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.

Is Your Child Reading For Meaning? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

reading for meaning

Reading for meaning, or reading comprehension, refers to an understanding of what’s been read, and is one of the five essential elements of reading instruction.

Parents play an important role in developing their child’s comprehension skills, which takes practice and patience. To better understand whether your child is reading for meaning, you can start by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Is my child paying attention? Ask your child literal comprehension questions, which are questions that require an answer that can be found directly in the text, for example, ‘What was the rabbit’s friend called?’ This will encourage your child to pay close attention to key information in the text. Reading Eggs is carefully designed to build reading comprehension in young children (see how it works with a free trial here).

2. Can they draw conclusions based on what they have read? Ask inferential comprehension questions, which are a bit trickier and require answers that are less obvious. These questions encourage your child to draw conclusions based on what they have read, for example, ‘Why do you think the rabbit felt afraid to go into the garden?’

3. Are they asking questions? Proficient readers know when they understand what they read and when they do not. If your child is reading for meaning, they may sometimes ask questions about what certain things mean. This shows that they are thinking about what they are reading.

4. Are they able to stop and answer questions? Asking your child questions helps them focus their attention and think actively about what they are reading. Ask questions about the text while you are reading together, such as, ‘Why do you think the wolf did that?’ or ‘How do you think the little boy feels now?’

5. Can they make connections between what they’ve read and what they already know?  Observe whether your child is able to relate what they are reading to prior experiences and knowledge. They may even make connections between what they are reading currently and what they have already read in the past.

6. Can they make predictions? Stop periodically while reading to encourage your child to predict what might happen next. Readers who read for meaning are able to take what they have already read and make predictions about the story before it ends.

7. Can they visualise and describe what they’ve read with few illustrations? After reading a text, ask your child to summarise what they’ve read or illustrate the events. Practise doing this with books that include little or no illustrations.

8. Can they support their interpretations or ideas about what they’re reading by giving examples? Talk to your child about the text and ask them how they think or feel about it. Ask them to give you examples in the text to support their interpretations, for example, ‘What part of the story makes you think that?’

9. Can they describe the character’s moods and motives? Ask your child to talk about how the characters in the text might be feeling, or why they have taken specific courses of action.

10. Can they identify the main idea in the text? When you’ve finished reading, ask your child to tell you what happened in their own words. Observe whether they can determine the most important information in the text.

Reading for meaning is a big part of learning to develop a lifelong love of reading. To help your child build their comprehension skills, read our previous blog posts Building Comprehension Skills and Overcoming Comprehension Difficulties.

Visit to see how your child can learn how to read while having fun with Reading Eggs!

Overcoming Comprehension Difficulties

child comprehension difficulties

Comprehension is the essence of reading – a skill that is not only critically important to the development of reading skills, but for lifelong learning as well.

Two aspects of comprehension

Children who experience comprehension difficulties usually struggle with one or both of the following skill subsets that are needed to develop strong comprehension skills:

  1. Difficulty recognising and decoding individual words in a text.
  2. Difficulty understanding the meaning or message that the text conveys as a whole.

The inability to decode individual words in a text is generally directly related to struggles with understanding the meaning of a text as a whole. Both skills are critical to comprehension.

Tips to improve word decoding skills

Developing word decoding skills is a lot about developing vocabulary. Some helpful tips include:

  • Make flashcards of new words – writing down any new words that your child encounters in the form of flashcards that they can flip through regularly.
  • Keep a word journal – an exercise book where your child can write down any new words and their meanings.
  • Discuss the meaning of words – when reading together, pick out particular words and explain their meaning.

Tips to improve text understanding

  • Ask questions – before, during and after reading. Questions like ‘What do you think the book is about?’ What interests you about the book?’‘Where is the story set?’ ‘Who are the main characters?’, ‘What happened when…?’ ‘What do you think will happen next?’
  • Use graphic organisers – which are written exercises that allow children to visually map out different elements of a story. There are countless graphic organiser templates available for free online. These will help your child organise their thoughts to provide a clearer picture of the different elements of a story.

Visit to see how your child can learn to read while having fun with Reading Eggs!