Thinking Skills

Thinking Skills

Becoming a Thinking School  

Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School is an accredited Thinking School. By becoming a Thinking School we are displaying our commitment to putting thinking at the heart of everything we do.

Our aim is that the whole of our school community will be thinking reflectively, critically and creatively and that this process will engage, excite and challenge all our students.  We hope to encourage autonomous learning and to provide our students with a range of higher-order thinking tools and strategies that they can apply across the curriculum.

In September 2010 we introduced a “Thinking Skills” course for all Year 7 students. This has a core focus upon the Habits of Mind and also explores the use of De Bono’s Thinking Hats, Thinking Maps and Thinker’s Keys.

Year 7 have responded with great enthusiasm to the course and crucially have begun to apply many of these concepts to their other subjects. We have also incorporated the core ideas from our “Thinking Skills” course across the curriculum, so that students throughout the school can develop their thinking skills.

We have three key “Thinking Tools” that are used, when relevant across the curriculum. These are the Thinking Hats, Thinking Maps and Thinkers Keys. Teachers are using Blooms Taxonomy as an effective way to develop questioning within lessons. All of these tools help students to improve their metacognitive skills.

Thinking Tools for QE

Thinking Maps

The Thinking Maps provide a useful way for students to organise information through different thought processes.

Thinker's Keys

A whole range of different activities - particularly useful as starters/plenaries that can be used in all subjects to get students thinking! 

De Bono's Thinking Hats

A way of approaching problems that ensures you think about the problem in every possible way.

Habits of Mind

What is a habit of mind? 

A Habit of Mind is knowing how to behave intelligently.

A Habit of Mind is knowing what to do when we are unsure or unclear of the next step or when we don't know the answer.

A Habit of Mind means having a disposition towards behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known: contradictions, dilemmas, uncertainties.

21st century learning is not about gathering information but about knowing how to act on it, knowing what questions to ask of it and being able to think critically about content and origin. The Habits of Mind give us the behaviours that shape effective inquiry and encourage independent learning.

The Habits of Mind: 

  • Persisting
  • Managing Impulsivity
  • Listening with Understanding and Empathy
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Thinking about Thinking (metacognition)
  • Striving for Accuracy and Precision
  • Questioning and Posing Problems
  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  • Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
  • Gathering Data through All Senses
  • Creating, Imagining and Innovating
  • Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  • Taking Responsible Risks
  • Finding Humour
  • Thinking Interdependently
  • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

The Habits of Mind give learners of all ages and at all stages a framework for autonomous, lifelong learning.

Teaching Habits of Mind

Valuing Habits of Mind ourselves.
Direct Instruction - teach each of the habits in turn, allow students to develop their own understandings and examples.
Habits of Mind across the curriculum - eg which ones will help a student of mathematics? 
Habits of Mind central to all learning, eg target setting.

Thinking Maps

Thinking Maps, developed by Dr David Hyere are visual learning tools that students can use to help them with their learning.

The 8 Thinking Map tools correspond with eight fundamental thinking processes.


  • Students can learn more effectively and more efficiently.
  • Thought processes are represented similarly across the curriculum.
  • Students gain effective tools to use throughout their lives.

Bubble Map (describing)

The Bubble Map is used for describing using adjectives. It is a tool for enriching students' abilities to identify qualities and use descriptive words.

"Use vivid language to describe the characters in the story".

Circle Map (defining in context)

The Circle Map is used for gathering ideas and for showing prior knowledge about a topic by providing contextual information.

"Tell me everything you know about pollution and how you know these things".

Flow Map (sequencing)

Used for sequencing and ordering information.

"Explain the steps you followed to solve the mathematical problem".

Brace Map (part/whole)

The Brace Map is used to analyse physical objects.

"Analyse the structure of a computer to determine its parts and subparts".

Tree Map (classifying)

The Tree Map is used for classifying things and ideas.

"Classify the instruments of the orchestra".

Double Bubble Map (comparing and contrasting)

The Double Bubble Map is a tool for comparing and contrasting things.

"Examine the similarities and differences between two geometric figures".

Multi-flow Map (cause and effect)

This is used for showing and analysing cause and effect relationships. In the centre is an important event. On the left side of the event is the cause and on the right side of the event are the effects.

"Discuss what might cause tooth decay and explain some of the effects of poor dental hygiene".

Bridge Map (seeing analogies)

The Bridge Map is a tool for applying the process of seeing analogies.

"Choose two historical leaders and show their relationship to important movements or conflicts".

Thinker's Keys

Thinker's keys, developed by Tony Ryan place emphasis on the development of innovative and creative thinking.

They are a set of 20 different activities that can be adapted to suit a wide range of subject area. They are designed to engage and motivate students and promote critical and creative thinking.

Thinking Hats

Thinking Hats, developed by De Bono, allow particular focus upon different types of thinking. The method is particularly useful for problem solving in any subject.

There are 6 different hats, each representing six different ways of thinking about a problem. Each "hat" looks at a situation or a problem in a different way and will therefore offer different suggestions/questions/conclusions.

Each type of thinking is useful, but a balance between "hats" needs to be found in order for a solution or agreement to be reached.