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Hexagonal Thinking

Uncovering Connections Constantly

One of my favorite things about putting a puzzle together is the moment when you hold a small piece in your hand, rotate it, glance back at the partially put together masterpiece and realize that you know exactly what to do. 

Individually, pieces look insignificant. However, placed in the right location, they have the ability to pull a masterpiece together.  

Hexagons, like puzzle pieces, show how one piece connects to hundreds of other pieces. The magic of a hexagon, or several other shapes, is that they connect and allow people an opportunity to notice the connection between all of the pieces. 

*Here is a link to an online resource for                                                                                                                                                                                Free Hexagonal Thinking Blank Template

One Structure-Many Uses

Imagine one structure that helps deliver initial content, provides opportunities for students to review and even gives teachers a way to quickly plan and organize goals.  

What is Hexagonal Thinking?

I first heard about Hexagonal Thinking from a colleague. Hexagonal thinking is a classroom strategy where students are given hexagonal tiles with ideas, questions or facts which they arrange so that related tiles are next to each other, essentially building a web of connections. Making connections is critical. Seeing relationships between people, ideas and things is important. Understanding how things fit together is an essential part of learning. 

Ways To Use Hexagonal Thinking in the Classroom

There are several different ways to use Hexagonal Thinking in the classroom. I have found that one of the easiest ways to use Hexagonal Thinking, is to provide students with a list of items that you wish to see labeled on the hexagons. The list of items can either be words, or, questions that have students generating the answers first and then placing their thoughts on the hexagon titles. Providing a list of questions or terms seems to keep the activity organized and more structured. 

*Hexagons can be used with any of the following assignments. 

-Determining depth or prior knowledge at the start of a unit

-A check-in, or quick assessment after a lesson

-A review

-An assessment at the end of a unit

-Setting goals for a semester

-Get to know you activities

-Teacher Planning


-Fostering deep knowledge of an area

-Seeing relationships among places, characters or themes

One of the first Times I used Hexagonal Thinking

I cut the hexagon template in half. I selected seven new vocabulary words, defined them on the board, and had the students work in small groups to determine the placement of each word. By reducing the size of the template and making the assignment manageable, students were able to begin practicing the skill and format.  

Hexagons with Planning

A few days ago, I looked at my to-do list and realized that I had a number of things to accomplish after the school day. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the vertical list in front of me, I decided to reach for a few rows of hexagons. 

I was amazed at how quickly I noticed connections among the hexagons, as well as an opportunity to plan a path to complete daily tasks. 

Hexagons for Goal Setting

One of my favorite things to do with the Hexagonal Thinking Template is to use it for goal setting.  I love writing down a list of things that I would like to accomplish and then figuring out where to place them on a visual web. One of the coolest things that happen from setting goals this way, is that a person can see how things are connected.  And, it is interesting to see what works together and could happen with one action step rather than two. Secondly, Hexagonal Thinking allows for a person planning to make observations. For example, if I use the template to plan books to read or professional development I am interested in, I can notice the patterns and see what types of things I frequently gravitate towards. 

The Structure Allows for Opportunities to Infuse Passion in Teaching

The book, 100 Things Teachers Should Stop Doing, by Rick Jetter and several other Contributors features a chapter titled, “Stop teaching only the topics that you enjoy”. The author, Roman Nowak, who explains this concept, suggests that it is our job as teachers to create links and find ways to facilitate learning regardless of the topic. Nowak suggests that our greatest passions may not interest students, and likewise, topics that do not particularly excite us might be the very things that students are excited about. Using Hexagonal Thinking as a planning tool allows for a teacher to create a visual plan of how to connect and teach different areas of content. For example, in my ninth-grade class, I have to figure out how to teach selections from the Odyssey as well as the Novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. When I list all of the concepts and texts that I need to cover, I can see how different things connect or could be connected. 


Free Hexagonal Template 

When I first started to use Hexagonal Thinking, I decided that I needed a “Go to” template. Teachers Pay Teachers has an excellent free resource that can be used with a number of assignments.  Likewise, there are several other templates and directions for specific content areas that are available on the site.

Free Hexagonal Thinking Blank Template

The Resources and Opportunities are Limitless

The Teachers Pay Teachers site listed above is only one of the many places that offer ideas, templates, and individual hexagons suitable for several different types of learning experiences. Social Media sites are another area to find out how other teachers are using Hexagonal Thinking. I have found that Hexagonal Thinking offers a linear list as well as a visual representation that accommodates two different types of learners. Ultimately, creating new connections and seeing things differently allows for new perspectives. When there are new perspectives, knowledge and curiosity are built. Hexagonal Thinking is a piece in a teacher’s master puzzle, more importantly, MasterPiece. 

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