Critical Thinking Exercises

Tour guide for an alien
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Critical thinking is a skill that students develop gradually as they progress in school. While the skill becomes more important in higher grades, some students find it difficult to understand the concept of critical thinking.

The reason critical thinking can be difficult to grasp is because it requires students to set aside assumptions and beliefs to learn to think without bias or judgment.

Critical thinking involves suspending your beliefs to explore and question topics from a "blank page" point of view. It also involves the ability to distinguish fact from opinion when exploring a topic.

These exercises are designed to help develop critical thinking skills.

Critical Thinking Exercise 1: Tour Guide for an Alien

This exercise provides an opportunity to think outside your normal way of thinking.

Pretend that you have been assigned the task of conducting a tour for aliens who are visiting the earth and observing human life. You're riding along in a blimp, viewing the landscape below, and you float over a professional baseball stadium. One of the aliens looks down and is very confused by what he sees. You explain that there is a game going on and he asks several important questions.

  • What is a game? 
  • Why are there no female players?
  • Why do people get so excited about watching other people play games?
  • What is a team?
  • Why can't the people in the seats go down on the field and join in?

If you try to answer these questions fully, it will quickly become apparent that we carry around certain assumptions and values. We support a certain team, for instance, because it makes us feel like we're a part of a community. This sense of community is a value that matters to some people more than others.

Furthermore, when trying to explain team sports to an alien, you have to explain the value we place on winning and losing.

When you think like an alien tour guide, you are forced to take a deeper look at the things we do and things we value. Sometimes they don't sound logical from the outside looking in.

Critical Thinking Exercise 2: Fact or Opinion

Do you think you know the difference between fact and opinion? It's not always easy to discern. When you visit websites, do you believe everything you read? The abundance of available information makes it more important than ever for students to develop critical thinking skills. Additionally, it's an important reminder that you must use trustworthy sources in your school work.

If you don't learn the difference between fact and opinion, you may end up reading and watching things that continue to reinforce beliefs and assumptions you already own.

For this exercise, read each statement and try to determine whether it sounds like a fact or an opinion. This can be completed alone or with a study partner.

  • My mom is the best mom on earth.
  • My dad is taller than your dad.
  • My telephone number is difficult to memorize.
  • The deepest part of the ocean is 35,813 feet deep.
  • Dogs make better pets than turtles.
  • Smoking is bad for your health.
  • Eighty-five percent of all cases of lung cancer in the U.S. are caused by smoking.
  • If you flatten and stretch out a Slinky toy it will be 87 feet long.
  • Slinky toys are fun.
  • One out of every one hundred American citizens is color blind.
  • Two out of ten American citizens are boring.

You will probably find some of the statements easy to judge but other statements difficult. If you can effectively debate the truthfulness of a statement with your partner, then it's most likely an opinion.