How to Increase Higher-Order Thinking through Reading

increase higher order thinking

Higher-order thinking skills (or HOTS) refer to the ability to think on a level that goes beyond retaining facts and knowledge. It requires children to not only remember what they have learned but to also make sense of and be able to apply new information in a practical or creative way.

Higher-order thinking equips children with the skills they need to become lifelong learners. It means they are capable of thinking critically and creatively to solve problems and make connections between new information and what they already know.

Reading is a fantastic springboard to help your child develop higher-order thinking skills. Here are some things you can do at home.

Ask the right questions – Sit down and talk to your child about books you’ve read together. Ask questions that prompt higher-order thinking (e.g. ‘Why do you think…?’, ‘Why was it better that…?’), rather than knowledge-based questions (e.g. What is…?, How is…?, Where is…?)

Encourage creative and opinionated discussion – Make it a daily habit to talk about books and reading. Prompt critical and creative thinking by offering your own opinion and ideas, followed by questions such as, ‘Do you agree with the actions?’, ‘What would happen in…?’, or ‘What would you suggest…?’

Brainstorm solutions to problems and dilemmas – Higher-order thinking involves the ability to apply knowledge in order to solve problems. Encourage your child to point out specific problems that a character is facing in a book and suggest solutions. A good idea is to brainstorm possible solutions on a large sheet of paper before finishing the rest of the book.

Draw pictures – The ability to use visual imagery (e.g. picturing what the setting and characters look like while reading a book) is helpful to children in a range of different learning areas, including science, geography and mathematics. Read books, or parts of books, that don’t include pictures, and ask your child to create drawings that represent different characters, scenes, or events.

Encourage your child to understand multiple viewpoints – After you read a story, talk about how certain events might impact different characters. A fun exercise includes writing or role-playing the story from a different character’s perspective. Developing empathy and understanding different viewpoints and consequences is an important part of higher-order thinking.

Write or draw an alternative ending – Help your child write and illustrate an alternative ending to a book you’ve read together.

Sort books into genres – Looking for common themes among a group is a way for your child to flex their higher-order thinking skills. Help your child arrange their books into genres (e.g. adventure, mystery, science-fiction, nonfiction).

Make a collection around a specific theme – After you’ve read a book together, help your child find objects, magazine clippings, or newspaper headlines that relate to a particular theme featured in the book.

Write a story based on just pictures – Find a picture book your child hasn’t read and cover the text using bits of paper attached to reusable adhesive (e.g. Blue-Tack). Go through the pictures with your child and help them write out the story for each page.

Reading Eggspress is the online education website for ages 7-13 that builds children’s literacy, comprehension and higher-order thinking skills with interactive lessons, e-books and activities. Try it today, along with Reading Eggs, with a special free trial here.

10 Ways to Foster Critical Thinking Skills While Reading

teaching critical thinking

When you’re reading a book together with your child, one of the most important things to do is to help them build their understanding of the story.

The words and pictures in a book can only tell us so much. Good readers search for deeper meaning and find ways to connect stories to their own experiences and the world they live in. A way of looking for these connections is to use critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is the ability to draw on existing knowledge and experiences, as well as existing problem solving skills, to develop a deeper understanding of a story.

During reading time, there are a few things you can do to foster your child’s critical thinking skills not only to help them understand the story at hand, but to prepare them for a lifetime of literacy success:

1. Choose books with familiar experiences. For example, if your child is starting a new school, choose a book about making new friends. This will let your child draw on their personal experiences and feelings to make sense of the book.

2. Add a little conversation to every book. Pause several times during the book to talk about important character developments or events in the book. Take a few minutes after reading to continue the conversation and reflect back on earlier comments.

3. Think aloud to solve problems in the book. Let your child hear your thought processes and encourage them to express their own thoughts and opinions. To encourage your child to solve a problem in a story, say something like, “I wonder what the princess could do to break the witch’s spell?”

4. Predict what will happen later. A good reader uses their knowledge and experiences to predict what might happen in the story. During reading time, ask your child to predict what might happen next. Or when you finish reading the story, ask your child what could happen in the future.

5. Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that allow for “yes” or “no” answers. Instead, opt for questions that begin with one of these six words: who, what, where, when, why, how.

6. Let your child make their own decisions. Instead of giving your child answers or telling them they’re wrong, allow your child to draw their own conclusions about a story and build confidence in their thinking skills.

7. Encourage thinking outside the box. When you have finished a book, ask your child to think of alternative endings or solutions to problems. For example, “What else could the pigs have done to get rid of the big bad wolf?”

8. Relate real life experiences back to stories you’ve read. Observe situations and problems you encounter in real life and find opportunities to relate them back to the stories you’ve read with your child.

9. Read aloud as a family. Reading together with more than two people invites several different opinions and perspectives. Pause at important parts of the story and let each person share their own thoughts.

10. Role-play stories through imaginative play. After you’ve read a story, gather a few props and act out the story with your child. This gives them a fun way to think about how one event leads to another, and why characters act and react the way they do.

By fostering your child’s critical thinking skills, you’re laying the foundation for them to make clear judgements, solve problems and think creatively not only while reading and writing, but in all other aspects of their life.