In this increasingly complex and rapidly changing world, it is vital that children are equipped with effective thinking skills. As a Thinking School, Hillyfield offers a program that teaches children how to assess, regulate and improve their own thinking.
We teach thinking through three “thinking tools”: Habits of Mind, Thinking Maps and Philosophy for Children. Find out more about each tool below.
The Habits of Mind are learning dispositions that students can draw on when they face challenging learning moments. Perhaps they don’t know the answer to a problem. Perhaps they are faced with a dichotomy, a dilemma or ambiguity. By using the Habits of Mind, students can work their way through difficulty and towards a solution. The 16 Habits of Mind (identified by Costa and Kallick) are listed below:
  • Persisting: Sticking to the task at hand; Following through to completion; Remaining focused; Trying a new approach when met with failure.
  • Managing Impulsivity: Taking time to consider options; Thinking before speaking or acting; Remaining calm when stressed or challenged; Being thoughtful and considerate of others; Proceeding carefully.
  • Listening with Understanding and Empathy: Paying attention to other people’s thoughts, feeling and ideas; Putting oneself in the other person’s shoes; Telling others when I can relate to what they are expressing; Holding thoughts at a distance in order to respect another person’s point of view and feelings.
  • Thinking Flexibly: Being able to change perspective; Considering the input of others; Generating alternatives; Weighing options.
  • Thinking about Thinking (Metacognition): Being aware of own thoughts, feelings, intentions and actions; Knowing what I do and say affects others; Considering the impact of choices on myself and others.
  • Striving for Accuracy: Checking for errors; Measuring at least twice; Nurturing a desire for exactness, fidelity & craftsmanship.
  • Questioning and Posing Problems: Asking, “How do I know?”; developing a questioning attitude; Considering what information is needed; Choosing strategies to get that information; Considering the obstacles needed to resolve.
  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations: Using what is learned; Considering prior knowledge and experience; Applying knowledge beyond the situation in which it was learned.
  • Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision: Striving to be clear when speaking and writing; Striving be accurate to when speaking and writing; Avoiding generalisations, distortions, minimisations and deletions when speaking, and writing.
  • Gathering Data through All Senses: Collecting all available information to help understand a problem; Stopping to observe what I see; Listening to what I hear; Taking note of what I smell; Tasting what I am eating; Feeling what I am touching.
  • Creating, Imagining, Innovating: Thinking about how something might be done differently from the “norm”; Proposing new ideas; Striving for originality; Considering novel suggestions others might make.
  • Responding with Wonderment and Awe: Being intrigued by the world’s beauty, nature’s power and vastness for the universe; Having regard for what is awe-inspiring and can touch my heart; Looking for the little and big surprises in life.
  • Taking Responsible Risks: Trying something new and different; Doing things that are safe and sane even though new to me; Facing one’s fear of making mistakes or of coming up short.
  • Finding Humour: Laughing appropriately; Looking for the whimsical, absurd, ironic and unexpected in life; Laughing at myself when I can.
  • Thinking Interdependently: Working with others and welcoming their input and perspective; Abiding by decisions the work group makes even if I disagree somewhat; Learning from others in reciprocal situations.
  • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning: Opening to new experiences; Being humble enough to admit when we don’t know; Welcoming new information on all subjects.
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Thinking Maps are a visual language for thinking. Hillyfield students learn how to use eight types of Thinking Map, each of which facilitates a different ‘type’ of thinking. Hillyfield teachers and students use Thinking Maps to organise their ideas across the curriculum. The eight Thinking Maps, and their accompanying thought processes, are listed below:
  • Circle Map – Defining in context
  • Flow Map – Sequencing
  • Tree Map – Classifying
  • Bubble Map – Describing
  • Double Bubble Map – Comparing and contrasting
  • Multi-flow Map – Cause and effect relationships
  • Brace Map – Part/whole relationships
  • Bridge Map – Making analogies


A whole-class circle map (Year 3) defining what the students knew about growing plants. Known facts were written inside the circle, and questions for future learning were written outside of it.

A bubble map using similes to describe the scene.

A brace map depicting the parts that make up a whole hour.
















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Philosophy for Children (P4C) is taught weekly in all classes across the school. Through collaborative activities and guided discussions, students learn how to listen, pose questions, consider the opinions of others and develop opinions of their own in an atmosphere that fosters safety and humility. Interestingly, studies have linked P4C to improved outcomes across the curriculum, including in literacy and numeracy.
Participants develop the 4C’s: caring, collaborative, critical and creative thinking skills.
  • Caring = listening (concentrating) and valuing (appreciating) (e.g. showing interest in, and sensitivity to, others’ experiences and values)
  • Collaborative = responding (communicating) and supporting (conciliating) (e.g. building on each other’s ideas, shaping common understandings and purposes)
  • Critical = questioning (interrogating) and reasoning (evaluating) (e.g. seeking meaning, evidence, reasons, distinctions, and good judgements)
  • Creative = connecting (relating) and suggesting (speculating) (e.g. providing comparisons, examples, criteria, alternative explanations or conceptions)
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