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.

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