Teaching Analytical Thinking in First Grade: Four Activities

Teaching Analytical Thinking in First Grade: Four Activities
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Analytical thinking is the kind of skill that can be used in all academic subjects and everyday situations. Here is an example:

Natalie is sorting her dolls. She wants to put the ones that are most alike on a shelf together. She puts three dolls on the shelf because they all have blonde hair. Then her brother comes in and suggests putting four dolls, including one of the blonde dolls, together because they all have red outfits. Neither one is wrong. There is more than one way to sort the dolls.

Attribute Blocks

To survey your students to see just how good they already are at analytical thinking, use attribute blocks. An attribute is a feature,

characteristic or quality of something. The blocks have these attributes: color, thickness, size and shape. Dump the blocks in the center of a circle of students. First explain the four attributes, by holding up a block and describing it. You might say, “This is a thick, red, large triangle.” Then hold up a random block, and ask everyone to choose a block from the pile that has one thing in common with the one you have. Some may choose the same color. Some may choose the same shape, etc. Ask each student to tell you why he or she picked the block. At first they will be uneasy if they see others with different choices. Remind them that there can be many answers. When they are ready, try two attributes that are the same.


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Sorting games, are a gentle way to encourage analytical thinking. Dump a large amount of buttons in front of a group of students. Ask the students to choose 20 buttons randomly from the pile. When everyone is ready, ask him or her to sort the buttons in some way. Some may be uncertain about having such vague directions and others may dive into the task. As students complete the sorting, ask him or her to explain how they chose to sort them - it could be by color, number of holes, shapes, etc. It is important that they can explain how they sorted the buttons.

As you watch the students work, notice if some children change the strategy when the first idea doesn’t work. Are there students who are frustrated? Are there some students with unique ideas?


Here is something fun to do when you have an extra 5-10 minutes. Put pictures of two items, two animals or two people on the board. On one side of the board write “Same” and the other side write “Different”. Brainstorm characteristics for both categories.

Here are ideas of things you can use:

  1. Cow/ Tiger
  2. Refrigerator/Stove
  3. Turtle/Dog
  4. Sun/Moon
  5. Apple/Potato
  6. Coat/Shoe


You’ve probably taken tests that ask you to fill in answers for things like this: hand is to glove, as foot is to ________. (shoe, sock)

Explain it this way to your students: “How does a hand go with a glove? A glove covers a hand. What would cover a foot?”

Try these with your students, and you or a student, should explain each one:

  • Hot is to cold, as up is to _______. (down)
  • Fish is to swim, as bird is to _______.(fly)
  • Milk is to cow, as eggs are to _______(bird or chicken)
  • Pig is to oink as dog is to__________(bark)
  • Red is to stop as green is to ________(go)

To improve deductive reasoning of students, the important thing is to provide lots of analytical thinking activities for first grade children. At this age, children love to think, and figure things out. Praise them for unique ideas and for sticking with things to figure out the answer.


www.piecesoflearning.com - Primary Education Thinking Skills

https://www.teacherstorehouse.com - Bucket of Buttons

https://www.rapidonline.com/1/1/500-attribute-blocks-class-set.html - Attribute Blocks

This post is part of the series: Higher Order Thinking Skills for Young Children

Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy classifies levels of thinking. Most students are only evaluated on the lower level, which is knowledge or recall of information. Why not challenge students, while they are young, to strive for understanding, application, analysis and beyond?

  1. Teaching Analogies to First Grade Students
  2. 4 Analytical Thinking Activities for First Grade Students
  3. Teaching Deductive Reasoning: Activities and Ideas