The Higher-Order Thinking Skills scheme by Prim-Ed, is a programme full of activities designed to support the development of critical thinking skills in children from 1st to 6th class. The programme is designed around Bloom’s Taxonomy of skills, and has built a range of activities to develop each of the critical thinking skills our pupils will need.
Critical thinking skills or higher-order thinking skills, are those elusive behavioural verbs we try to include in our planning for school. Each of the HOTS books covers a full taxonomy of skills with more than 50 verbs, from: analysing to inferring to predicting, right through to visualising. If you covered every skill throughout the year, the children would be flying it and the inspectors would be delighted with you!
So what is in the book? Well, at first glance the list of skills does seem quite long (more than 50 skills), however there is a very handy page that gives a simple, concise, child-friendly definition of each skill. The ‘How to use this book’ information for the teacher, provides a basic lesson structure for each activity. At the beginning of each lesson, you explain the meaning of the skill, read through the tips for tackling tough tasks and finally the children can work on the activity. Each worksheet is linked to a specific skill and curricular area. The programme is presented as a set of approximately 100+ activities organised by skill and linked to specific curricular areas (mainly Maths, English, Science, Geography, SPHE). Each activity is presented as a photocopiable worksheet. Many of the activities could be stand alone worksheets, that would not require prior knowledge or teaching. For most of the activities, a certain level of literacy would be required to access the tasks if they were being completed independently. The tasks get progressively more challenging throughout the book and call on more critical thinking from the children.
There are many very useful approaches and activities in this scheme. I think it would be important to have a look at the sample activities before purchasing, to ensure that it would suit your class and their general level of ability. As the tasks change each time, there would be a certain level of teacher input and explanation required.
For my own class next year, I will use the 3rd Class book (Book 3) in a few different ways. As part of my yearly scheme, I will pick out the activities from the book that link to my plans and use the activities to support the skill development for the children. Secondly, I will identify some of the activities that would work well as early finisher tasks and photocopy these onto cards for my busy box/early finisher box and use it to extend my higher ability children. Finally, I will certainly use some of the activities for EPV pack activities or work for substitute teachers. I am sure there are a wide variety of more creative ways to use this programme, but I would encourage people to look at the samples on-line to ensure the programme will work for them before investing! If you can twist your principal’s arm to purchase it for the school, that would be a great way to access the scheme!
One of my favourite elements from the programme is the importance it places on encouraging ‘productive struggle’ and that there are more than one answer / no single correct answer. These growth mindset approaches are hugely important attitudes to develop in a class. I also love that there is finally a programme designed to specifically focus on the teaching of skills. I am often guilty of prioritising content over skill development which I hope to reverse next year. Having this programme on the shelf to dip in and out of will provide me with a toolbox to avoid slipping into old habits.
In summary, I think this would be a lovely resource for a school to purchase. Each teacher would implement it and use it in a different way, but with creative approaches it is a great way to further the development of the higher-order thinking skills that are so crucial.