Cognitive Learning Activities for the Classroom

Instructor: Eric Campos

Eric has tutored in English, writing, history, and other subjects.

Problem-solving skills are one of the chief aspects of a strong education. Learning ways to think and resolve issues and complex problems will help students with different facets of life. Read on to learn about a few cognitive learning activities you can use in the classroom.

Objectives Of Cognitive Learning Activities

All cognitive learning activities are geared towards pushing students to work through different problems and stimuli. The goal is to get them thinking and applying problem-solving strategies without the use of preparation or steps that lead to an answer. You want to craft activities that will make your student apply logic, creativity, and close examination on the spot to produce an answer. Cognitive learning essentially relies on five principles: remembering, understanding, applying, evaluating, and creating. Below is a breakdown of each principle and some activities students can do that correspond to each.


Activities that rely on remembering ask for the student to recall previously learned information to complete the task at hand. This might be a great review for the beginning of class to see if students are comprehending previous lessons. A couple of activities might be:

  • Creating a timeline of important events from memory
  • Make a game of reciting poetry or important writings
  • Writing a paragraph or blurb detailing what they remember from last class


Understanding activities directly engage students to see how they interpret information. This is a particularly broad category that draws on students being able to analyze information from different angles and to recognize, interpret, and classify it. Here are a few activity ideas:

  • Defending a point of view, or debate
  • Creating a list of examples
  • Classifying types of processes or events


Part of problem-solving has to do with applying specific skills and knowledge to produce the proper result. Push your students to rely on what they've learned and figure out ways to succeed through fun activities:

  • Have the students create an effective learning game themselves
  • Solve problems or answer questions listed on the board
  • Have students demonstrate procedures in front of class


This principle focuses on analyzing information and making judgments based on it. Students will weigh information based on criteria previously learned. A few activities for your students can include:

  • Constructing a graph to illustrate certain information
  • Having students develop a questionnaire to group or gather information at hand
  • Creating a pros and cons list


Cognitive learning is centered on adapting to new stimuli and constructing methods to solve problems or address needs. Creative activities rely on students to produce original ideas to address prompts, organize thoughts, and devise a means of their own invention that will help them answer problems. These are just a few creating activities:

  • Write an original poem
  • Perform or write a scenario demonstrating themes or illustrating specific ideas
  • Write a manual or guidebook demonstrating important information

Teacher Resources offers additional resources to help you implement cognitive learning into your lesson plans. The Developing Critical Thinking Skills lesson will give you some context on how to approach problem solving and critical thinking skills with students. This is a great way to begin formulating your own cognitive learning activities. You can also check out the Authentic Learning Activities lesson for some ideas on developing classroom activities that will keep your students eager to learn and engaged!

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