Thinking Skills

Why Sacred Heart Wants to Become a Thinking School – A Rationale

Sacred Heart has been on journey over the last few years, completely changing our curriculum to ensure that children have access to a full range of subjects, and that subjects are covered in great detail. Our curriculum now is expansive, where connections and links are made and explored and the children are increasingly applying their knowledge throughout a range of areas and concepts.

For us, the next step is to develop and embed practices that have naturally developed in our school: metacognition, organised thinking and understanding our decision making. Becoming a Thinking School will help us to focus on these areas across the whole school so as to increase the impact upon teaching and learning and accelerate progress by up to 7 months.

We aim to provide a stimulating and supporting learning environment where learners feel safe to explore ideas through a range of ways and are motivated to take risks to work towards their clear expectations. We aim for the children to be the best that they can be and aspire to personal growth. We look to actively shape minds, attitudes and habits through cognitive education to develop skilled, independent reflective learners, and we aim to allow children all that they can be.

What are cognition and metacognition, and how are they taught at Sacred Heart?

Cognition refers to the process of thinking. It is the mental process involved in knowing, learning and understanding things.

Metacognition is recognised as cogntion about cognition; thinking about thinking.


At Sacred Heart, we approach Thinking Skills across the whole curriculum, and employ a range of strategies and tools to support this. They include:

Thinking Maps  help us visualise our thinking. There are eight maps, each representing a fundamental cognitive skill such as comparing, contrasting, sequencing, and cause and effect reasoning. The maps are displayed in all classrooms as a quick reference for pupils.

Thinking Hats  help us think about our learning. The 6 Thinking Hats each represent a different type of Thinking. They are used in lessons to encourage students to think beyond their own perspective and holistically respond to situations rather than only using one type of thinking.

Kagan is an approach we use which aims to organise classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. Class teachers incorporate Kagan teaching structures within their lesson planning in order to improve engagement and maximise participation within lessons. Kagan is used by teachers as a structured approach to cooperative learning and is an additional opportunity to assess children’s social skills with their peers such as turn taking, listening to others and sharing information.

Growth Mindset is an attitude we encourage at Sacred Heart. We want all our pupils to relish challenges, embrace their mistakes as part of the learning process, value the importance of effort, respond carefully to feedback and take inspiration from others. This will help them to achieve, not only with us, but also in their future lives as adults. Having a growth mindset is a key priority at Sacred Heart, linking strongly with Gospel Values. For further information on Growth Mindset, please view the following:

Developing a Growth Mindset – Carol Dweck

A Study on Praise and Mindsets – Carol Dweck

Growth Mindsets for Students – Class Dojo

4C Thinking Model  ensures logical, creative, critical and reflective thinking is embedded across the curriculum and across the school. This has its roots in the EYFS curriculum as Critical Thinking and is built upon throughout the school.

Big Questions are used across the curriculum to generate discussions and provide a focus. They began within the Come and See curriculum used in R.E. and are now used more widely within other subject areas, and are shared on displays, in books and during lessons.

Mindfulness is the ability to focus on what is happening at any given moment, rather than worrying about what has happened or what might happen. Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose work has contributed to a growing movement of mindfulness, has described this skill as a type of awareness that arises when we are purposefully paying attention a moment at a time, without making judgement. He described mindfulness as ‘being alive and knowing it’. Mindfulness activities can help to develop early habits of mind. Mindfulness in education has proven to develop attention and learning, help to regulate emotions and support children with their readiness to learn. Mindfulness does not come easily; the mind often wonders, but with practice, children become more able to focus their attention.

21st Century Skills  are a list of 16 skills that should be focused upon to develop lifelong learners within the 21st Century.


Files to Download:

Thinking Hats

Thinking Maps

4C Model

21st Century Skills

To find out more about metacognition, click here.