DeBono's Thinking Hats

Have you heard of DeBono's Thinking Hats? This is a system often used in group discussion and individual thinking. I enjoy using it for critical thinking and looking at a topic in various perspectives. I try and incorporate Socratic Seminars and debates into my classroom, and this system lends a hand nicely to get students thinking in all kinds of ways and directions. 

In this post, I will go into detail how I use it with elementary students. The kids get excited about using it, especially when I tell them that it is used in the business world to make decisions! The main benefit, in my opinion, is removing the ego from the decision. Kids tend to get caught up in a particular point of view during a debate. For example, "I think this is a BAD idea and don't agree with it!". DeBono's Thinking Hats forces students to look at all angles and facets of the topic. 

With my third-graders, we take these hats VERY seriously. So seriously, that we wear actual hats. For an eight-year-old, visualizing the hats and literally taking them on and off is truly makes the concept "click." I purchased eight hats at the Dollar Tree for this activity and covered them in colored painters tape to make them match the correct hat color. 

I have done a whole group lesson with two different books: The Man That Walked Between the Towers and Milo and the Magical Stones. I chose these books because characters are making choices in them. I LOVE The Man That Walked Between the Towers, but elementary school students will veer off and start telling their parents September 11th stories. However, I think it is important that we remember the World Trade Towers and the New York City skyline for what it once is. It is not only an important discussion, but also a good way to help the kids remember that history is constantly evolving, and today we are looking at a snapshot of a point in history. 

I use whole-group the first time that I do DeBono's Thinking Hats with the kids. We read the book together, then look at the choice a character made. For example, in The Man That Walked Between the Towers, we specifically look at the man's choice to go on the tightrope. Would you have done it? First, we put on our Red Hat (yes, I literally put on the big, red Dollar Tree hat!). What do we feel about this? What emotions does it create? Are we excited? Anxious? Scared? The students and I discuss, then move onto the next hat. 

At the very end of the lesson, we make a decision as a whole group. Would we have chosen to walk across the tightrope now that we have looked at all angles of the decision? 

After students have had practice with DeBono's Thinking Hats, I give them an opportunity to work in a group with limited teacher assistance. I divide the kids into groups of three. Each group gets a different book where the character must make some sort of a choice or big decision. They go through the same steps as our whole group lesson, and make a decision on their book. 

Have you used DeBono's Thinking Hats in the classroom before?

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