Critical Thinking Role Play Scenarios For Social Skills

When it’s time to go to college or take a job, in addition to academic knowledge and vocational skills, students also need those “soft skills,” otherwise known as job readiness skills.

Soft skills are those characteristics that help you function as an individual (motivation, self-confidence, and flexibility) as well as within a group (teamwork, negotiation, and respect). When it comes to workplace success, these skills are key. After all, if you can’t show up on time, speak up for yourself, or get along with your peers, chances are you’re not going to have a very smooth go of it.

Explicitly teaching students these skills is the best way to give them valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses. We’ve found nine engaging lessons that are not only just right for teaching the job readiness skills student need but also a lot of fun!

For each activity below, be sure to make time for students to talk (or write) about what they learned—what went right, how they felt while they were participating, and what they would do differently next time.

1. Right Way/Wrong Way Skits

Sometimes, a bad example is an even better teacher than a good one! Share the 20 Soft Skills Chart with your class. Divide your class into small groups. Have each group choose one or more skills from the infographic. Give each group 20+ minutes to talk and think about their assigned skills. They can look up the word in the dictionary, talk about personal experiences, or even go online for examples. Once they feel they have a clear understanding of their skill as a group, have them come up with a good way to explain it to their classmates as well as two ways to model the skill—once the “wrong” way and once the “right” way.

What they’ll practice:

Creativity, communication, critical thinking

2. The Blindfold Game


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Teens leading one another around in blindfolds? Are we sure this is a good idea? The answer is yes when it’s part of a structured, purposeful activity like this one.

You will need a large space for this game (maybe the cafeteria after lunch or the gym during an off-period), enough blindfolds for half of the participants, and furniture and other items that you can use as obstacles (cardboard boxes, pillows, chairs, tables). Scatter furniture and objects around the room before the activity begins. Your course should be challenging but safe to navigate.

Pair students and have them line up at one end of the room. One person from each pair should put on the blindfold. The sighted person must guide their partner across the room and give them clear oral instructions (without touching them) to help them avoid the obstacles. When each team reaches the far side of the room, partners can switch roles and repeat the exercise. Have just a few pairs tackle the course at a time so that the others can observe. Take some time between rounds to process what went well, what didn’t, and what could make the challenge easier.

What they’ll practice:

Communication, listening skills, respect (taking the task and their partner’s safety seriously), flexibility

3. No-Hands Cup Stacking Challenge


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This hands-on group challenge is an exercise in patience and perseverance, not to mention a total blast!

Decide how many students you want in each group, and tie that number strings to a single rubber band. Each person in the group holds on to one of the strings attached to the rubber band, and as a group, they use this device to pick up the cups (by pulling the rubber band apart and then bringing it back together over the cups) and place them on top of each other in order to build a pyramid. See more detailed instructions here.

What they’ll practice:

Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, teamwork, patience

4. Time-Management Challenge

We all have days when our list of tasks is huge and the amount of time we have to complete them just isn’t. When time is tight and your agenda is packed, you’ve got to prioritize tasks and work efficiently! This activity gives students the opportunity to practice just that by presenting them with a long list of tasks to complete in a limited time frame.

Make a list of tasks on chart paper, assigning a point value for each job. For example: Do 25 jumping jacks (5 points); make up a nickname for each member of the group (5 points); get every person in the class to sign a piece of paper (15 points); form a conga line and conga from one end of the room to the other (5 points, 10 bonus points if anyone joins you); etc. Make sure you list enough tasks to take up more than 10 minutes. Divide your students into groups of five or six and give them 10 minutes to collect as many points as they can by deciding which tasks to perform. A debriefing session is essential with this game. Guide your students to think about how they made decisions, which group dynamics came into play, and how they determined the value of each task.

What they’ll practice:

Negotiation, critical thinking, communication, time management

5. Listen and Recap


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There are so many things competing for kids’ attention in today’s overstimulating world, so learning the simple art of listening can be a difficult task. This one-on-one communication activity will help students practice taking the time to clear their minds, focus, and really listen to what their partner is saying in a way that they can clearly and accurately repeat.

Divide students into pairs. Partner one draws a topic card from a prepared deck and talks about that topic while partner two listens without speaking. The listener must really focus on simply receiving their partner’s words—not letting their mind wander or think about how they are going to respond. Then, without a rebuttal, partner two recaps what partner one said. Then, they switch roles.

What they’ll practice:

Listening, respect, interpersonal skills, communication

6. Team Survival Challenge

What would happen if your class went out on a pleasure cruise only to end up being shipwrecked on a desert island? What materials would be essential for survival? If you’re a fan of the TV series Lost, you know that making these decisions as a group can get ugly fast. This activity is a great lesson in group decision-making, as students will undoubtedly have different ideas about what materials to add to a limited list in a limited amount of time.

Download this PDF from Realityworks for the entire lesson, including the brainstorming graphic organizer “Benefits of Teamwork,” a Teamwork Skill Self-Inventory, and the complete Team Survival Scenario.

What they’ll practice:

Critical thinking skills, negotiation, communication, teamwork

7. Four Card Negotiation

Sometimes to get ahead in life, you have to know how to wheel and deal. This is entirely what this lesson is all about. The objective is for teams to trade and barter for pieces of cards to match up with the pieces they already have and ultimately end up with four complete playing cards.

Start with a pile of playing cards (four cards per team of four or five students). Cut each card diagonally into four pieces and mix all of the pieces together. Now divide the mixed-up pieces evenly among the teams. Give teams a couple of minutes to sort out their card pieces and figure out which pieces they have and which pieces are missing. Set a timer for 10 minutes. The goal of the game is for the students to use their negotiation skills with the other teams in order to gain as many complete cards as possible for their team. At the end of 10 minutes, the team with the most cards wins.

What they’ll practice:

Negotiation, communication, interpersonal skills

8. The Human Knot


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Nothing promotes cooperation like getting all tangled up with your classmatesliterally!

Players stand in a circle and reach out to shake hands with other players, with each hand holding that of a different person, creating a “human knot.” Then the players have to figure out how to untangle their bodies without letting go of each other’s hands. This activity lends itself to a vibrant debriefing session as students observe their communication and cooperation skills.

What they’ll practice:

Teamwork, communication, problem-solving

9. Problem-Solving ScenariosChallenge

Teach students the steps of successful problem-solving and then watch them apply their new skills with real-life scenarios. Begin by downloading this PDF. You’ll get resources for Seven Steps to Solving a Problem Effectively, a problem-solving organizer, and six different workplace problem-solving scenarios for your students to try.

What they’ll practice:

Problem solving, communication, critical thinking, respect

 

What are your favorite activities to help develop soft or job readiness skills? Please share in the comments—we’d love to add to this list.

Getting students to dig deeper and answer questions using higher-level thinking can be a challenge. Here are our favorite tips for teaching critical thinking skills, adapted from Mentoring Minds’ Critical Thinking Strategies Guide, that help kids solve problems by going beyond the obvious response.

1. Slow down the pace.

It’s easy to fall into a routine of calling on one of the first kids who raises a hand. But if you wait even just 3 to 5 seconds after asking a question, you’ll probably find the pool of students willing to give an answer grows significantly. Plus, it helps the speedy kids learn that the first answer that pops into their head isn’t always the best. There are times you may even want to wait up to a minute or longer if the question is particularly complex or time-consuming. To avoid an awkward pause, you can let kids know that they have 10 seconds to think before answering the question or that you need to see 10 hands raised from volunteers before you hear a response.

2. Pose a Question of the Day.

Put a new spin on bell ringers by asking a Question of the Day. Use a questioning stem (e.g., create a riddle that uses the mathematics term “multiply” in one of the clues or write a letter to a classmate recommending this book) and put it on the board. Students can write answers in their critical-thinking journals. Then have a class discussion at the end of the day.

3. Make a response box.

Write a random critical-thinking question on the board, (e.g., Is there a better way to work out this problem? Explain your thinking.). Give students a specified amount of time to provide a written response and put it in the response box. Pull out entries one by one and read them aloud to the class. Alternatively, you can give a prize—like a homework pass or free time—to the student with the first appropriate response whose name is drawn from the box or to everyone who submitted appropriate answers.

4. Take a side.

First, read a statement that has two opposing views (e.g., Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why?). Ask kids who agree to stand on one side of the room and those who disagree to stand on the other side. Then have kids talk about why they chose each side. They can switch sides if they change their minds during the discussion.

5. Ask “why?” five times.

When you encounter a problem in class, you can help the class come up with a solution by using the Why? Five Times strategy. Ask the first why question (e.g., Why didn’t the class do well on the spelling test?), and after a response is given, ask why four more times (e.g., Why didn’t students study for the test?, Why didn’t students have time to study for the test?, etc.). The idea is that after the fifth question is asked, the problem will be solved.

6. Role-play.

Come up with an imaginary scenario and have kids work through the steps to solve a problem as a class. First, identify the problem and write it as a question (e.g., Why didn’t the science experiment work as planned?). Then brainstorm ideas to solve it and choose the best one to write as a solution statement. Finally, create an action plan to carry out the solution.

7. Go “hitchhiking.”

Practice creative thinking by collaborating on a storyboard. Write a problem on an index card and pin it on the top of a bulletin board. Then put different headings on index cards and pin them below the main card. Have kids brainstorm ideas that develop each of the heading cards and let kids pin them on the board. Encourage kids to “go hitchhiking” by building onto their classmates’ ideas.

8. Turn around.

A great way to focus on the positive in not-so-positive situations is the Turn Around thinking strategy. If a student forgets to bring his homework to school, you can ask, “What good can come of this?” The student can answer with ideas like, “I will change my routine before I go to bed.”

9. Put your pocket chart to good use.

Choose six completed questioning stems from different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and put them in a pocket chart. Choose some strips as mandatory and let kids pick two from the higher levels to answer aloud or in a journal.

10. Hold a Q&A session.

One way you can figure out how well kids are grasping critical-thinking skills is by holding question-and-answer sessions. Ask a variety of questions one-on-one or in small groups and take note of the levels of thought individual students use regularly and avoid over time. You can review your notes to help build more higher-order-thinking questions into your lessons.

FREE E-BOOK! How to Build a 36-Week Character Education Program. Support social-emotional learning through a critical thinking lens with 36 projects and activities plus tips, research, and more!

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