HOTS: NOT JUST FOR LITERATURE!
The use of Higher Order Thinking Skills – critical and creative thinking – in activity
design in English lessons is important for various reasons: students‟ intellectual development and effective language learning; the fostering of educational values; increase in interest.
Some main types of HOTS are the following:
Analysis: being able to distinguish between categories, generalize, exemplify etc.
Precision: being aware of vague, contradictory or tautologous statements in input,
and taking care to be precise themselves.
Logic: being aware of illogical reasoning in their reading and listening, and able
to think logically themselves
Divergent thinking / Creativity: brainstorming a large number of responses to
any cue or task
Original or lateral thinking: devising original, unconventional responses to
problems or tasks
Links to other classifications:
Critical thinking: Bloom‟s knowledge and application, but mainly „analysis‟ stage
Creative thinking: Bloom‟s knowledge and application, but mainly „synthesis‟ stage,
De Bono: „lateral‟ thinking
1. Critical thinking
Analysis (1): Classifying
a clock, a dog, a dress, a mother, black, a pen, bread, pants, a bag, a frog, red, boots,
a cat, rice, a man, a baby, pink,a teenager, a hat, a t-shirt,
a banana, a book, a sheep, meat, kids, a table, green, an elephant, sugar, white
Animals Colors Things Food Clothes People
Analysis (2): Generalizing
Here is a list of sentences.
1. Goodbye, I hope I‟ll see you tomorrow.
2. Look at those clouds! It‟s going to rain.
3. We bought our tickets, we‟re leaving at four this afternoon.
4. Beth may come to stay with us next weekend.
5. Our plane lands at 6 pm.
6. I‟m going to visit my grandmother on Friday.
In which cases is the speaker sure? absolutely sure? not sure? Can you make
generalizations about the grammatical forms?
What classes do the following belong to?
a hammer – a tool
sadness – December -
a table - winter -
a mother - biology -
a palace - tennis –
Analysis (3): Exemplifying from generalizations
Define the following items:
Example: A hammer is a tool which…
a cow cigarettes
a chicken a cinema
a carpenter Christmas
Precision (1): Inherent contradiction (oxymoron)
Do these make sense?
an objective opinion
a definite maybe
an exact estimate
the larger half
genuine imitation leather
(vocabulary, critical reading)
Precision (2): Tautology (repetitive redundancy)
What’s wrong with these?
1. A free gift
2. A new innovation.
3. We made too many wrong mistakes
4. He exaggerated the situation too much.
5. It‟s pure undiluted orange juice.
6. Let‟s meet together at six.
7. It‟s a biography of Kipling‟s life.
8. That is a basic and fundamental fact of life. 9. I commute back and forth every day.
10. The reason is because we were not ready.
11. The dog was completely dead.
(vocabulary, critical reading)
Logic (1): Underlying assumptions
What assumptions or emotive implications underlie these statements?
1. This food is composed entirely of natural ingredients, so it is good
for you as well as being delicious.
2. Abortion is the murder of an unborn child. 3. This method is scientifically proven to be effective 4. Thousands of people have already signed up: join now! 5. He always wanted to be famous: now he is famous, so he must be
6. Don‟t use this method: it is based on outdated and old-fashioned
7. Everyone knows that the earlier you start learning a language the
more successfully you will master it.
(critical reading, writing)
Logic (2): Reasoning: Premise and conclusion
What’s wrong with these statements?
1. These people drink a lot of red wine and have few heart problems:
so drinking red wine is good for your heart.
2. The boy told me he‟d left his book at home, but it was in fact in his
bag: so he was lying. That shows he is a liar.
3. The word „education‟ comes from a Latin word meaning „to draw
out‟, so education is about drawing out people‟s potential.
4. The roads in Israel are not very good, and there are a lot of traffic
accidents; that shows that traffic accidents are caused by bad roads.
5. She spends a lot of time reading, so she reads very well.
(critical reading, writing)
Logic (3): Ambiguity
What’s wrong with these statements?
1. We need more comprehensive schools.
2. Visiting relatives can be boring.
3. Iraqi head seeks arms
4. Ambulance man helps dog bite victim
5. Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
6. Juvenile court to try shooting defendant
7. Stolen painting found by tree
8. Two sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout counter
9. Kids make nutritious snacks
(linguistic awareness, contrastive analysis)
Logic (4): Evidence-based conclusions
What would be your conclusion from this evidence?
; She‟s wearing a white coat.
; She‟s wearing a stethoscope round her neck.
; I saw her examining a patient.
; She has a certificate that says she‟s a doctor hanging in her office.
; She was interviewed on television about a disease.
; There‟s a notice outside her door that says „Doctor…‟.
“She must be a doctor.”
; He never smiles.
; We sometimes see him cry.
; The funniest jokes can‟t make him laugh.
; He stays at home all the time.
“He can‟t be very happy.”
“He must be unhappy”
(grammar: must/ can’t of logical necessity)
Pair work: in turn, each partner tries to elicit a sentence from their list by providing evidence why this
must be so. Note that each partner has a different list, they won‟t find the answer on their own list!
1. There must be a 2. That child must be 3. She must have lost
lost. her house key. party at their
4. That woman must 5. That car must have 6. It must be very
be very rich. cold outside. been in an
7. Nobody can have 8. That boy must be 9. That television
in love. lived in that house program must be
for a long time. very funny.
10. They must have 11. Something terrible 12. The lesson must be
boring. gone to bed very must have
late last night. happened.
13. I must have 14. There must be mice 15. You must be very
in the house. happy! offended her
1. That girl must be 2. That man must be 3. He must have hurt
ill. from the U.S.A. his foot.
4. She can‟t possibly 5. He must have 6. It must be time to
be a dancer. missed the bus. finish the lesson.
7. You must have a 8. That dog must be 9. The air conditioner
cold. very old. can‟t be working.
10. That boy can‟t 11. The house must 12. Someone must
washed for some have been burgled have been baking
time. in the night. bread here.
13. The grapes can‟t be 14. This room can‟t 15. She must have run
ripe yet. all the way home. have been cleaned
for a long time.
Logic (5): Logical relations
Insert an appropriate conjunction: because / since, although/in spite of the fact
that, so/therefore, but/however/nevertheless, and, moreover/in addition,
1. She is a teacher … she hasn‟t had much training.
2. I know they are here… I saw them a moment ago.
3. She has ten children … she still has time to write books.
4. He is a good boss … he has a sense of humour.
5. We will come … we get an invitation.
6. We will certainly come … we have plenty of time.
7. He‟s lived in the US all his life… he must know English.
8. He is a good speaker … I don‟t like him very much.
9. There isn‟t much water in the desert … not many plants can grow there.
10. It seems there‟s plenty of time … we need to get started immediately.
2. Creative thinking
How many ways can you think of to use an empty tin can? (A pen? A piece of plasticine?)
How many adjectives can you think of to describe the noun road? (movie?
(grammar: adjective-before-noun, vocabulary) How many nouns can you think of that could be described by the adjective hard? (black? clear?)
How many things can you think of to say about this picture?
How many ways can you think of to solve this dilemma?
( oral fluency)
How many ways can you think of to compare a train with a car
How many endings can you think of for the sentence: If I had a million dollars…?
2. Originality, ‘lateral’ thinking
Think of ten ways to compare a tree with a piece of spaghetti.
Think of as many ways as you can in which a lesson is like a wedding.
Find six questions to which the answer is …twelve…(tomorrow / of course! / my mother)
Suggest at least three advantages of being an only child. (of not having a cellphone / of having no car?)
Name ten things you have never done.
Name six things that you can’t touch, and why.
Say six negative things about …a pen (a cat / English)
Say four NICE things about your friend, using negative sentences.
It‟s good to make classroom activities meaningful, communicative, personalized, „authentic‟; but it is not enough.
We need to think also about getting students to think more critically and creatively, whether we are working on the four skills, or teaching grammar, vocabulary or language awareness.
And, of course, when we are teaching literature. But not only.
Appendix: Relative clauses exercise. Using one of the lists, design together with the students definitions for each of the items,
using relative clauses.
Then distribute all the other slips; each pair/group gets a different slip. Tell them to
design a quiz: each item has to be defined by a relative clause (but tell them to be careful
not to mention the item itself on the paper!). Groups then exchange quiz sheets and try to
solve each other‟s quizzes. If they are stuck, they can ask the authors!
List 1 List 2 List 3 Australia a book a cow apples Bangladesh Canada August bread a chicken an airport a bedroom a carpenter an artist a baby cigarettes an African bottles coffee an alligator a bus a cinema air a birthday Christmas
List 4 List 5 List 6 a duck eyes Hollywood a doctor England a helicopter Denmark an elephant hands doors the evening a hotel December an emperor happiness a dream an engine a hairdresser a daughter economics history disinfectant eight a horse
List 7 List 8 List 9 the morning night a policeman Malaysia New Zealand a parrot a mother a newspaper a pen a motorbike a nurse a pear a map the news Poland matches a neighbour a post office money a nose a panda milk names pain
List 10 List 11 List 12 spaghetti a television wine shoes Thailand Wales Saudi Arabia a tomato the winter a shop tigers a wife a snake tennis a witch the sun a taxi-driver water the summer time the west a scientist a tooth walls