Hexagonal Thinking & Sketchnoting During Keynote Session

10 Reasons to Try Hexagonal Thinking

Hexagonal Thinking Resource

I made this to try out some Hexagonal Thinking activities. The colored tags could be used for different concepts within the thinking map such as: potential solutions, resources, people involved, or anything else that makes sense in your activity.

1. It is simple.

Hexagonal Thinking is simple yet powerful. Students can make their thinking visible by writing ideas on a hexagon and forming connections.

2. It enables empathy.

As groups rearrange the hexagons in a variety of ways, they begin to see how others view the world–the very definition of empathy.

3. It brings new ideas to light.

I wasn’t convinced of this until I tried it, but the shape of the hexagon itself allows for more creative connections due to the number of sides and the way your eyes and brain search over the whole thinking map to seek connections. When you make a list or work in boxes, the linear thinking that follows can be quite effective and speedy, but for creativity–hexagons win.

4. It stimulates rich discussion.

Communication skills are strengthened since the thought experiment ideally requires collaboration. Students must communicate and petition one another while they reposition ideas and ultimately come to a consensus.

5. It makes big problems digestible. 

The original context for hexagonal thinking as far as I can tell was actually in the corporate world. Author, Arie de Geus wrote about using the problem solving strategy in his book, The Living Company. Bite-size pieces not only help solve corporate headaches, but also give students structure and space to make sense of big concepts.

6. It gets students moving.

Discussions can get pretty lively as students reposition different hexagons to represent new connections.

7. It gives everyone a voice.

Students who may not feel comfortable responding to a question in front of the whole group are able to contribute and discuss connections in smaller groups as the map unfolds. English language learners and students with exceptionalities can participate at their level of comfort too.

8. It is not reserved for a specific content area or age group.

The driving question could be related to any topic for any grade level. Just be sure to have a question or problem with enough meat to stimulate a variety of perspectives and solutions.

9. It can become a visual support for future learning.

Students can refer back to the thinking map either as a visual on the classroom walls, or as a digital artifact. This can help bring back mental models around the concept or inspire new connections, continuing learning on topics far beyond their scheduled coverage time.

10. It makes metacognition tangible

The physical act of writing down an idea and placing it into the connected thoughts of peers is powerful and supports not only individual metacognition, but also nurtures a collaborative culture of thinking.

Hexagonal Thinking Sketchnotes

Why I can’t stop talking about Visible Thinking

Many approaches to encouraging better thinking are abilities-centric, but Visible Thinking is about fostering dispositions of thought, creating a Culture of Thinking, and bringing students to the center of the learning conversation.

Visible Thinking Quote

I think it is vital to share the message and practices of Visible Thinking, especially as they apply to innovation and creativity in the classroom. Visible Thinking promotes the simultaneous development of non-cognitive and cognitive skills, something few other instructional frameworks can truly claim. The strategies are also not dependent on a certain subject area, curriculum, student demographic, or technology infrastructure. Visible Thinking can be implemented in a class with one iPad, a thousand Chromebooks, or ten sticky notes. There are no excuses to limit adoption.

One of the basic tools of the Visible Thinking framework is a series of Thinking Routines, simple patterns of conversation, or protocols, which encourage a spirit of inquiry, reflection, and metacognition. I created the resource below to help the teachers and students I work with as they pursue a Culture of Thinking. My plan is to use it when introducing Thinking Routines as part of an exploration activity. I am hoping these routines will become part of their reflective toolkit, a natural part of their questioning strategy and, eventually, a given in their classroom culture.

Visible Thinking Prompt Picker

This can be cut and folded into one of those fortune teller things or you could punch a hole and put a spinner on it and have teachers or students explore the routines they land on and share where they might be best used.

For the VT Research Buffs: I know they aren’t really prompts, but I thought the word protocols might scare people.

Clarification: Since I plan to use this when teaching about the routines the randomized selection works. When using to actually select a routine to use… the randomized deal doesn’t so much work since there are more appropriate times to use each routine. Proceed with caution–you’ve been warned. 

The Visible Thinking framework and Thinking Routines can be found at http://visiblethinkingpz.org