Higher order thinking involves the use of higher-level mental processes to regulate the more basic cognitive processes. Higher order thinking allows for the sophisticated integration of knowledge and the most effective learning and performance to occur. Creativity and brainstorming are two aspects of higher order thinking. Brainstorming involves the generation of ideas as well as the ability to decide which ideas are best. Creativity involves the process of thinking in a new or innovative direction. Brainstorming and thinking creatively are important components of a student’s ability to generate ideas.

Students who are apt at brainstorming and thinking creatively will find these abilities beneficial to many other endeavors in school including problem solving, decision-making, and the ongoing understanding of concepts.

Here are some strategies to help students develop their ability to generate ideas through a focus on higher order thinking.

Helpful Hints

  • Create a safe environment in the classroom that is conducive to risk taking and promotes innovative thinking.  
  • Encourage students’ pursuits of affinities, or areas of focused interest. Incorporating affinities into the classroom may not only benefit student’s acquisition of skills, but may help students to move into an area of thinking they had not yet explored.
    • Allow students to select materials, projects, reading texts, writing topics, spelling words.
    • Use high interest subject matter for creative activities. A student with an interest in baseball, for instance, may create a fictional story about a baseball legend or take a stance on a current issue, such as salary caps for professional players.
    • Set aside a space in the classroom where students can go to strengthen their strengths and gain expertise in their affinity areas (e.g., Jonathon’s Cinema History Corner, Joanna’s Geological Arena).
  • Allow students to create products using different formats, such as comics, TV scripts, magazine articles, and song lyrics.
  • Develop activities that promote students’ ability to think ahead, or predict possible outcomes. For example:
    • Implement collaborative activities in which students start with the same beginning and work in teams to predict outcomes, or all students start with the same outcome and work in teams to determine what led to the outcome, etc.
    • In writing use story starter activities, collaborative writings where each student contributes a certain portion.
    • In social studies have students make predictions about historical events before learning the actual outcomes.
    • Have students estimate answers to math problems and science experiments.
    • Stress the real-life benefits of estimating and reasoning to discourage the preoccupation students may have with just getting the answer.
    • Provide students with a strategy sheet for problem solving in which estimation, prediction, and outcome comparison are necessary steps.  
  • Incorporate guided higher order thinking activities in order to promote students’ creativity, brainstorming, and critical thinking. For example: In English, ‘Write an alternative ending to Wuthering Heights uniting Catherine and Heathcliff in life’, ‘Why do you think E. B. White called his book Charlotte’s Web instead of Wilbur or Zuckerman’s Farm‘’, ‘How did Sinclair Lewis poke fun at middle class America in Babbitt‘’ In social studies, ‘How might America’s history have been changed if Lincoln had not been assassinated‘’,’ How did events in post- World War I Germany lead to the rise of Nazism’ What lessons does Nazism hold for events in Europe today‘’ In mathematics, ‘How is trigonometry applied to the construction of bridges‘’ In science, ‘Are we making adequate progress in developing treatments for cancer‘’ (adapted from Sternberg & Spear-Swerling, 1996).  
  • Create a safe environment in the classroom that is conducive to taking risks, using imagination and thinking in innovative ways.  
  • Steps of the Creative Process (adapted from Wallas, 1926)
    • Preparation- At this initial step, students will need to familiarize themselves with the problem at hand or the product they wish to create. The goal of the Preparation step is not to solve the problem, but to become intrigued by it.
    • Incubation- At the second step, the task, problem or initial idea is put aside and no conscious effort is expended on the task. Creative people feel that this rest period may be a period in which the unconscious mulls over the problem.
    • Inspiration- During this phase, the creator has a strong sense of the solution and/or the path to take in order to solve the problem.
    • Verification- This step involves an intense period of work during which mental effort is expended to solve the problem or complete the activity in order to verify the initial inspiration.