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Put On Your (Six)
Thinking Hats






Think left and think right
and think low and think high.
Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!"
-- Dr Seuss, from Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

I am the product of an education system that challenged students to "think harder," to "think again," and frequently, to "put our thinking hats on." Although most of us understood the message behind our teachers' directions, no one had a clue about how to power-up our thinking.

With the advent of brain-based learning, fewer educators hand out meaningless thinking platitudes to their students. Instead, they direct students toward such powerful thinking tools as Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats. This colorful strategy exposes learners to six different styles of thinking and helps them look at a problem from six different perspectives.

The Six Thinking Hats approach can be used to address almost any problem-solving activity you might encounter in the classroom. Assigning each thinking style a color serves as a visual cue to help students recognize the thinking skill they are using. The six different hats students might wear, and the kinds of thinking they represent, are briefly described below:

  • White Hat. Discuss the facts and other objective information about the problem.
  • Red Hat. Share feelings and emotions about the issue.
  • Black Hat. Present negative aspects, or worst case scenarios, regarding the situation.
  • Yellow Hat. Consider positives, or advantages, of the situation.
  • Green Hat. Consider creative ideas that come from looking at the problem in a new way.
  • Blue Hat. Sum up all that is learned.
Posting a permanent Six Thinking Hats display in your classroom will provide an ever-present thinking tool to use when you and your students tackle any kind of problem.


Recently, one of my colleagues had an opportunity to put the Six Thinking Hats thinking tool to use. In order to prepare students for an upcoming achievement test, a small group of students had to be pulled from phys ed class once a week to work on writing skills. Those students were upset -- phys ed was their favorite subject, and they didn't want to miss it. The teacher, realizing that she needed "buy-in" from the students, decided it was time to look at the problem from different vantage points. Over the next 40 minutes, she deliberately led her students through a discussion that focused on the different perspectives represented by the Six Thinking Hats. By the end of the period, her students

  • were able to separate the facts from their feelings;
  • had an opportunity to express their disappointment, frustration, and anger;
  • learned how to recognize the positive things that could come from preparing for the writing exam.
  • were able to brainstorm ways they could make their tutorial time an enjoyable experience; and
  • were able to summarize what they learned from this experience and to envision ways to use that learning in the future.

As a teacher who gets to tag along on my students' thinking journeys, I often discover nuggets of revelation as my students try on different thinking hats. Like a fly on the wall, I get to hear them express their innermost feelings, suggest innovative solutions, and discover profound insights. Just as the kids do, I often find myself changing my mind as they think aloud.

Edward de Bono suggests that we need to be thinking about "what can be," not just about "what is." Using the Six Thinking Hats frees students to move past obvious problems to creative solutions.

Six Hats Solves All Kinds of Issues

The following are some of the problems we have solved using Six Thinking Hats:
* Incomplete homework.
* Summer school attendance.
* Disagreements during administration/staff "think-tank" sessions.

When trying to solve those problems and many others, the Six Thinking Hats approach has helped set the stage for a variety of viewpoints to be shared and for some uncommon solutions to be considered.

See additional uses of Six Thinking Hats in the Additional Resources section below.

Article by Brenda Dyck
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World


Updated 02/24/2010