The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills has defined 9 skills needed for work, learning and everyday living. Thinking is named as one of the skills required that provides the foundation for learning all other skills.

According to the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, thinking differentiates between six different types of interconnected cognitive functions:

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Critical thinking
  • Task planning and organizing
  • Significant use of memory
  • Finding information

Thinking skills are required educational criteria for learning across the curriculum. Students are constantly challenged through tests, exams, assignments, and projects to actively use and apply thinking skills. According to Active Learning Practice for Schools (ALPS), students “must think critically and creatively about the topics they are studying. Going beyond the information given might mean students generate an explanation, challenge an assumption, make a comparison, or apply ideas to new contexts. Thinking critically and creatively contributes to effective learning because it helps learners develop deeper and more cognitively integrated understandings of ideas and concepts.” This section will explore high and low technology to assist those who may have difficulties with thinking skills.

High technology to support thinking

Mind mapping software

Mind mapping software, also known as concept mapping, is used to create relationships from concepts, ideas and information. Mind mapping software can help you with task planning, organizing and be used as a memory aid by:

  • Allowing you to create brainstorms
  • Create a timeline for projects
  • Organize tasks
  • Track progress of specific tasks
  • Allowing you to use colour, symbols and pictures combined with words
  • Collapse sections of the mind map

Electronic Calendar

An electronic calendar allows the student to use it for more than just keeping track of appointments, classes, tests, exam schedule and due dates. It also allows you to:

  • Create to do lists
  • Prioritize and organize tasks
  • Track progress of specific tasks


Your phone may already have some features built in that can help you with your thinking skills, however, there are some dedicated apps that you can download to help track appointments, due dates, provide you reminders, create and organize tasks, to do lists, etc.

Low technology to support thinking

Barriers to Thinking

Low Technology Solution

Task planning and organizing

  • Agendas – Keep an agenda or daily planner to help you structure your day
  • Use an alarm system (e.g. phone alarm or watch alarm) to alert you to check your planer every hour, when to begin an activity or move on to the next step of a project.
  • Calendar  – Keep a wall calendar with important monthly events posted in your line of vision
  •  Bulletin board – a central place to keep reminders, notes, contact info, lists, etc.
  • Cue cards, sticky notes – for step to step checklists

Significant use of memory

  • Calendars – post it in your line of vision, cross out past dates and circle the current date
  • Agendas
  • Diary, journal or notebook – they should be well structured with specific sections for the information that is needed.
  • Recording tools – built in recorders on phones, digital tape recorder
  • Pen/paper
  • Use alarm systems e.g. watch alarm, cellphone, smartphone alarm system etc. to set reminders
  • Pencil and paper – making checklists, outlines
  • Cue cards, sticky notes


Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) is a Canadian organization focused on improving the literacy and essential skills of adult Canadians. OLES provide expertise, project funding, and a wide range of learning tools and other resources.

Thinking Classroom – a website for teachers that provides free resources related to thinking skills.