What is Hexagonal Thinking?

Hexagonal Thinking has been prevalent in the business world for some time now. It is, however, relatively new in the world of education. Hexagonal thinking is a method for considering connections between topics, ideas, and subject areas. It can even be done in grades as low as Kindergarten with pictures!

It works by placing ideas or terms on many hexagons and having students discuss where to connect the hexagons and why. Each hexagon can have up to six connections. The hexagons can continue to be rearranged until students feel they have created the strongest representation of connections possible with the words and/or terms given. This activity can be done in person or online. There are many resources available to help teachers plan and implement lessons involving hexagonal thinking like online hexagonal generators!

How Does Hexagonal Thinking Benefit Students?

Getting students to be able to make connections is a major part of helping them learn to think critically and to be problem solvers. Hexagonal thinking is one way to do this! There are many benefits to using hexagonal thinking. Some of these benefits include;

An Increase in Collaboration

Hexagonal thinking activities naturally spark collaboration and conversation because students have to voice their reasons for connecting hexagons. This increases collaboration and encourages students to think beyond their own experiences.

Development of Critical Thinking Skills

By making connections with the hexagons, students are able to expand their knowledge of certain topics and create new correlations between their schema and new information, thus helping them think more critically about subject matter.

An Opportunity to Engage Students

Hexagonal thinking is an interactive activity that gives students the opportunity to make connections in a hands-on way!

Easier Access to Large Pieces of Information

Hexagonal thinking can be a problem-solving strategy, a way for students to attack large problems by breaking them down into smaller pieces. Smaller pieces of information give students the opportunity to make sense of large concepts.

An Opportunity to Integrate Content

Teachers are often looking for ways to approach cross-curricular integration. Hexagonal thinking can help students link subjects and make connections between various subject areas. For example, in a literature class, one set of hexagon cards could contain lines from a poem about the Holocaust, while another set could contain facts about the Holocaust. By participating in hexagonal thinking, students can integrate the two subject areas, literature and history, and make connections between the two!

Ways to Use Hexagonal Thinking with Your Students

There are lots of different ways to utilize hexagonal thinking in the classroom. Many online resources are available with examples for various grade levels. The Liberty Group provides various ideas along with visuals on how to use hexagonal thinking. It also explains how to have students support and express their reasoning for arranging the hexagons in the way of their choosing.

Using characters from a particular text students have been reading is perhaps the easiest and most applicable way to incorporate hexagonal thinking into classroom lessons. Simply put, students would organize hexagons that describe character traits and actions in a way that makes sense to them and then explain their thinking. This allows students to explore character traits and actions and compare them to other characters in a text. This activity can also serve as a pre-writing/brainstorming activity for students to organize their thoughts so that they can create descriptive writing regarding characters in a text.

Additionally, hexagonal thinking lends itself to a comparison between fiction and nonfiction texts. For example, students in a first grade classroom may read a fictional text such as Stellaluna and a nonfiction text about bats during a Bat Unit. After reading both texts, students could compare and contrast the two using hexagonal thinking. This could be done in small groups or partners and then shared out with the entire class for a more global discussion.

There are so many more ways to use hexagonal thinking! Here are a few more ideas for how to incorporate this activity into the classroom.

  1. Formative Assessment Provide students with pre-filled hexagon cards and have them connect cards to the appropriate “big picture” or “heading” card.
  2. Incorporate Hexagonal Thinking into Centers – Use hexagonal thinking cards as part of a center rotation. For example, students in younger grades could arrange hexagons under the appropriate digraph (th, sh, wh, sh) during one of their center rotations.
  3. Activate Prior Knowledge – Have students activate prior knowledge by arranging hexagon cards as they see fit before beginning a unit to get an idea of what students already know about a topic. Then, at the end of the unit, have students complete the hexagonal arrangement again to see how their thinking has expanded!

By now, your brain is probably spinning with ideas of how you can use hexagonal thinking in your classroom. The options are limitless. The great thing about a hexagon is that it has the ability to make six different connections! When you need to organize a ton of ideas, facts, events, topics, people, and/or places, hexagonal thinking can help you and your students out and ultimately increase the capacity of your students to make connections.