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Higher Order Thinking Questions for Kindergartners

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  • 0:00 What is Higher Order Thinking?
  • 0:50 Level 1 & 2 -…
  • 2:00 Level 3 & 4 - Applying…
  • 3:29 Level 5 & 6 -…
  • 4:56 Teaching Higher Order…
  • 5:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde
Thinking isn't something most of us actually think about - it's something we just do. For educators, how students think is as important as what they're thinking about. Sometimes, it isn't enough to simply remember and understand; higher order thinking is necessary at every grade level, starting as early as kindergarten.

What Is Higher Order Thinking?

Higher order thinking questions are based on an understanding of the differing way humans think. Thinking skills are sometimes basic, requiring simple memorization, and sometimes deep, requiring processing and deep thought. Using Bloom's taxonomy, an educational model of organizing and defining cognition, they include six strands, organized from low to high: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

You'll notice the higher level skills are grounded in the lower. All skills are necessary for learning, in some form. Teachers determine the level of cognition by how information is presented and questions are asked. Let's take a look at how to question kindergarten children using higher order questions.

Level 1 & 2: Remembering & Understanding

For level 1 skills, students are asked to recall information. Typically, this lower level question calls for rote memorization, such as simple math facts or spelling patterns. When preparing questions for kindergarten students for level 1 questions, focus on simple verbs young students will understand, such as circle, match, point to, choose, count, show, tell, underline, and write. For example:

  • State the main idea.
  • Name the important events in the story in order.
  • Count the objects in the group.
  • Point to the pine cone.

Level 2, understanding or comprehending, asks children to explain concepts. Students must have mastered level 1, recall, to be fluent in level 2, understanding. Used to check and reinforce Level 1 understanding, level 2 questions use verbs such as explain, tell more about, predict, and rewrite. For example:

  • Tell the main idea in your own words.
  • In your own words, tell what happened first, next, and last.
  • Explain why the numbers are in this group.
  • Tell what you notice about the pine cone.

Level 3 & 4 - Applying & Analyzing

Level 3 requires the child to demonstrate the ability to use and apply learned information in a new way. Continuing to build on levels 1 and 2, level 3 digs deeper by taking recall and understanding to the level of making sense in tangible ways. At this level, children show their ability to apply by performing skills requiring them to construct, show, examine, review, sort, organize, manipulate, and develop. For example:

  • Show details that support the main idea.
  • Construct a new ending to the story.
  • Sort the numbers into the correct group.
  • How do the pine cones' characteristics make it different?

Level 4, analyzing, asks kindergarteners to compare, contrast, examine, experiment, and question their thinking. Building on the combination of concepts, level 4 pushes students to take their knowledge and stretch it out. Keep in mind these skills are not happening in isolation but rather taking previous learning to a deeper level. Many of the questions are multi-step and contain verbs such as infer, conclude, or investigate. For example:

  • Compare details, and decide which are important to the main idea.
  • Examine what is the same and what is different about two stories.
  • Which number will come next?
  • Where do you think this pine cone came from?

Level 5 & 6 - Evaluating & Creating

In level 5, students are asked to justify an opinion or decision. Using all prior knowledge, children think deeply about the subject matter and debate, appraise, judge, and decide. Although levels 5 and 6 may seem too difficult and high-level for young children, kindergarten students are capable of thinking on this level and develop many interesting, thoughtful opinions. Ask children at this level to argue, select, decide, and defend their thinking. Once on this level, examples of questions are:

  • Argue which details are important to the main idea.
  • Judge which is the best summary of the story.
  • Why does that number come next?
  • Defend why you think the pine cone came from that tree.

In the last level, level 6, children create a new product or point of view. A combination of all skills, this level allows the student to use knowledge to construct new meaning by creating, designing, developing, formulating, and writing. Be careful to note that this is not a culminating project. In fact, the skills are not meant to be sequential or used in any organized format. More about that later. Guiding questions for kindergarten students are:

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