colors.
The image shows the year long bundle fast finishers with critical thinking skills for each month of the year.  There is a collage of the covers for all the months included

Fast finishers are perfect for developing critical thinking skills. This bundle includes all of the monthly themed fast finishers available on Endeavors in Education (TPT Store). This resource includes question cards to get students thinking, writing prompts, critical thinking worksheets, and so much more! Click here to check out the bundle which links to the individual months as well.

If you’re interested in tips for keeping fast finishers engaged check out this blog post on the subject.

Critical Thinking in Writing

Writing is a great way to include some critical thinking. A fun writing piece is to read the book Stuck by Oliver Jeffers and to have your students write their creative writing piece modeled after the book. Check out the digital version here.

The image shows the cover of the digital Stuck writing piece.  It shows a computer with the summarize the story sheet on the display
The image is the cover image for a creative thinking Thanksgiving writing piece. There is an image of a brainstorming sheet on the cover

This writing piece is seasonal and works around Thanksgiving. Your students will think critically and creatively to write an essay about something that they do not like and reasons why they are still grateful for it. For example: I don’t like to make my bed but I am grateful because it means I have a place to sleep. Check out the writing piece here.

Books to Get Your Students Thinking Critically

Mistakes That Worked by Charlotte Foltz Jones is a great book all about mistakes that became wins.

Think Like a Detective by David Pakman is a good book to get your kids thinking critically. They will be problem-solving and using deductive reasoning in no time!

What Should Danny Do? by Adir Levy and Ganit Levy is a great book for helping your kids make good choices.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak Ph.D. will have your students learning all about where the thinking takes place…the BRAIN!

Games for Critical Thinking

Gravity Maze is a lot of fun! My son got this for Christmas and it is a fantastic game for getting your kids to think critically. The object of the game is to create a maze to get a marble to the end. You can use the puzzle cards that come with the game or create your own.

Rush Hour is another great logic game! The object of the game is to get the red car out of the traffic jam.

Kanoodle is a compact brain teaser puzzle game. It looks simple, but it isn’t!

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Text at the top says "Nurturing critical thinking skills in elementary school endeavorsined.com" and there is a picture of a child using unifix cubes and arranging them into the same height below the wording

In nurturing critical thinking skills, you are not only preparing your students for academic success but also empowering them to navigate the complexities of the world they will encounter. By incorporating these practical strategies into your teaching approach, you can foster a classroom culture that celebrates curiosity, creativity, and the ability to think critically—qualities that will undoubtedly shape the future leaders of tomorrow.


My name is Jen and I’m the face behind Endeavors in Education.

I have a passion for ELA and science. I am even STEM certified. Now I spend my time hanging with my kids, blogging (endeavorsined.com), and creating for my TpT store Endeavors in Education.

I’m so happy you’ve joined me on this journey!

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