Teaching Higher Order Thinking Skills

Teach Inference

Teach students to make inferences by giving them “Real-world” examples. You can start by giving students a picture of a people standing in line at a soup kitchen. Ask them to look at the picture and focus on the details. Then, ask them to make inferences based on what they see in the picture. (Also: teach inference with commercials) 


Teach How to Cite Textual Evidence

Ask students what evidence is. What are the advantages of strong evidence? Does it always convince people to agree with you? Then ask, “Why is it important to cite textual evidence in your writing and discussions about what you read?” Make sure students understand the meaning of quotations, paraphrases, summaries. You need to use textual evidence when making logical inferences. You’re trying to prove that your idea is correct. Model the process. Explain that doing this will support our ideas and make our argument stronger.

  1. State your idea. Give the specific argument you’re trying to make about the text. (If you’re responding to a question, make sure your idea restates the question.)
  2. Cite what part of the text led you to that idea. You can paraphrase the author’s/character’s words, or you can point to a direct quote. (In the ___ paragraph, the author says…. The text states/describes…. For example…. The author explains….)
  3. Explain the evidence. Explain how the text you referred to supports your idea. (This shows…. This is because…. This means/reveals/illustrates…. This highlights the difference between….)
  4. Be prepared to respond to follow up questions.

Teach the Use of Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers provide students with a nice way to frame their thoughts in an organized manner. By drawing diagrams or mind maps, students are able to better connect concepts and see their relationships. This will help students develop a habit of connecting concepts.

Teach Close Reading and Annotation

Read once for comprehension. Students should be able to identify the key ideas of the text and circle any words they don’t know after the first reading. The second reading is to pay attention to language, narrative, syntax, and context. Language. Ask yourself: why did the author choose these particular words? What emotions do the author’s words make you feel? Are there any words the author repeated or emphasized? Narrative. Is the author an expert in the field (non-fiction)? Who is the narrator (fiction)? Context. Does the author have a bias?

Teach Higher Order Questioning

Give students the tools to be able to consciously ask higher order questions. You can actually teach them about Bloom’s Taxonomy and Costa’s Levels of Inquiry. The following ideas come from this video.

  1. Costa’s Levels of Inquiry. Use the question starters to form a question related to the text.
    • Level 1: recite, list, define, observe, describe, identify, complete
    • Level 2: contrast, analyze, compare, reason, explain (why), infer, synthesize
    • Level 3: if/then, imagine, predict, hypothesize, speculate, apply a principle
  2. Verb starters. Choose a verb from one of the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy to incorporate into a question. You will have had to spent time going over each verb’s meaning and how to use it prior to students independently forming questions.
  3. Frayer model. Use the Frayer model students have already done for an idea or word used in the text. Further examination of those ideas can be used to spark a question
  4. Notice.” As they’re reading, they make observations of the text, recording quotes that stand out to them. Form a question around something that creates a reaction inside you while you read.



Different Discussion Structures:

  1. Students come to class having prepared at least three questions regarding the text. During a group discussion, students pose one of their questions and others respond. After group discussion, students pair up. Students in each pair choose a question to give to their partner. This time, each student responds in writing. Go around the class and have students read the question they were given and their answer.
  2. The teacher poses a few questions to the class. The first few minutes are spent doing a “quick write” individually. Then they discuss in table groups. Finally the entire class has a discussion.