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Thinking Strategies

Staff members at Frontier Valley Elementary, use seven thinking strategies as tools to help learners define and describe their understanding across content and curriculum. These strategies are based on over 40 years of proficient learner research that shows that children who receive explicit instruction in strategy instruction are far more successful academically (Keene 2017).

Engaged, sophisticated thinking does not come about by chance. Long-lasting intellectual development occurs when necessary elements come together with artistry and craftsmanship, much like a well-staged performance, an elegant meal or an intricate jigsaw puzzle (PEBC 2004).

Students working together

Thinking Strategy Instruction

We believe that students should:

  • Ask Questions
  • Create Mental Images
  • Draw Inferences
  • Synthesize New Learning and Ideas
  • Activate, Utilize, and Build Background Knowledge (Schema)
  • Determine the Most Important Ideas and Themes
  • Monitor for Meaning and Problem-Solve When Meaning Breaks Down

Students at Frontier Valley learn to use these strategies to be more active, reflective, and engaged in their learning.  As part of their instruction, our teachers model and gradually invite students to use each strategy independently.  In Frontier Valley classrooms, students learn to “think about their thinking” by explicitly learning to apply these strategies to their learning.  The strategies themselves give our teachers a common language to help children become more engaged in their learning, more active in their thinking, and more refined in their understanding.

Using thinking strategies as tools, our teachers cultivate environments worthy of children’s intellect.  Why?  We know that creating a common language for children to articulate their thinking is key to their success as learners.  We know that providing learners with opportunities to explore their own thought processes is key to engagement.  We know that children who think metacognitively are better able to retain and reapply what they learn.  We know that classroom environments that encourage inquiry and exploration strengthen independence.  We know that as children become more sophisticated in their thinking they can deepen understanding, rigor, and academic discourse.  We know that children who are actively engaged are happier and more joyful.

This is why we, at Frontier Valley Elementary, have made thinking strategy instruction a critical part of our framework as we work with young learners.  Thinking doesn’t just happen by chance.


“Thinking Strategies for Learners” Public Education and Business Coalition, © 2004
Strategy Instruction:  An Essential Element of Every Child’s Learning Experience” Ellin Keene, mosaicliteracy.com, © 2017