Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


310: Rock the Reading Block
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5 Creative Ways to Use Hexagonal Thinking

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If you’ve been hanging out for a while, you know hexagonal thinking is a powerful go-to strategy for discussion. Colorful, creative critical thinking? Yes, please! I hope you’ve had a chance to start experimenting with it in your classroom and see the results. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I suggest you hop over to Episode 127: How to Create a Hexagonal Thinking Deck, and get signed up below for the free digital hexagonal thinking templates and instructions that will make it easy to get started with this creative strategy. Ooh, and watch this quick video I did with Edutopia for a quick and easy visual primer!


Today we’re going to go deeper and take a look at diverse ways you can incorporate this strategy into your units throughout the year. Maybe you’ve tried it for novels (FABULOUS), and now you’re ready for the next step. You’d like to see more colors and ideas spread across your students’ desks as they dive into deep conversation.

So let’s take a look at some of the many options out there. Ready for some visual inspiration?

Use Hexagonal Thinking with a Film or Documentary

One of my favorite texts for hexagonal thinking is the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma. The film is so full of intertwining connections, and so directly relevant to students’ lives. But you could use hexagonal thinking for any video series or documentary as a way to help students process the content on a deeper level.

Notice how in the image above, there are different layers of hexagons. You can use this strategy with any type of hexagonal thinking, varying colors, sizes, and types (image vs. text) to achieve different goals. In this case, I used colorful hexagons to represent strategies brought up in The Social Dilemma that can help people manage their social media experience in a healthy way, grayscale hexagons for tech terms, platforms, and negative consequences of social media brought up by the film, and larger image hexagons to inspire conversation and connection around bigger themes and students’ daily lives.

Use Hexagonal Thinking with Shakespeare

Hexagonal thinking for Shakespeare can work on multiple levels. At first, it might just help students get everything straight – how do the characters relate to each other? Which characters function in which settings? What quotations are helping to bring out which themes?

Then as students begin to understand the play more, you can bring in more levels. How does the play relate to other texts you have read? What film elements can you bring into the conversation if you are watching clips? How does the play relate to modern life?

Use Hexagonal Thinking to Build Community

If you are starting out with a new class, or you’d like to take a moment to deepen your community midway through a term, having students create personal identity one-pagers is a wonderful way to help them know and understand each other better. Each student can create their own hexagon, including their name and whatever else you wish to suggest (strengths, favorite books, hobbies, dreams, favorite quote, favorite song, favorite subjects, dream job or place to live, etc.).

Once students have created their own hexagons, they can connect to each others’ in small groups, then the small groups can work to connect the whole community up on the wall. Students will discover things they have in common that they might never have expected, and you’ll have a powerful visual of connection up on your wall as you continue forward to build your classroom community.

Use Hexagonal Thinking to connect Novels with Students’ Lives

Whether you use hexagonal one-pagers or basic hexagons, taking time during a novel to do a hexagonal thinking activity with lots of connections to current community, national, and international events can help create a strong sense of relevance for your reading.

Use Hexagonal Thinking for Argument

If your students could use some warm-up activities before diving into writing an argument paper, a hexagonal thinking activity can really help. Give them time to fill hexagons with their thesis, big ideas, quotes, research, counterarguments, etc. and begin moving them around to create a complex web. Then have them snap a photo or glue or tape their hexagons onto a larger paper to act as the guiding inspiration for their writing. From here, some students may be ready to move straight into writing, others may prefer to build an outline based on their hexagonal thinking web.

A Quick Review

So there you have it, my friend. Hopefully seeing these diverse options has you grabbing the nearest flair pen and making a list of hexagonal thinking possibilities in your planner. There are so many options when it comes to hexagonal thinking, and students will only get better at effectively using this strategy when you return to it in different ways throughout the year.

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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