Tech Tools For Abstract Thinking: Scavenger Hunts And More

Abstraction is the third element of computational thinking. Abstract reasoning or abstract thinking refers to the ability to identify and analyze general principles that generate the patterns we previously detected.

In activities that require abstract reasoning students are asked to interpret, analyze and evaluate information or ideas, connect the "dots", form and explain viewpoints, and draw reasonable conclusions.

There are many activities and tools that we can use with students to develop their abstract thinking skills. They can play games, take part in debates or solve puzzles and riddles.

To create puzzles, cryptograms, riddles and rebuses, you can use Discovery Education Puzzlemaker, CryptoclubRebus Generator or Riddle Generator. These tools are especially useful for online scavenger hunts.

Scavenger hunts are great to boost students abstract thinking skills. A scavenger hunt is a game that consists of a number of different types of tasks or activities.  Students work collaboratively to find clues, (e.g. decrypt a code, do a jigsaw puzzle, find a location on a map or simply answer a question) to complete the game. There is also a treasure hunt variation in which a hidden treasure needs to be found online.

To see what a scavenger hunt looks like, do this one that I created for my teacher training workshop in Munich: Let's go to Munich.


Check out this list of Tools for scavenger hunts if you want to create your own online scavenger hunts or use the template QR Code Treasure Hunts from Classtools.

Another variation of Scavenger Hunt is Escape Classroom or Classroom Breakout. Students are "locked" in the classroom - well,  they are not really locked, but we just pretend that they are. We tell them they can escape from the classroom only after they open the locked boxes that contain a series of challenging puzzles.  I highly recommend checking out Breakout.EDU, a fantastic resource with games for students of all ages created by teachers of different subjects. It is free to use, but you have to register to get the password.

If you don't want real locks and boxes, you can go digital with  Breakout.Edu Digital. There are a lot of games that you can use in your classroom or you can create your own breakout games. Check out a breakout that I created for my students: 3rd Grade Breakout.

Last but not least,  Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono is a great activity to boost abstract thinking, to identify and and to connect six different perspective on a problem. Divide students in 6 groups and give each group a coloured hat (paper hats are great). Each group can use a notepad for their ideas, such as Titanpad or Google Doc. This is what the hats represent:

  • The white  hat helps us define the reality. It is all about facts.
  • The black hat shows the negative sides of the problem and emphasizes difficulties and dangers.
  • The yellow hat helps us find the good sides of the problems. It symbolizes optimism and a positive attitude.
  • The red hat shows our emotions and feelings, hopes and fears.
  • The green hat focuses on creativity and lets our imagination run wild.
  • The blue hat controls the thinking process and makes sure that we see all the different perspectives. When we put all the six hats together, we come up with a powerful team approach to solving problems.

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