“Higher order thinking” are that new IT words we hear in education.  But what do it really mean and how does ‘higher order thinking’ look in pre-k?

First things first, take the quotations off every time you say those words.  Say it with me, higher order thinking… Now that you don’t look like Joey using quotation marks lets talk about what the words mean.


In laymen terms higher order thinking is what we all do when we think deeply about a problem or situation.  Further, higher order thinking, at it’s highest levels, refers to the thought process of critical thinking.

Higher order thinking is leveled into six different levels.  Each level up is harder and requires more abstract thinking.

Level 1- Knowledge- Remembering Information

Level one refers to basic, common knowledge. and how well students can remember information.  Questioning in this level refers mainly to skills based learning.  Nothing new, just what you know or can plainly see; e.g. require memory of facts and date.  Students will identify, name, count, repeat, etc.

Level 2- Comprehension- Understanding Information

Level two, like level one, is knowledge based learning.  Students will be able to answer questions that require summarization of work. They will understand facts and ideas.  Students will compare, explain, and summarize.

Level 3- Application- Applying personal knowledge/ information to different scenarios

Levels three and four are skills based learning.  E.g. students must use their knowledge of information and the skills to find a solution.  Students will be able to answer questions about a story/activity that require more thinking of different options. Students will explain why/why not, dramatize their answer, identify or relate to a character.  Student will also learn new  skills for application in various new settings.

Level 4- Analysis- Analysis of information from data and experiences

Level four is skills based learning.  Students will be able to answers questions that require inferring. Students will recognize similarities and differences, recognize change in books (characters/setting/etc.), experiment with ‘what if’ scenarios, infer, and identify motives/causes.  Student will also learn a new skill for application in various new settings.

Level 5- Synthesis- Evaluation of Information

Levels five and six are affective based learning.  Students will be able to answers questions that require expressing opinion, judging the decisions of self and others, defending and critiquing their choices and the choices of others.  Students should be able to defend their decisions (why/why not).  Students may have a shift in their way of thinking (they’re values, attitudes, interests may change).

Level 6- Evaluation- Creation

Like level 5, level 6 is part of affective based learning.  Students will be able to construct/destruct, design, and create their own answers to problems.  Students will present and defend their own judgements, and the actions, of others.  Students may have a shift in their way of thinking (they’re values, attitudes, interests may change).

How does higher order thinking (H.O.T) look in pre-k?  Well, like everything else important in ECE, H.O.T is play based.  You have to make sure that these questions about intangible problems are understood in the context of play.  Otherwise, your kiddos are going to look at you with the blankest of blank stares.

The questions have to be conversational, short, and have multiple rebounds for student interaction.  You should not be feeding them the questions or the answers.  After all, it is up to them to evaluate, synthesis, and create the solutions.

Since this has been a hot topic s of late, and most importantly, because effective teaching leads itself to student success in H.O.T.  (and who doesn’t want student success?)  I have created a new Higher Order Thinking packet.  This packet is full of questions, templates, and games to help you, help your students, become analytical, critical, and creative thinkers!

Watch the preview below!

Cinthya Quintana
Cinthya Quintana

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