Saturday, September 19, 2009


Of course, duh, HOTS means Higher Order Thinking Skills, a concept that's been around at least as long as I've been in education. When I first began teaching in Edina, I was observed and checked by the principal on the number of HOT questions I and my students generated. What was interesting to me was at the time, I was teaching special education with students with cognitive impairments; we didn't get into higher order questions very much. The principal finally decided WHY? would do as a HOT question, so I scored well. :-)

When I was an intermediate grade teacher, I did try to bring my students to the next cognitive level. When I moved from fifth to fourth grade, though, I discovered that the students couldn't answer the same kinds of questions the fifth graders did. Going back to Piaget, I realized that my bright fifth graders were entering formal operations where integration and evaluation and the top levels of HOTS were developmentally possible. Once I figured out that fourth graders could be exposed to models of those higher order thinking levels, but not to expect that they would spontaneously express them, they and I became much less frustrated. So, I hope that the primary teachers reading this article don't kick themselves. I don't think technology in and of itself will use increase thinking skills.

On the other hand, I am now working with ELLs. IF posts to a blog don't have to be in complete sentences, the medium might produce more answers. However, the role of verbal facility is important in our educational culture. ELLs who are struggling with vocabulary, for example, may misstate because of incorrect word usage--the lost in translation idea. Another source of concern is that students may not yet have learned the language keys to show concepts like causality or generalization, for example. Not all languages use subordinate clauses the way English does. Students may come from a cultural/linguistic background that hasn't prepared them for this type of thinking. Obviously, students can be taught our linguistic clues, but the written format might also be intimidating until they understand the connections without the visual, facial, and tonal clues of personal contact.

I'm going to keep this post short.


  1. I agree that blogging may be a challenge for ELL students. Most work that is published by students is self-edited and teacher edited. Blogs are quick, short communications. Teachers can't possibly edit all posts by their students. However, perhaps ELL students can read the work of other students which may motivate them to use blogs to post edited work.

  2. I was also thinking that it might be nice to have a more "closed" blogging community with your ELL students, where they could feel free to post and share without worrying about the "correctness" of their work. I'm always thinking about our goals for it increased writing/communication/engagement, or is it writing complete, grammatically correct sentences. The answer for me is that those are both goals, but maybe not at the same time. And maybe a closed blog, just for your kids, would be a way for them to practice their tech skills in a motivating forum with low risk.