A couple of weeks ago my friend’s son had a job interview at a multinational company and they asked him to give examples from his own life based on Arthur Clarke’s quotation above. This is a perfect example for the profile of workers the companies are looking for today. However, I don’t think there are many students around who can give satisfactory answers to this question.

In his famous TED speech, How Schools Kill Creativity, Ken Robinson says, “Creativity is as important in education as literacy; so, fostering creativity in education is not an option, it’s an absolute necessity.”  By analyzing, synthesizing and applying what they have learned, students can become effective creators or innovators, making original contributions to society.

Helen Buckley gives us the same message in her poem, The Little Boy. Unfortunately, what many children learn at schools even today are: competition, rules, control and conformity. They don’t learn much about the joy of exploration, the art of discovery, how to solve problems and how to innovate.

Effective creators are critical thinkers who are able to “think outside the box” and analyze systems to identify and solve problems. Therefore, effective student learning should always include critical and creative thinking skills. Competencies like creativity and innovation can be improved by the systematic teaching of thinking. The websites below may help you do that:

THE CRITICAL THINKING COMMUNITY provides resources on critical thinking for all levels. Please click on the Begin Here tab at the top. They also have a series of videos for students. This five- part series introduces deep concepts of critical thinking in a clear, engaging and accessible manner. They say while this video is intended for use in grades K-6, it may be useful for students of all ages. For information on the Center’s approach to critical thinking, please see Our Concept of Critical Thinking.

EDUCATIONAL WEB ADVENTURES: Eduweb’s award-winning creative portfolio offers exciting and effective learning experiences. You may try some of them with your students or these creative resources may inspire you to prepare your own web adventures for your students.

CRITICAL THINKING TOOLKIT: The University of British Colombia Learning Commons site offers valuable resources on critical thinking.

EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AND MOBILE LEARNING: This must-see blog by Med Kharbach provides resources on everything about being a 21st century teacher. Please click on All Categories section to see all types of resources, including critical thinking and creativity.

TEACHING THINKING & CREATIVITY is the website of Robert Fisher, a teacher, researcher and writer on teaching thinking and creativity. You can find sample stories and poems that you can use to teach thinking and creativity to your students. Talking Music: Music for Thinking with Children can be quite interesting to teach.

CRITICAL & CREATIVE THINKING is a directory of critical and creative thinking educational resources on the web.

THE GATEWAY TO 21ST CENTURY SKILLS contains a variety of educational resource types from activities and lesson plans to online projects and assessment items.

Poster created by Malaysian illustrator Tang Yau Hoong.

INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES FOR THINKING, COLLABORATION & MOTIVATION: Indiana University’s website on creativity, creative thinking and critical thinking.

WONDERAPOLIS: is an informational site that asks and answers interesting questions about the world. Every day, a new ”Wonders of the Day” question is posted, and each is designed to get kids and families to think, talk, and find learning moments together in everyday life. Great as a lesson starter and for inquiry – based learning.

Mike Fleetham’s THINKING CLASSROOM offers high-quality resources on thinking and learning.

MYCOTED CREATIVITY & INNOVATION WEBSITE: Dedicated to improving Creativity and Innovation for solving problems worldwide, Mycoted provides a central repository for Creativity and Innovation on the Internet as a summary of tools, techniques, mind exercises, puzzles, book reviews. Please read the quotations in Part 1 🙂

Please check my Pinterest board on Fostering Creativity and Innovation in Education for additional resources.

Creativity and innovation are the keys for effective learning.  Moreover, they are two important traits that all 21st Century teachers should have. I strongly believe that, as leaders we should provide models for our colleagues and as teachers we should model for what we want to see in our students. Therefore, we should constantly come up with new ideas to reconstruct and adapt our teaching methods to the learning needs of our students in order to engage them in the learning process and to maximize each student’s learning potential.

Designed by Krissy Venosdale on Flickr

What do you do to be an effective 21st Century teacher?

How do you influence others to challenge themselves to change and grow?

I would love feedback from you and I look forward to your comments.






De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is a simple but powerful method to teach students to think about problems from different perspectives, and to work collaboratively. In this process, thought is divided into six separate areas in order to develop greater clarity over each aspect. Encouraging students to try out roles makes it easier for them to understand the approaches to thinking through problems.

 Created on quozio.

This approach can be used to discuss:

In this PowerPoint Marge D uses six thinking hats as a reflection tool for students to evaluate their progress in learning.

Teachers who need more information on Six Thinking Hats can watch the video in the Skype English Blog.

Here is another resource on 6 thinking hats by Dr. Kaya Prpic from the University of Melbourne.

This PowerPoint presentation by Microsoft Partners in Learning may also be helpful.

You can find many free resources on Six Thinking Hats and any subject you want to teach at TES (Time English Supplement), one of the  world’s largest online network of teachers. It’s a free subscription site and a great place for teachers who are looking for innovative ideas and resources.

Primary Resources is another website where you can find free resources prepared by teachers on every subject. Click on Learning Styles Resources for posters on Bloom question stems and six thinking hats

If there are other resources that you would like to share on Six Thinking Hats or how you are applying this technique in your classes, please let me know.

SOURCE: Rock.Paper.Scissors Blog


The six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, from the lowest to the highest have become a useful guide for teachers while preparing their lesson plans and writing objectives. When students are analyzing, evaluating and creating, in other words, using the higher order thinking skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy, deep learning will occur. This will enable them to retain information, perform better on standardized tests, and most importantly, achieve the ultimate goal of becoming lifelong learners. However, this doesn’t mean that teachers should ignore the first three levels and only focus on high level thinking. Studies show that a combination of lower and higher questions is more effective than the exclusive use of one or the other. Below you can see the old and revised versions of the taxonomy.

“The graphic is a representation of the NEW verbage associated with the long familiar Bloom’s Taxonomy. Note the change from Nouns to Verbs [e.g., Application to Applying] to describe the different levels of the taxonomy. Note that the top two levels are essentially exchanged from the Old to the New version.” (Schultz, 2005) (Evaluation moved from the top to Evaluating in the second from the top, Synthesis moved from second on top to the top as Creating.) Source: http://www.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm

STUDENT FRIENDLY BLOOM’S TAXONOMY QUESTION STEMS: These question stems in Reading Sage by Sean Taylor are very helpful in teaching students high-order thinking skills. You can post them on the walls of your classroom and want your students to identify the types of questions you asked them for any reading task according to Bloom’s taxonomy. Here is an example.

As teachers we shouldn’t only focus on asking questions to our students using Bloom’s taxonomy, we should also teach them asking questions using Bloom’s question stems. Once the students get used to identifying these question types, as a further step, you can ask them to prepare questions according to the taxonomy about the text they are reading. This is a very useful activity for them to internalize high level thinking skills.

Janet Giesen’s LIST OF QUESTION STEMS ACCORDING TO BLOOM’S REVISED TAXONOMY includes tasks for each level.

In this slide show, Michael Ball explainshow you can help students develop better thinking skills through higher level questioning to become critical learners. Some teachers claim that the taxonomy – especially the high level questions  – are too difficult to teach the young learners. Mr Ball disproves that by applying Bloom’s Taxonomy to Goldilocks and the Three Bears in a very simple way.

EDUCATIONAL ORIGAMI is a blog and a wiki, about 21st Century Teaching and Learning by Andrew Churches. Andrew, who is   a member of the 21st Century Fluency team developing a framework for teaching and learning in the 21st Century, offers great resources on Bloom’s taxonomy. If you scroll down, you will also see other valuable resources on 21st century learningdigital citizenship and visible thinking in Andrew’s blog.

Bloom in Digital Peacock by Kelly Tenkely at ilearntechnology.com.

You can watch BLOOM’S TAXONOMY REVISED ACCORDING TO HOMER SIMPSON on Teacher Tube, an online community for sharing instructional videos.  In this video Homer Simpson demonstrates the six levels of cognitive thinking according to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.


Larry Ferlazzo has a section in his blog on Bloom: THE BEST RESOURCES FOR HELPING TEACHERS USE BLOOM’S TAXONOMY IN THE CLASSROOM, which will provide you with all the links you need. Please also see CYBRARY MAN’S BLOOM’S TAXANOMY PAGE.

How do you use Bloom’s taxonomy in your classes? Please share in the comments section below.

Credits to Keely Terkely at http://ilearntechnology.com


Lesley Dodd in her article, Learning to Think: Thinking to Learn, published in the Lancashire Grid for Learning gives us valuable information on how our brain works. I think everyone should read this to be able to successfully incorporate thinking skills into their lesson plans.

In her article Lesley gives examples of brain – break activities, which, I believe, especially primary teachers will find very useful.  The parts on learning styles, thinking skills, questioning techniques to develop comprehension are for everyone to read.


Source: Taolife Studio by Gaye Crispin

After reading the part on questioning techniques to develop comprehension in Lesley’s article, I prepared this worksheet part 1 and part 2 for our 6th graders, which I think you may find useful.

The art of asking questions is as important as answering them if we want our students to internalize high level thinking skills. Please note that thinking is driven by questions rather than by answers. To think through or rethink anything, one must ask questions that stimulate thought. Another reason why student questioning should be emphasized in education lies in the fact that questioning sparks curiosity.

Like any skill, asking questions can be taught and practiced. If we want our students to be lifelong learners, we should train them to be inquisitive explorers.

What resources are you using to teach effective questioning? Please share them with us.


Created on quozio.

Last year I attended ECIS November Conference in Nice with a group of colleagues from my school. On the first day of the conference, I attended a full day workshop by Dr. Lesley Fern Snowball on Critical Thinking Skills in an Inquiry-based Classroom.  We started the workshop by discussing why we should include thinking skills in our curriculum. The ability to think critically, creatively and compassionately is of fundamental importance as:

  • A tool for an inquiry-based  curriculum 
  • An essential life skill
  • A fundamental element of global citizenship.


Lesley pointed out that the 3 C s have become 4 in the 21st century:

1-      CRITICAL THINKING: Thinking deeply, analyzing.

KEY QUESTION: What does this really mean?


2-      CREATIVE THINKING: Thinking broadly.

KEY QUESTION: What are the alternatives?


3-      COMPASSIONATE THINKING: Thinking considerably.

KEY QUESTION: How will this affect others?


4-      COLLABORATIVE THINKING: Thinking collectively.

KEY QUESTION: How do my ideas interact with those of others?


You can download this poster in its original size by visiting Mentoring Minds website.

During the workshop, Lesley emphasized teaching thinking skills explicitly to make learners aware of themselves as ‘thinkers’ and how they process/create knowledge by learning to learn (metacognition).  She also focused on the significance of using graphic organizers as the human brain naturally looks for connections between old and new information and processes information most efficiently in chunks. She recommended using De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and Bloom’s Taxonomy across all grade levels to improve high level thinking skills.

In the afternoon session, we first did a jigsaw reading activity on Cinderella. Then she teamed us in groups of six and asked us to discuss whether Cinderella should leave or stay when the clock struck twelve. Each team member put on one of De Bono’s thinking hats to analyze the situation from a different perspective. You can try this activity with your primary students to help them learn how to use De Bono’s thinking hats.

Here you can see some of the handouts from the workshop Lesley kindly shared with us. Enjoy:)


Brain research shows us that learning is highly dependent on positive emotions. Try to create positive learning environments and situations with low stress and a high-challenged frame of mind. Please note that creativity thrives when there is challenge, enjoyment, interest, engagement and involvement.

During the learning process give them challenging tasks to think and create new ideas building upon what they have learnt. For example, ask them to recommend changes to something and explain why they have made such recommendations. (How might you change the structure of your textbook to make it more student-friendly? Or, how might you change today’s lesson so that future students can learn more easily from it?) Challenge them to invent machines, slogans, theories, solutions, products, advertisements.

Learn as much about each learner as possible. Back to School and All About Me activities given at the beginning of the school year is a good opportunity to find out about the learner profiles of your students. This information will enable you to plan your lessons to cater the needs of all learners in your class and to form groups in a productive way while you are desingning cooperative and collaborative learning activities.

Our brains learn better if we are given the big picture first. Before starting each lesson tell the students what they are going to learn, why they are learning it and what the outcomes/expectations will be. You can even ask them to analyse how what they are learning might link to jobs, ideas, actions, beliefs, other subjects they are studying or relationships. Or, where it might have come from originally and why it is important for students to know.



Present material in an intelligence-friendly way. Decide what is truly important and present that content in a number of ways, addressing all the relevant intelligences. Make sure that students with different learning styles and interests will benefit from your lessons. Keep as much movement in the classroom as possible not only to engage your kinesthetic learners but also to increase memory and concentration. Try using manipulatives and other concrete objects in your lessons for the visual learners in your classrooms. Auditory learners will benefit from ‘Discuss with your partner/group’ type activities. Remember that variety is the spice of attention, so try to use different strategies during the different phases of the learning process.

kinesthetic learners

Source: http://www.pti.edu


Build curiosity for learning. Learning will never take place if there is no curiosity. Ask questions to ignite curiosity. For example, ask them to predict the content of a text by reading the title and looking at the pictures or the ending of a story they are reading.

Try to activate multiple senses. For example, ask the students to visualize the characters or a scene in the story they have read and then to dramatize it. They can also write a poem about the theme of the story, design an alternative book cover, write a letter to one of the characters (young learners can make puppets of the characters) or create a video, a comic strip, or a board game about it or an ad to promote it. Alternatively, they can make a storyboard of a narrative poem they have read and then write a story/script/play or create an animation about the poem. They can also write a letter to the poet or create a digital poster about it adding appropriate visuals and music.

Teaching students metacognitive strategies has proven to help improve learning. Giving explicit attention to thinking and learning helps them transfer their learning to different contexts and enables them to understand themselves better as learners. Therefore, students should be taught study skills such as organization, time management, strategies like mnemonics or SQ3R and they should be encouraged to use mind maps, concept maps, graphic organizers.

Research shows a strong correlation between the effective use of graphic organizers and academic achievement. They help us see relationships and make abstract concepts more concrete as we visualize them. Please remember: Our memory functions much better if we store data in several regions of the brain. Ask your students to process the information they are studying by using graphic organizers to brainstorm or compare and contrast ideas, concepts, etc., to infer meaning (read between the lines), to make predictions, to distinguish fact from opinion, to analyze cause and effect and to solve problems.

Please make sure to choose graphic organizers that match with the learning goals and your students’ needs. Before they start a project on any subject, give them a KWL, KWFL or a KWHL chart. Ask them to fill in the last column of the chart at the end of the project and the rest at the beginning.

The use of these graphic organizers helps students connect information meaningfully and gives them time to reflect on the new information. Apart from the websites mentioned above, Read Write Think offers digital graphic organizers with lesson plans on how to use them as well as other great resources.

Use relevance to increase the level of attention. Our brains weren’t designed to remember facts that aren’t relevant to our lives. For true learning to occur, we have to transfer what we have learned from academic to real world applications. For example, you can have your students respond to the texts they have read by text-to-text, text-to-self and text-to-world questions/activities that require students to make connections with other texts they have read, their life experiences and their prior knowledge to retain the new information. Ask them to write personal response-type journal entries on the stories they have read. Pairing fictional texts with non-fiction texts with a common theme will also make learning more meaningful. For example, if the setting of the story they are reading is Antarctica, they can start by reading a non-fiction text on Antarctica and/or doing a research project on Antarctica.

During the learning process, the learner must be engaged, focused and allowed time to process the new information. Activities like Wait-time, Think-Pair-Share, and Three-Minute Pause promote achievement.

Give them multiple forms of review to assess their progress in a variety of ways and to reflect on their own learning. During the learning process (not only at the end of it) give them opportunities to evaluate their learning and that of their peers’ in order to monitor how their learning is progressing and set personal goals for future learning. With the help of self-assessment, students are expected to become critical, active thinkers who can take responsibility for their own learning. It helps them perceive the process and growth of their language learning; thus giving them the tools to examine and improve their own learning methods. Through peer-assessment, students can be models for each other by sharing their work. It helps them learn from others’ strengths. They can also learn how to accept and give productive criticism and praise. Moreover, it is useful for comparison purposes. Students can compare how they view their work with how their peers evaluate it, and then compare them all with their teacher’s evaluation. Rubrics and checklists should also be given to students to help them reflect, review and evaluate their performance on a completed learning task, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses and taking steps to improve themselves. Encourage your students to keep learning logs / journals to reflect on their own learning.

If you want your students to remember something make it memorable by including music, movement, drama, costumes, hats, art work, etc.

If students are given opportunities to interact with the information they need to learn actively by using the strategies above; in other words, if they discover, interpret, analyze, process, practice, and discuss the information instead of memorizing it, this information will be stored in the long-term memory. Another way to increase retention is giving students opportunities to rehearse learned material by teaching or tutoring others.

Some of the handouts in this post have been created having been inspired by Mike Gershon’s wonderful resources: The Plenary Producer and my favorite, Plenaries on A Plate. Mike is a popular blogger and resource creator. Mike’s resources have generated about 1 million views and downloads through the TES Resources Web site and the Guardian Teacher Network. Please check them as they will offer you many more ideas to enhance your students’ thinking and learning skills. Don’t forget to click on the f5 key before you start. 🙂


Considering the number of students who feel disengaged and fall behind because the way they learn doesn’t match with how they are being taught, we should all personalize learning; in other words, modify instruction to individual students’ learning needs, interests and learning styles rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We all know that all programs should be based on the learner, learner-centered and process-oriented approaches rather than teacher-centered approaches to enable learners to become aware of their abilities and potential in the learning situation. Of course, engaging diverse minds with multiple activities and engaging each student as he or she enquires into problems is not an easy task to do especially for teachers who have neither been educated nor trained that way. Luckily enough, we have technology as a great source to provide more flexible learning opportunities for our students and the new discoveries in neuroscience give us valuable information on how our brain functions. Therefore, as a first step to personalize learning, both teachers and students should understand how learning takes place.

ASCD’s A Lexicon of Learning defines brain-based learning as:

Approaches to schooling that educators believe are in accord with recent research on the brain and human learning. Advocates say the human brain is constantly searching for meaning and seeking patterns and connections. Authentic learning situations increase the brain’s ability to make connections and retain new information. A relaxed, non-threatening environment that reduces students’ fear of failure is considered by some to enhance learning. Research also documents brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to grow and adapt in response to external stimuli.



From University of Washington Neuroscience for Kids


The first chapter of the book, Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and a Classroom Teacher by Judy Willis gives excellent information on Memory, Learning, and Test-taking Strategies. Please try to read it even though it is a bit long because it gives very useful information on how the brain works, how learning occurs, and what kind of activities teachers should implement in the classroom to enhance learning. The handbook, Six Tips on Brain-based Learning and the resources published by Edutopia may also be useful.

We should consider the principles of Brain-based Learning and Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences while preparing  our lessons. Considering the fact that each brain is unique and people have different learning styles, we should all help our students discover and develop their talents to become self-motivated and competent lifelong learners.



From University of Washington Neuroscience for Kids


Below you can find some brain-based activities you can implement in your classes to enhance learning:

BGFL MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES: Students can take the test on Multiple Intelligences after reading the information on learning styles. You can use the results to differentiate learning. You can use VARK LEARNING STYLES INVENTORY for the same purpose as well.

LDPRIDE.NET: This website provides an explanation of what learning styles and multiple intelligence are all about, an interactive assessment of learning styles, practical tips to make your learning style work for you, and information on learning disorders. They also provide links to LD sites, which, I think, teachers who believe in personalized learning will find very useful.

Education World, a website all administrators and teachers should frequently visit, offers ideas to implement Gardner’s theory in the classroom.

One activity to raise students’ awareness on multiple intelligences and different learning styles can be to ask them to prepare a mind map, on multiple intelligences after reading the information in the following websites:

GARDNER’S THEORY OF MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES: Please scroll down to see the links below in the Related Articles section.

MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES: This article published by Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, offers tasks, activities and assessment for each type of learner as well as information.

Your students can watch this video called Brainworks on how the brain functions on University of Washington’s TV channel or you can try some of the activities in Neuroscience for Kids with your students.