Thinking Strategies


The Goal of this Resource

A cohort of teachers and literacy leaders across the province met a number of times to discuss how to support Disciplinary Literacy in Grades 5-12, how to foster student engagement and how to choose the right strategy at the right time. The cohort developed a list of 40 engaging and effective thinking strategies that are designed to have students do more of the processing, thinking and learning which means less emphasis on the teacher doing most of the 'heavy lifting' in any given day or lesson.

This resource was written with the principles of quality instruction and formative assessment in mind as well as intentionally incorporating language tied to literacy, numeracy and competency development as required by Alberta Education.

The strategies were sorted into FIVE PHASES of lesson and unit planning - relevant to any subject:

  1. How do we activate learners?
  2. What roadblocks do we need to anticipate?
  3. How will we help students acquire and extract key information?
  4. How might we infuse opportunities to deliberate and challenge new learning so we foster critical thinking in our classrooms?
  5. How do we help students consolidate what they have learned, communicate key ideas and perhaps even take action (e.g., social justice or societal impact outcomes)?

Zooming in on the Thinking Strategies

Each strategy has a dedicated page on this site in one of the five learning phases where we believe it can be best used to activate thinking. Some strategies are very specific and small in scope. Other strategies represent a larger grouping of ideas and those pages will highlight a variety of tools and techniques that fit within the 'strategy'.

Strategy pages are filled with a variety of information that will help teachers thoughtfully implement the strategy including:

  • A full descriptor a each strategy including what it is, tips for implementing it, how it might be modified, assessment guidelines, etc.
  • Videos and/or online examples of the strategy in use within content areas
  • Graphic Organizers and Blank Templates to save teachers time!
  • Links to research studies, websites, and articles for more information

The strategies were sorted into five phases for ease of use of this resource. However, teachers need to use their professional judgement to decide where the strategy makes the most sense in their lesson planning. For example, a WORD SORT can be a highly effective tool to introduce new vocabulary before launching an activity or reading a text. Students can sort words they know and do not know, make predictions what the text will be about and can be very helpful for the teacher to see how much background knowledge students have. Alternatively, a word sort can be used at the end of a unit to consolidate learning, apply and/or transfer understandings and review of key terms before a summative assessment.

The Thinking Strategies Placemat is available for download and/or printing. It aligns to this website and the strategies featured within. It is also a perfect at-a-glance memory jogger featuring old favourites and new strategies to try with students. Make multiple copies and place a Placemat wherever you plan: on bulletin boards, in binders or at home. Please share with colleagues!

The Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium and the Calgary Regional Consortium co-developed this resource in 2017-2018. Many thanks to representatives from the following districts who were invaluable partners in the creation of this project:

Battle River School Division

Black Gold Regional Schools

Calgary Board of Education

Edmonton Public Schools

Foundations For the Future Charter Academy

Golden Hills School District

Northern Gateway Public Schools

Pembina Hills Public Schools

Parkland School Division

Rocky View School District

St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Catholic School Division