i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Thinking Skills

Boosting Critical Thinking through Games

Critical thinking helps learners analyse new information and solve difficult problems. It’s the key to long term educational success.

When I help my students prepare for their exams, parents often ask me: ‘Why can’t my child learn from their mistakes?’ This is a great question, and understanding the answer makes it clear why critical thinking is so important to students.

Often, children are overwhelmed with classes, homework and tests. When it’s time to prepare for their exams, they take practice papers and memorise the corrections to the questions they get wrong. However, they don’t understand why they got things wrongs. Therefore, when faced with a slightly different question, they will make the same mistake again.

In Hong Kong’s fast-paced education system, being able to think critically and analyse rather than memorise makes study-time more productive, and it also leads to broader improvements in terms of the ability to learn new things, make stronger inferences, and get better grades. A great way to improve critical thinking is through games. I play these with my students of all ages, and you can try them at home to help your child improve as well:

Game #1: Guess Who?
Materials needed: card/paper, a pen

Write a noun on each card – choose simple words for younger learners, such as ‘ice cream’, ‘dolphin’ and ‘flower’, and choose more abstract concepts for older ones, such as ‘love’, ‘culture’ and ‘beauty’.

Game Instructions:
1. Player A takes a card and looks at it without showing it to players B, C, D etc.
2. Each player can ask player A five yes or no questions.
3. Player A can give up to five extra hints.
4. Each player has three chances to guess the noun on player A’s card.

Reflection Tips:
Ask questions after the game to improve reflection:
1. Which role did you prefer – the person who guessed or the person who gave hints?
2. Can you think of some tips to perform better in each role?
3. What does this exercise teach you about asking questions?

Game #2: Letter Scramble
Materials needed: letter cards, or pen and paper to create these

Create three sets of letter cards (you will need three copies of each letter of the alphabet)

Game Instructions:
1. Place all cards facing down on the table.
2. Each player draws 20 cards randomly.
3. Use the letter cards to form words that connect to each other in a grid (like in Scrabble). Words can read left to right horizontally, or top to bottom vertically.
4. The winner is the person who uses all their letter cards first. Alternatively, you can play so that the winner is the person who creates the most words or the person who creates the longest word.

Reflection Tips:
Ask questions after the game to improve reflection:
1. Did you create a system to sort the letters into words (for example: tackling more difficult consonants such as ‘z’ and ‘x’ first)?
2. How did the differences between how a winner was determined affect how you formed words (for example: when playing so that the winner has the longest word, you might make the word ‘dangerous’, but when the winner has the most words, you might make ‘danger’ and ‘us’)?

i-Learner has two dedicated courses to teach critical thinking: Critical Reading and Writing (for K3-S3) and Applied Critical Thinking (for S4+).These courses prepare young learners for the challenges of deeper thinking and lead to long term success.