6 Thinking Hats Strategy in Teaching English Literature

For Teachers : Using 6 Thinking Hats Strategy in Teaching English Literature

If you ask students to think about something, they are often at a loss to do so, however, the 6 Thinking Hats method can allow students to explore a subject using the framework of the hats so that their perceptual powers are quickly expanded.  The students are able to think more richly and more comprehensively about their subjects and forces them to move outside of their habitual thinking styles while obtaining a more rounded view of a situation.

Problems within a subject can be solved using all approaches of the 6 Thinking Hats opening up the opportunity for creativity, especially in students who are persistently pessimistic.  It enables rational students to look at problems from a more emotional, intuitive and creative point of view or from a negative point of view.  Conversely it enables emotional students to look at decisions more calmly and rationally.

 6 Thinking Hats strategy can be put into practice for teaching English Literature by asking the students to analyse a novel using the different styles of thinking as follows:



White Hat

Information & Facts

  •   List the facts you learned from the book
  •   Describe the characters, setting & plot
Yellow Hat

Good Points

  •   What were the interesting parts of the story?
  •   What are the positive aspects of the story?
Black Hat

Negative Points

  •   List what is wrong with plans made by a character in a book
  •   What were some of the main problems encountered by the main characters?
  •   How/why did these occur?
Green Hat


  •   Design something new for a character from your book
  •   Solve a problem a character has
  •   Read a new book to the students but don’t show the title.
  •  Get the students to brainstorm a list of new titles for the book.
Red Hat


  •   How did the feelings of the main character change throughout the story?
  •   How do you feel about the story?
  •   Keep a red hat reading record of all books read on the same topic
Blue Hat

Planning Reflection

  •   How has reading this novel contributed to your understanding of the subject?
  •   If  you had written the novel, what would you have done differently?

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Creative Writing Ideas

Creative Writing Ideas: Firstly, Where do you get your ideas from?

Does this ever happen to you?  You have to write something for school.  You sit down to write it, and you just can’t get a word on the paper.  You’re stuck.  You have writer’s block.

You wonder “where do writers get their ideas from?

The answer is not that difficult because ideas can come from everything we see and hear and find in the world around us.  If you break the ideas into three departments you can see that there are stories waiting to be told by looking into:

  1. The Experience Department = Do you travel a lot with your family?  The airport is a great place to watch people arrive and depart.  Ask yourself, why are these people here, what are they wearing and how do they look?  Are they leaving to start a new life somewhere else?  The questions are endless.  If you use your imagination you can think up characters and events based on the people you have seen.
  2. The Memory Department = Your memories are terrific ideas to use for your writing.  They are based on a fantastic character – you!  They are easy to remember as they always have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Can you remember when you first started school, went on a holiday, joined a new team for sport or may be got lost in a large department store?  Do you keep a diary?  You’re lucky if you do because you have all the journal entries there waiting for your new story to begin.  The memories are all locked away in your mind just waiting to emerge as a story.
  3. The What if Department =  What would it be like to have a clone of yourself, someone who looked like you, talked liked you and may be he/she is you and you are really the clone!!  What if you hypnotized your sister and you couldn’t snap her out of it?  What if you could hear your dog’s thoughts?  Think about it and have fun writing.

Concentrate on gathering as many details as you can see but don’t forget smells and tastes in five minutes.  (Even set a timer if you have one to make you think and write faster)

What I do is to think about the senses ie. sight, smell, hearing and taste because they are all part of the world that you inhabit.  Don’t forget feelings, they are just as important in your story as the characters themselves .  If you write down your ideas about a story in a list or notes as fast as you can without making the writing sound perfect, then you have already started your creative story.  Just put the words down, you can always go back and put them in the right order later.

Try putting ideas down using a concept map or fishbone diagram.

If you still can’t write down anything, try this:  Tell the story out loud.

Pretend you’re on the phone, telling a story to your best friend.  Once you’ve told it out loud, it will be easy to get it down on paper.

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Common Themes and Issues in Texts

Image result for pictures of the themes in texts

Common themes and issues in texts are central to the purpose of any text and relate to the author’s values and point of view.

A text may have one or several themes and issues.  An author selects and deliberately arranges material (characters, setting and plot) in a text to explore, support and develop their themes and issues.  These common themes and issues are open to different interpretations by the audience depending on their own context and perspective.

See the common themes bank below that will help you to identify common themes and issues in set texts so you can track their development as the text progresses:


  •   Power of religious faith
  •   Cultural and religious influences
  •   Restrictive nature of some societies, religions and cultures


  •   Social, family, peer group and legal


  •   Enduring nature of love
  •   Loyalty and betrayal
  •   Betrayal of love
  •   Betrayal of self
  •   Friends
  •   Workplace
  •   Institutions
  •   Family responsibility/loyalty/love
  •   Power of love
  •   Grief and loss of love


  •   Gender roles (traditional vs modern)
  •   Gender conflict

Self awareness

Personal journey

  •   Individuality versus conformity
  •   Loss of innocence
  •   Quest for perfection
  •   Loss of self
  •   Importance of place/identity in society
  •   Power of dreams and ambition
  •   Sense of identity and belonging


  •   Courage in the face of racial or gender discrimination
  •   Destruction of war
  •   Workplace conflict
  •   Cultural conflict
  •   Racial conflict/prejudice
  •   Family conflict
  •   Global conflict

Shakespearean   Themes

  •   Love versus betrayal
  •   Divine rights of kings
  •   Ambition and power
  •   Evil versus goodness
  •   Image versus reality

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Learning Outside the Fish Bowl

‘Learning Outside the Fish Bowl’

Have you heard this term before?  The fish bowl analogy is related to the term many people say these days as “seeing the big picture”.  What does it mean?  What requires you to see the big picture and take that leap beyond your current fish bowl?

The fish bowl analogy means that we are all immersed in a paradigm and reality, much like a fish in the water it swims in.  A fish can’t distinguish itself from his water, just as most of us don’t distinguish ourselves from our thoughts about the way we learn.  We don’t know that there is a new learning reality outside the fish bowl within which we are immersed.

The challenge is to pop out of your current fish bowl or context  in order to see the “big picture” to strive ahead far more effectively at school and beyond .  Like a man on the flying trapese, we all have to let go of a known way of viewing our learning  for the unknown.  Everyone of us who aspires to something greater than our current fish bowl or our current grades at school, has to risk this moment of vulnerability.  What makes a clever person is their willingness to confidently jump out of the fish bowl in order to see the bigger picture from which to strive ahead far more effectively.

It takes commitment and a capacity to expand one’s reality.   In order to let go of the trapeze bar of one level of functioning, in order to swing to and grasp another, you have to be committed enough to let go of what no longer serves your learning.  One distinction of a clever person is their willingness to risk failures and their own vulnerability to expand their knowledge to see their potential.

As an English Teacher I can help to hold the bigger picture for my students to leap into.  I will endeavour to empower my students to make the leap into learning outside the fish bowl in order to see and act from the Big Picture.  I will allow my students to get the big AH-HA moment to shift their paradigm to include this next level of the Big Picture of learning by giving them the tools to write well and achieve academic success.

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‘The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif ‘ Themes

The Themes in The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif includes the importance of the relationship between culture and identity

You have to ask yourself the question, “What becomes of a person in our world if political developments made it impossible for him to live in his own country?”  The politics of displacement creates an identity crisis.  Thinking outside the square about the issue of identity; “Is ‘identity’ portable?”

Conflict has Far-reaching Consequences

The text articulates the many and varied ways conflict affects individuals and communities.  The immediate and personal costs of war are often obvious.  Gorg Ali and Rosal Ali are killed.  Najaf is injured when a bomb explodes above his house and he suffers financial hardship and shame as a result of this injury.  Ultimately, Najaf is forced to flee Afghanistan when the Taliban take control of Mazar-e-Sharif.

Long Lasting Trauma from Violent Events

The text also captures the long-lasting emotional trauma that accompanies these violent events.  Consider Najaf’s emotional state while recovering from his injured leg.  He is uncharacteristically despondent, angry and jealous.  His inability to contribute to the family income and, worse, calling on his brother’s charity, make him feel “sick with shame” (p.137).  While these feelings subside when Najaf is finally cured, other key incidents show that single events have lifelong ramifications.  Najaf’s grief for Gorg Ali, for instance, does not diminish and he sheds disconsolate tears in his interview at Woomera 18 years later.  Najaf’s mother, too, endures lifelong grief.  Just before the rocket attack, Najaf comments, “her heart was still broken after the death of Gorg Ali a year before, and would stay broken for the rest of her life” (p.13).

Indirect Consequences of Living with Conflict

Long-term consequences of conflict also arise indirectly.  Living with conflict makes Najaf perpetually fearful.  He is so accustomed to being threatened that he inanely worries that the Australian authorities have been fed misinformation.  To avoid forcible recruitment into either the communist or mujahedin forces, Najaf has to keep his “eyes peeled” and “one part of [his] brain … always on alert” (pp.152-3).  He is tense, vigilant and constantly “ready to respond” to seemingly imperceptible signals (p.153).  Najaf’s safety and security are constantly undermined.

Insecurity Leads to a Sense of Powerlessness

Najaf sums up this state of mind when he realises, early in his rug-making apprenticeship, that “this future of learning and gaining greater and greater skill all depended on things that I couldn’t control” (p.154).  To cope, Najaf trains himself “not to think too far into the future” (p.154).  This demonstrates a terrible and often hidden consequence of war: people lose hope.

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