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:

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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Getting Started:

White hat-Facts                        Yellow hat- Good

Red hat-Feelings                       Green hat- Create

Black hat-Caution                    Blue hat- Understanding


Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Day Four:

Day Five:

Day Six:

Day Seven: Culminating Experience


Sample Lesson 2: Introducing 6 Hats to Students

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Source: Learner's Link Website


Red Hat– Feelings

Black Hat– Caution

Yellow Hat– Benefits

Green Hat– Creative

Blue Hat– Thinking about Thinking


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":

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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