HOT Hexagons…

#15MinForum – 19/4/16

Tuesday’s 15 Minute Forum was led by Simon Bromley (@RCGeography), our Geography Subect Leader, who shared a great technique to encourage pupils to develop their ideas by looking for and explaining links between them…

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Although this is a great strategy for giving groupwork the sort of structure it can often lack, the ultimate aim is to encourage and support higher order thinking…



In Geography, as in other subjects where students are asked to produce extended written pieces that ‘provide developed and linked answers, showing a full understanding’, a key challenge is stretching the pupils to extend their points, link them together (and back to the original question), and explore ideas in as deep a way as possible in order to show the interconnectedness of ideas and concepts. Anyone who teaches topics that look at competing issues and multiple viewpoints, or which require students to adopt a discursive, analytical or evaluative position where there may be multiple routes to a good answer rather than a single correct idea will appreciate the importance of ensuring students build their ideas and explain and justify them along the way!


There are all sorts of ways to encourage Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS), but with HOT Hexagons it is all about the design of the resource. At first glance, HOT Hexagons are just cards with statements printed on them… sounds just like a card sort, right? The simple but important difference is in the shape: rather than the linear sequences that card sorts typically lend themselves to, the hexagons make it easier to turn the task into an exploration of multiple links…

An example inquiry question:


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Some of the cards that go with the task:

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And some examples of student work:

There is clearly an investment of time in preparing the resource, but if it can be used by several staff across a department and returned in schemes of learning each year, then it is an investment worth making. There is a nifty hexagon generator here on Pam Hook’s (@arti-choke) website that might help (or create a blockbuster board in powerpoint!)

Things to think about to support and extend students…

  • Make it an expectation that every contribution a student makes to their group’s hexagon ‘sprawl’ is met with the question ‘why’ from the rest of the group – the aim should be for students to build upon or challenge each other’s ideas.
  • Vary the text amount – reducing the literacy demand can make the task more accessible for younger/less able.
  • Provide students with a starting point and/or a mid-point, or provide them with some links to get them started by modelling.
  • Decide the groups in advance to ensure you’ve got the balance you want (be that to spread out ‘characters’ or to ensure particular combinations of students in order for them to support and challenge each other).
  • Include blank hexagons which students can use to add their own ideas or to create categories or to explain their links.
  • Have students take a gallery walk to look at the work of other groups (make sure one member of each group remains behind as the curator to justify the work of their group!), or just have a single envoy from each group visit other groups, or a couple of roving reporters who can summarise the work of the whole class.

Moving towards a written task:

Use additional hexagons, whiteboard pens directly on the table (keep the babywipes handy!) or simply transition onto paper to identify the key themes/concepts based on the final layout of the hexagon strands. Use these key concepts/themes as a skeleton structure for the paragraphs of an essay, before then moving to a full essay plan full of well-developed and linked ideas!


Where to next?

The HOT Hexagons link very neatly with Biggs and Collis’ (1982) Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes (SOLO) Taxonomy, which is well worth taking some time to look at and think about. The taxonomy describes the stages of a student’s understanding in five steps of increasing complexity, from ‘pre-structural’ to’extended abstract:


credit here


Read a little more here about SOLO and see here for some compelling reasons why it should be our taxonomy of choice over Bloom’s!

David Didau’s post here, and this one from Damian Clark give a little more insight into the power of HOT Hexagons and SOLO.

This page of Pam Hook’s, here, is another one worth a few minutes of your time…

Expand your horizons with HOT Hexagons!

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