Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


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How to Use Hexagonal Thinking for Argument Writing

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So maybe you’ve begun to explore using hexagonal thinking to launch critical thinking conversations about novels, plays, films, or podcasts. That’s fantastic! You might be wondering if this innovative tool could also work for helping students gather and enrich their ideas when it comes to the argumentative writing process.

And the answer is yes! Hexagonal thinking is a great tool for planning a piece of writing. Today, we’re going to explore how you might set up a hexagonal thinking activity the next time your students are writing an argument paper.

OK, let’s get into hexagonal thinking for constructing quality argument writing. If you’re new to hexagonal thinking, hop over to Edutopia and check out this video – it’s a wonderful (and quick) introduction.

hexagonal thinking

Step #1: Start with Categories

When it comes to prepping for a piece of writing, kids need to gather their building blocks. By giving them a template with those very building blocks outlined on it, you make it easy for them to start with a strong foundation.

For beginning argument writers, these categories might just include a thesis, main points, and quotations. As your writers advance, you can add categories like counterarguments, related stories or current events, and research sources.

hexagonal thinking in argumentative writing

Step #2: Show an Example

It always helps to provide a model. Try showing a fun example like the one below, which “argues” that unicorns are real (with completely made up evidence). Students can see how the building blocks come together on the hexagons.

hexagonal thinking

Step #3: Students create their Hexagons

At this point, students can either type right into your template if it’s on Google slides and then print out their hexagons, or write their ideas onto blank hexagons after you provide a list of the categories. It’s OK if they don’t fill them all in initially, they may think of more things they want to write down as they continue with the process.

Give them time to fill in and cut out their hex cards.

hexagonal thinking

Step #4: Making Connections using hexagonal thinking

Now that students have their deck, they should place their thesis in the middle and work out from there. They’ll be thinking about which main points should be near each other, which quotations fit best with which main ideas (and there may be crossover), how and where to integrate stories and counterarguments, etc. This is a great time to walk around and ask questions about the reasons behind their placements.

argumentative writing tips using hexagonal thinking

Step #5 Adding Notes and Sharing Rationale

Once they have built their web of connection, they can begin explaining their connections. This could look like taping their web to a piece of paper and writing in the intersections. It could look like adding sticky notes here, there, and everywhere. It could look like talking to a partner and explaining their web and answering questions.

hexagonal thinking

Step Six: Outlining Papers with hexagonal thinking

Once your students have put their ideas down onto hexagons, moved them into a web of connections, and explained those connections in writing and/or to a partner in conversation, they will have done a lot of the work of writing an argument paper already. All that’s left is to create a sequential outline based on what they’ve already done.

If you have beginning argument writers, you can show them a fairly templated structure for their outline – intro, point, point point, conclusion. If you have more advanced writers, consider showing them something like in the image below, with types of paragraphs they can mix and match into their outline, based on what they’ve created in their web.

Their final paper might look like intro, story, key point, counterargument, key point, key point, source paragraph, conclusion. Or it might look like intro, key point, story, key point, key point, counterargument, conclusion. They can let the web of connection they’ve created guide them in creating a sequence that really pulls their concepts together most effectively.

hexagonal thinking for argumentative writing

Ready for action? I hope you give this strategy a try in your classroom right away! Don’t worry if it doesn’t go perfectly the first time – it takes practice to become an effective hexagonal thinker, and that’s OK. Your kids will learn by doing, and learn by seeing how others use the tool.

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  • Great idea. Can’t wait to try it out.
    BTW, when I when I was looking at he blog on 11-27-21, the right hand pane was wigging out–stuttering, jiggling, and scrolling. That can’t be good. I refreshed the page a couple times and it continued.

    • Thank you so much, Rillene! Did you get a chance to try it out? How did it go? Thanks for your help with the web issue too – I am asking my designer to help with that.


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