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Career Readiness | Middle School | Critical Thinking

4 Best Critical Thinking Activities for Middle School

January 10th, 2023 | 7 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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As a middle school teacher, you understand the importance of teaching critical thinking early. Without learning fundamental reasoning skills at a young age, your students won’t be prepared for the more significant challenges they’ll face in high school and the working world.

Finding quality critical thinking activities that are both engaging and age-appropriate can be time-consuming. That’s why we’ve brought together four of the best critical thinking activities for middle school:

  1. Critical Thinking Activities for Middle School from TEDEd
  2. Team Building Escape Room with Logic Puzzles from Teach With All Your Heart
  3. Critical Thinking Worksheets from Class Act Press
  4. Critical Thinking Question Stems and Response Cards from TeachThought

After reading this article, you’ll have a good idea of the critical thinking activities out there so you can choose what’s best for your middle schoolers.

1. Critical Thinking Activities for Middle School from TEDEd


TED Conferences, LLC is a group best known for organizing short, inspirational speeches known as TED Talks. TEDEd is the company’s educational arm, which offers many high-quality, free resources to teachers and their students.

TEDEd’s activities allow you to introduce a wide range of critical thinking elements through videos, discussions, and problem-solving exercises. Most of these classroom activities present a challenge and require students to overcome it.

TEDEd offers several types of critical thinking activities, including:

  • Time management
  • Interactive math problems
  • Physics paradoxes
  • Psychological concepts
  • Riddles and puzzles

Since these activities cover so many skills, TEDEd offers one of the most varied collections of critical thinking and problem-solving resources available online.

TEDEd’s activities are also easy to use. Each exercise starts with an introductory video you can show the whole class. Then, you can have students work individually, in groups, or as a class to solve the problem mentioned in the video using critical thinking skills.

TEDEd also gives you the expected answer at the end of each activity and then explains the answer in a logical way that can help students think conceptually.

How Much Do These Critical Thinking Activities Cost, and Who Are They For?

Because TEDEd offers all of its resources for free, it’s easy to use these critical thinking activities in your classroom.

While you’ll have to incorporate them into your curriculum where they make the most sense, the activities are numerous and easy to use, making them a resource you can come back to again and again.

2. Team Building Escape Room with Logic Puzzles from Teach With All Your Heartcritical-thinking-activity-escape-room

Teach With All Your Heart is an educator offering resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, the internet marketplace where teachers can buy, sell, and share instructional materials.

One of the resources they offer is the Team Building Escape Room activity, which takes a popular entertainment activity for groups and turns it into a lesson on critical thinking.

These exercises challenge students to solve a series of logic puzzles to “escape” from the classroom and are intended for learners in grades 4-9. When students solve each puzzle, they learn a secret code to crack a “lock” and complete the challenge.

There are 30 pages of material in this resource, including:

  • Detailed escape room overview and teacher instructions
  • Four challenges that consist of different logic puzzles and thinking outside-the-box tasks
  • Answer key for each station
  • Master code key for teachers
  • Code-breaking tracking sheet for students
  • Envelope labels

The materials are included as PDF files but work best when printed out to use with groups of students. They’re enough for your students to have a different challenge four times. Or, you can divide your class into four groups, each working on a separate escape room.

How Much Does This Critical Thinking Activity, and Who Is It For?

The Team Building Escape Room activities are available on Teachers Pay Teachers for just $7.50, a great value considering the amount of fun these puzzles could be for your students.

Overall, these activities are great to use as a break from other classroom activities or at the beginning or end of the school year. They require students to use multiple reasoning skills to further their critical thinking ability.

The only drawback to this project is that it requires teachers to print out many worksheets to give students an authentic escape room experience. However, this will enable students to work on each challenge in small groups.

3. Critical Thinking Worksheets from Class Act Presscritical-thinking-worksheets

Class Act Press is a reputable provider on the Teachers Pay Teachers marketplace. Her Critical Thinking Worksheets are designed to help middle school students develop fundamental reasoning skills and can work in any classroom.

These worksheets include riddles and brain teasers to get learners thinking logically with engaging puzzles and questions. Included are seven worksheet pages, which you can print out and incorporate into your current critical thinking or 21st Century skills lessons.

You can use these exercises in your classroom in different ways, such as:

  • Icebreaker questions at the beginning of class
  • A transition between other projects
  • Filling in extra class time for students who finish early
  • Group work activities
  • An exit ticket at the end of class

Because the activities are short, they’re pretty flexible in how you use them with your students.

How Much Do These Critical Thinking Activities Cost, and Who Are They For?

The Critical Thinking Worksheets are available on Teachers Pay Teachers for $5.49. They’re a good choice for a teacher who just needs one or two critical thinking activities to sprinkle into existing instructional plans.

However, these puzzles and brain exercises simply aren’t as extensive as other activities on this list. Consider other options if you need to fill entire class periods with activities.

4. Critical Thinking Question Stems and Response Cards from TeachThought


Critical thinking isn’t always about having the correct answers but asking the best questions.

TeachThought is another Teachers Pay Teachers seller offering critical thinking materials. The 28 Critical Thinking Question Stems and Response Cards are designed to get students thinking by asking better questions as they analyze readings, problems, and ideas.

Although the prompts are intended for grades 4-10, they are designed around universal questions and can work at any grade level.

Some of the prompt questions include:

  • What are the most important features of X?
  • What makes X possible?
  • How is X an example of Y?
  • Why is X significant?

You can distribute the cards to students as part of an activity or keep them to yourself and incorporate these questions into your critical thinking lesson plans.

How Much Do These Critical Thinking Activities Cost and Who Are They For?

Teachers can get a taste for the question prompts in the product preview, but to get all 28 questions, you’ll have to pay $6. Because the questions apply to a wide variety of settings, you can use them to promote critical thinking in almost any class.

Answering these prompts, however, will require students to write, speak, or share their answers. Because of this, you may want to consider additional activities that add more variety to your critical thinking curriculum.

Need Free Critical Thinking Activities for Middle School?

Critical thinking is an essential 21st Century skill that will prepare your middle schoolers for high school and future careers. But without quality activities, they might not have the opportunity to develop critical thinking in class. You need resources that are relevant, engaging, and age-appropriate for middle school.

Thankfully, there are plenty of critical thinking scenarios and activities you can use to make sure they cultivate this essential skill.

Any resource in this article can help your students learn critical thinking in middle school, but what if you want to start teaching right away?

In that case, consider downloading your free critical thinking resources from AES. These resources come with everything you need to teach the fundamentals of critical thinking, including presentation slides, supporting graphics, and speaker notes.

Download your free resources here and start teaching critical thinking today!Get My Free Lesson to Teach Critical Thinking Skills