DeBono: Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats Provide Strong Stimulus for Ideation

The Six Thinking Hats, a concept articulated by Edward de Bono, is a powerful tool for brainstorming and innovation. By breaking down thoughts into six “parallel” or “lateral” areas, it allows a spectrum of thought, from gut feeling to data analysis, to be separately discussed. By using these six types of thinking in a structured way, groups can more effectively approach problem solving and be more creative. De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is a tool that can empower teachers of any grade and or subject matter to motivate students to use critical thinking and problem solving skills while expressing inner creativity. You can teach the Six Hats to your students by focusing on a specific thinking skill (ATL). Students associate the coloured hats with key words and questions that will direct or redirect their thinking resulting in a richer learning experience. By implementing the Six Hats to every lesson, teachers can help students explore their own potential by taking an active role in their learning and enhance their creative thinking!

De Bono's Six Hats Explained

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What is Six Thinking Hats?

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De Bono's Six Thinking Hats

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Six Thinking Hats Mind Map

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Using The Thinking Hats in Group Activities

Groups can use the hats in any order during a discussion, but typically progress from blue, to white, to green, to yellow, to red, and finally to black. This order organizes the discussion:

  • Blue: Start with the approach and process

  • White: Review the facts

  • Green: Generate new ideas without judgement

  • Yellow: Focus on the benefits

  • Red: Consider emotional responses to any ideas

  • Black: Apply critical thinking after the benefits have been explored to test the viability of the new ideas

Any hat could make a reappearance in the discussion. For example, after facts (white) are laid out, more process (blue) may be applied, or after pros (yellow) and cons (black) are discussed, new ideas (green) may surface.

Six Thinking Hats Explained

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Six Thinking Hats Explained

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Sample Lesson 1: Introducing 6 Hats to Students

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  1. White, red, yellow, black, green, blue poster board for Six Hats

Getting Started:

  1. Before teaching the hats, you need to construct all of your hats. Cut out six hats from the poster board.

  2. Write the words below on the hats:

White hat-Facts Yellow hat- Good

Red hat-Feelings Green hat- Create

Black hat-Caution Blue hat- Understanding


Day One:

  1. Pick a topic in which the entire class is interested. (Gym, sports, bugs, toys, candy, etc.) I used gym/sports. What child does not like gym?

  2. Introduce a new hat to the children each day. This way they won’t be overwhelmed.

  3. Begin by holding up the white hat (facts). Ask the children, what word is on the white hat? Tell the children you are going to ask them all white hat questions. For example, Who throws the football during a football game? What is it called when you score a point in football? Every time a child answers the questions correctly, tell them to come stand on the hat with you.

  4. Next, tell the children that they need to ask the questions now. Tell them they can only ask white hat questions. Have them ask to one another. Once they ask a white hat question they can come up on the hat. (Continue until everyone has a turn.)

Day Two:

  1. Review the white hat. Ask the students white hat questions and have them ask white hat questions. Introduce the red hat (feelings). Hold up the hat and ask the students what word is on the red hat? Tell the children all of these questions are red hat questions. Begin asking questions.

  2. For example, How do you feel when you are hit with a ball in dodge ball? How do you feel after gym class? Continue asking questions. If the children seem to understand, let them begin asking questions. Every time a child answers a question correctly, they can stand on that hat.

  3. When dismissing the children to retrieve their things for home, review the hats. Ask them red and white hat questions and have them tell you if it is a red hat or white hat question. This helps to see if children truly understand.

Day Three:

  1. Review the white and red hats. Next, ask the students to tell you if you are asking them white or red hat questions and have them ask you questions.

  2. Hold up the black hat (Cautious). Ask the children what the black hat means. Then begin asking black hat questions. For example, why should you be cautious in gym class? What should you be careful about when running with your shoes untied? After asking the students questions, if they understand move onto letting them ask the questions. Every time a child asks or answers a question, they may come and stand on that hat.

  3. When dismissing the children, ask them white, red, and black hat questions to see if they can say which colour hat question that is.

Day Four:

  1. Review the white, red, and black hats. Ask the students to tell you if you are asking white, red, or black hat questions.

  2. Hold up the yellow hat (benefits) and ask the students what the yellow hat means. Begin by asking all yellow hat questions. (Inform the students that this is the opposite of the black hat.) For example, What do you like about gym? Why do you like playing kick ball? Etc. Keep asking questions until students appear to understand. Then allow them to ask the questions. Every time they ask or answer a question, they can stand on the hat.

  3. When finishing the review of all of the previous hats, ask questions to see if they know what colour hat question you are asking; however, this time tell them that they have to answer the question and tell the colour of the hat.

Day Five:

  1. Review the white, red, black, and yellow hats. Have the students ask questions and tell what hat question they asked.

  2. Hold up the green hat (creativity) and ask the students what the green hat means. This hat is more difficult to understand but persevere and they will comprehend the process of creativity. Ask only green hat questions. For example, how could you create your own ball for a game of kick ball? What if I was running around during gym class and my friend pushed me, what should I do? (Ask plenty of green hat questions to make sure the children understand.) Make sure the students are coming up to stand on the hat when they answer or ask a question.

  3. Have the children begin asking green hat questions to their classmates.

  4. Finish by asking the students hat questions. Tell the students you are going to ask them questions, and they have to first answer it and then tell what colour hat question it is. Ask white, red, black, yellow, and green hat questions.

Day Six:

  1. Review all of the previous hats. Ask the students a few questions and have them answer. Ask a few students to ask questions and have fellow classmates answer.

  2. Move to the last hat, the blue hat (Process - Thinking about Thinking). This is the most complicated hat, so just go slowly. Hold up the blue hat as you stand on a chair/table. Ask the children what I may see that is different now? You are trying to get the students to look at things from another perspective, nicknamed out of the box. Tell them to pretend they are a bird in the sky looking down. Get them to look at things deeply and differently. If desired, stand next to a child and let them stand on the chair to experience looking at things differently.

  3. Ask the children what the blue hat means. Begin blue hat questions. For example, explain to me how to play Martian, Martian? Ask them to sequence the events in their prior gym class. Continue asking them questions, and then let them proceed with the questioning.

  4. When dismissing the class, ask a few students to create a blue hat question.

Day Seven: Culminating Experience

  1. Review six hats by asking the students all different coloured hat questions. (Make sure you cover all of them.) Have the students answer and tell which colour hat it is.

  2. Pick a student and tell him/her to ask a particular colour hat question. For example, Ask a green hat question? This will also check for complete understanding.

  3. After reviewing, tell the children we are going to play a game. Pick a particular place like their school, sports centre, park, mall, etc. Call six children up and have them pretend they are at a certain place (the park). They can only speak being the particular colour hat that they received. They are not limited to questions; they can make statements as well.

  4. Continue this with other children and other places. Have the children who have had a turn hand their hat off to someone new and pick a new topic.

  5. Everyone should have a turn. Let the children know that if they are struggling, they can ask for help.


  1. Do this at the end of the day. The children get very excited and motivated.

  2. Allow fifteen to twenty minutes at the end of the day for the HATS.

  3. Suggested time is about seven days, one hat per day and a culminating experience.

  4. Ask about five questions when teaching each hat. If they do not seem to understand, wait and ask more questions.

  5. If you have a large area, put all six shower curtain hats out, present a question, and have the children run to the corresponding question.

  6. Each day remember to put out the new shower curtain hat.

  7. This works with any age level. My second graders really understood and used the concept!

  8. Have fun, and do not be afraid! Jump right in!

Sample Lesson 2: Introducing 6 Hats to Students

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Source: Learner's Link Website


  • Construct the six different coloured hats out of large pieces of construction paper. On each of the hats, choose a word that describes the types of questions each hat focuses on. For example, the White Hat calls for information known or needed, so “Facts” is a good word to place on the White Hat. Some examples for the other hats are as follows:

Red Hat– Feelings

Black Hat– Caution

Yellow Hat– Benefits

Green Hat– Creative

Blue Hat– Thinking about Thinking

  • Display The Six Thinking Hats in the room for the students to see. This will immediately get the students thinking, without anything even being said. They will have many questions right from the start. Prior to each week, construct hats for each child in the class. For example, a White Hat (with “facts” written on it) will be made for each child during the first week. A Red Hat (with “feelings” written on it) will be made the second week and so on.


Day one of each week:

Explain to the students that the hats are going to help them to think on a higher level. Briefly introduce the hats, utilizing the word placed on each hat. Choose a subject that can easily incorporate the hats. Science is a good example. Then pick a topic, relating to that subject, to base the questions on. The relating top may be “insects.” Explain to the students that over the next six weeks, at the beginning of science class, they are going to learn a new thinking hat. Begin by teaching the White Hat. Share some sample “White Hat” questions with the students and allow them to respond. One question may be, “What insect does a caterpillar turn into?” Another question may be, “What are the three main body parts of an insect?”

After giving sample questions, tell the students that they will receive their very own hat, if they ask a “White Hat” question correctly. Give them time to think of a question. Next, have them ask their questions to the class. Have the others students signal “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” If correct, place a “White Hat” on their head. If wrong, guide the student to think of a better question. Then give them their hat. This is a good way to informally assess each of them.

Day Two of each week:

On the following day, give each child an index card with their name on it. Explain to them that they will play a round of “Hat Tricks.” Have them work with a partner to think of a “White Hat” question. Give them a few minutes to come up with one. Go around the room and have students ask their questions. Again, have the rest of the class signal whether or not the question is accurate. If correct, give each child a stamp. Repeat until all students have their turn

Do this on the second day for each of the six hats. During the first week of teaching the hats, only “White Hat” questions can be asked. Once more hats are introduced; different coloured hat questions can be incorporated. The teacher can ask a variety of hat questions and the students working in small groups are asked to identify which colour hat the question asks. Every time a group answers correctly, they keep a tally. The goal is to keep improving on their last tally.

Information: Six Thinking Hats

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Description and Question Stems

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Using 6 Thinking Hats in the Classroom

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Edward DeBono's 6 thinking hats can be used in all subject areas. The hats are used in classroom environment to increase student's knowledge in all curriculum areas. When children feel confident using each of the hats they will be able to use the knowledge they have of each individual thinking hat and apply them to education outside of the classroom (EOTC).


Together in English the yellow thinking hat (positives) and the black thinking hat (negatives) critique pieces of work i.e. what is good about the text or what is not so good. By doing this it gives the students the opportunity to have ownership over their learning and contribute within the curriculum area. They can also use the same hats when communicating ideas using the think, peer share strategy. The green hat (creative) is also used a lot in English as it brings forward creative thoughts and ideas.


In mathematics the three hats that would be used the most are the white hat (facts and objectives), green hat (creative/ideas) and the blue hat (conclusions). Within mathematics there is an importance placed around problem solving and children who are wearing the green hat (creative) will be able to think and react "outside of the square". This also shows that the students are not confined to set boundaries and instead look at ways outside of these to think and make tasks more challenging and more rewarding for them.

Health and Physical Education

In health the red hat is vital because children can learn about themselves and others by asking questions that use and teach them about their feelings in regard to their intuition, and emotions. In addition to children asking questions for themselves the red hat teaches children to consider and understand how other people are feeling emotionally. In physical education the most widely used hats would be the white hat, the yellow and the black. The white hat is important because all things that are physical need set objectives so you can reach a specific target. Facts are also very important as knowing the facts related to PE will increase students' potential. The yellow and black hats are also used because knowing the benefits and the criticisms are key in improving.

Social Sciences

Students will be able to put on the white thinking hats (objective thinking) when they are taking notes on a specific topic that they are learning about. When the students wear the white hat they are exploring factual information. An example of this is learning about the Treaty of Waitangi, they are recording information about what was included within the Maori version of the treaty and what was in the European version of the treaty as they both contain factual information.

EOTC- Education Outside the Classroom

Outside of the classroom children are having to make choices and decisions all the time. Children who have the knowledge of De Bono's six thinking hats will think about their thinking and ask themselves the appropriate questions by putting on the correct hat for the write situation. All of the hats can be bought into the EOTC curriculum but the hat that is a best fit for outside of the classroom is the blue hat because it has the control over all the other hats and it requires children to think about their thinking and come up with some conclusions. An example that can be introduced in an educational setting outside the classroom may include reflecting on classroom trips such as going to art galleries, museums, early settler museums etc. These experiences can draw on all 6 of De Bono's thinking hats and the students can put anyone on and remove it as they choose.

Source: Debono's Six Thinking Hats Website

Overview: Six Thinking Hats

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Some Books About Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats

By: Edward De Bono

While De Bono's book is written for a business audience, his ideas have been successfully applied in the educational setting. "The main difficulty of thinking is confusion," writes Edward de Bono, long recognized as the foremost international authority on conceptual thinking and on the teaching of thinking as a skill (Connection to ATL). "We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us. It is like juggling with too many balls."

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The solution? De Bono unscrambles the thinking process with his "six thinking hats":

  • WHITE HAT: neutral and objective, concerned with facts and figures

  • RED HAT: the emotional view

  • BLACK HAT: careful and cautious, the "devil's advocate" hat

  • YELLOW HAT: sunny and positive

  • GREEN HAT: associated with fertile growth, creativity, and new ideas

  • BLUE HAT: cool, the colour of the sky, above everything else-the organizing hat

Through case studies and real-life examples, Dr. de Bono reveals the often surprising ways in which deliberate role playing can make a better thinker. The goal is to create a climate of clearer thinking, improved communication, and greater creativity.

Lateral Thinking

By: Edward De Bono

This book is intended for use both at home and at school. At school the emphasis has traditionally always been on vertical thinking which is effective but incomplete. This book is about lateral thinking which is the process of using information to bring about creativity and insight restructuring. Lateral thinking can be learned, practiced and used. It is impossible to acquire skill in it just as it is possible to acquire skill in mathematics.

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Lateral Thinking is a set of processes that provides a deliberate, systematic way of thinking creatively that results in innovative thinking in a repeatable manner. While critical thinking is primarily concerned with judging the true value of statements and seeking errors. Lateral thinking is more concerned with the "movement value" of statements and ideas. A person uses lateral thinking to move from one known idea to creating new ideas.

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