Cramlington Teaching and Learning Model

-This issue we focus on our thinking touchstone

Having a range of thinking tools available to us is very useful. They help ensure the engagement and stimulation of a wide variety of students. But, there has to be more…..

More, in this case is a challenge to achieve for teachers and students alike. The holy grail for teachers training young people must be to develop independent thinkers who can select the most appropriate tools and strategies so solve problems.

To get to this point two things must happen. Firstly, students must acquire a working knowledge of thinking tools and techniques. Secondly, they must be given autonomy to choose, try out, modify, fail and succeed. We must surrender intellectual control to our students if they are to progress.

In our results-driven educational world the final grade all too often determines success or failure. The skills, decisions and the thinking processes that we use in everyday lives determine success after formal education. Many job adverts demand qualities such as analysing, adaptable and interpersonal skills, team player. But after school young people are rarely given the opportunity to explicitly develop these. We can set up thinking skills lessons to develop skills in our students. The lesson focus must sometimes shift from solely content to include the process of learning.

Sharing example of process is a worthwhile exercise. ‘Is it likely Dickens sat down and wrote The Pickwick Papers in one sitting? No, he would have drafted, refined, took advice, and rewrote before arriving at the finished book.’ The process of development should be celebrated. Thinking tools can play an important role in developing the learning of our students.

The steps to the thinking skills Holy Grail

1. Plan lessons so that the students get to use a huge variety of tools and techniques over time

2. Allow students to evaluate the use of these tools

3. Allow students to reflect where else these tools could be useful

4. Illustrate to the students the process through which they are passing

5. Plan a whole school approach, especially a consistency of language

6. Plan lessons that give students a direct choice of tools and techniques.

7. Plan schemes of work in which these skills are specifically developed.

8. Plan open-ended activities so that students can plan a route and make choices.

The Fox Thinking Tool

The Fox thinking tool is a useful tool to develop thinking skills whilst students work collaboratively. It was developed by Pete Fox of the Critical Skills Program to improve the quality of students’ discussion by providing a structure. It is designed to help students think convergently, arriving at important learning points; and then divergently, to apply this new knowledge.

Steps of the Fox Thinking Tool

1. Students in groups read a variety of articles, one article per student.

2. Students write on a section of doughnut to summarise their article.

3. Students write on a new section of doughnut about another aspect of their article – perhaps pros and cons.

4. Students combine pieces together to form a doughnut. A list is compiled of “facts” that they agree upon from their completed doughnut.

5. Teacher compiles a list of agreed “facts” taking one from each group in turn.

6. Students then given stimulus questions to apply this knowledge more widely.

This tool can be very motivating and inclusive. Most students will not submit their part of the doughnut with little or no information on as they very visually let their team down. Students using this tool have retrieved half-hearted contributions to add to them when they have seen what other members of their group have produced.

De Bonos’ thinking hats

Like all brilliant ideas, De Bono’s thinking hats are simple. They help frame different ways of thinking about a topic. They can be used individually, in groups or be sequenced for particular tasks. They are summarised in the table.

Questions using Bloom’s taxonomy

Plan questions to progress through these in each lesson, or to target students of different abilities with appropriately challenging questions.

Some question stems are included to show what kinds of questions may be asked at each level.

Question dice

Use question dice to train students to generate questions.

Stick these words onto either a pair of dice or onto hexagonal spinners and your off generating new text. This is often good when used with a section of text you want the students to study.

Stick these words onto either a pair of dice or onto hexagonal spinners and your off generating new text. This is often good when used with a section of text you want the students to study.

A simple metacognitive exercise of classifying these questions against Bloom’s taxonomy will help highlight the thinking happening during lessons.

Debriefing Thinking

Without a debrief the thinking skill activity is simply an entertaining way of learning facts. With a debrief the students not only reflect on what they have learned, but how and why.

This is the time during lesson when most learning will take place. But this requires careful planning from the teacher. A good start point is the use of a common language between staff and the students. The following words are helpful. Share them and allow time for students to discuss how they thought about a task. Students find it motivating when they see how many ways they have been thinking.

Top tips for teachers when debriefing.

1. Allow sufficient time to be thorough in this process.

2. Plan a structure for debriefing, for example how long will you discuss the content and how long will you discuss the skills and process the students have been through.

3. Plan enough open questions and allow students chance to discuss in groups before answering, either as a group or individually.

4. Encourage students to answer at length – wait time after a response will illicit more from the student.

5. Be prepared to go with the flow. Do not set a rigid agenda, as there will be many successful ways of thinking about the same task.

6. Train the students to use the thinking language so that can explain their ideas in detail.

7. Value student input, summarise their ideas, make connections to the lesson’s outcomes and to wider learning. Analogies and real life examples can be useful here.

8. Give feedback that is evaluative on the process of learning. Students can be trained to do this too.

9. Stimulate students to ask questions during this time, the 5Ws are useful here.

10. Use the thinking spiders hierarchy to motivate students to higher levels of thinking.

Two ways to use Andersen’s taxonomy

The first way is fairly straightforward. Make cards from the thinking words on this leaflet. Once you have established what thinking has been happening in the class spend a moment attaching these cards to the appropriate level of thinking.

This will require some discussion to correctly assign them. It will be evident where your students have been thinking and what the next step should be.

Another way is a little more interactive and can be done in smaller groups. Students use Bloom’s taxonomy die or spinners to select a question. They then take turns to answer the question associated with that level. These devices can be made topic or subject specific. A whole class plenary at the end can be used to find out which of the levels were most difficult to tackle and how other groups managed it.

Activities to stimulate thinking

Odd one out

Simply provide a selection of numbered keywords upon the topic being studied.

1. Topic

2. Jaffa cake

3. Tunnocks teacake

4. Ginger snap

5. Garibaldi

6. Hob Nob

7. Rich Tea

8. Mars Bar

Then select these in groups of three and ask which is the odd one out. Asking why they think this will not only get your students to consider the content of the subject, but also the thinking behind making this decision.

For example: Using the above table which, out of 1, 4, 8, is the odd one out?

The answer is clearly 4 as 1 and 8 are tasty chocolate bars that have a certain amount of flex in them, whilst a ginger snap is a rigid tasty biscuit. The beauty of this activity is that there is often no right answer. The important thing is to analyse, decide on an answer and justify your choice. The thinking might require a description by recall, a visualisation or the product itself.

 Students may juxtapose, examine and test their criteria for groups. Differentiating between item by comparing and contrasting can lead to high quality judgements.

An alternative method of extending the discussion about the content knowledge is to ask the question “What would you have to do the odd one out to stop it being so?”. This stimulates a review of what they know about the subject.

To answer the question here you could coat it in chocolate, individually wrap the ginger snaps or reform it into a bar shape.

There is no reason to make them so clear cut as often the murky ones will lead to a more in depth discussion of what the students do and do not understand.

Example 2: Using the above table which, out of 4, 5, 6, is the odd one out?

• could be 5 as this is a oblong shape while the others are round

• or it could be 5 as this is the only one named after an Italian patriot. Showing that to answer an apparently simple question requires consideration of what is known.

• or 6 as this biscuit does not involve a plant as part of its general appeal, although the more astute learner might realise that a chocolate Hob Nob could be classified as such as chocolate is derived from cocoa beans. Not to mention the wheat. This exemplifies why it is important to set some boundaries to keep thinking focussed on the correct issues. A metacognitive debrief is sensible after this activity.


Is similar to Odd One Out as it uses the key words of the topic and requires the students to really consider their understanding of it. The game in itself is simple. Students have to describe the keyword without saying it or the other listed Taboo words while the other student has to guess what the word is.

The difficultly level can be adjusted by outlawing non-topic references so that the students must talk about the actual content of your subject For example you could describe a wagon wheel by saying it was used in the wild west on a stage coach, it turned around in circles enabling it to be pulled by a large horse, it has spokes on it” With not one reference to the iconic biscuit itself.

Picture from memory

This is a cracking way to start a lesson, it encourages students to discuss in detail, ask questions of each other and consider memory techniques. All you need to do is

1. Select a picture, diagram or graph that you want your students to study.

2. Group the students into teams, around 5 works well.

3. Students are given one sheet of plain paper to recreate whatever is on your sheet.

4. Students nominate their first candidate to come up and view the image.

5. Restrict this by time. About 30 seconds is usually challenging.

6. Send the students away to draw what they saw!

7. Encourage the students to describe what they saw to their team.

8. They then send a different student to view the image.

9. Keep going until each student has been.

While debriefing this bear in mind some of the strategies that the students may have employed, some may have divided the sheet into grids, you do “top left”, while others may be more specific “there is something next to the circle, what is it?” A relatively simple activity can lead to some complex discussions of how they did it.


These intriguing activities are used to generate discussion by making students hypothesis, suggest or deduce. They must “unpick” information by classifying it and then use it to reason an answer to a big question, such as “should the speed limit be reduced to 20mph in built up areas” Here’s how to set one up.

  1. Get the big question right! Make sure it is interesting and will lead to debate and that you can provide potentially conflicting information for the students to use. Remember this is the content of your lesson so combination of facts and opinion is useful.

2. Do not reveal the question at the start.

3. Provide around 20 pieces of information cut up in an envelope

4. Allow students 5 minutes to read through this information and classify tit in any way they see fit.

5. Review groups into which the information has been placed. How did they go about doing this? The debrief language is helpful here.

6. Now reveal the big question and ask them to rearrange the information to respond.

7. Review again using the debrief words.

8. Students can now complete an Apply to Demonstrate activity where they can use this information along with their own ideas to show their new learning. For example they might write a letter to persuade someone that your opinion about the bigquestion is correct.

Hyleres thinking maps

These are simply a series of generic tools that allow the students to interact and think about a topic in different ways. Don’t be taken in by their apparent simplicity. They will develop your students’ thinking about topics and, with consistent and regular use, they may well hold the key to the transfer of thinking skills between lessons and subjects.

Whole part map – To allow a topic to be broken down and show the links between ideas.

Circle map with a frame of reference – This encourages the students to think about other peoples’ point of view. The frame of reference is the box around the outside of the circle, which provides space to brainstorm.

If the example changed its reference to a 10 year old who walks to school rather than a taxi driver the responses would change dramatically.

Comparison alley – A tool for comparing and contrasting that makes the similarities and differences clear.

Adapted from TEEP

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