Cognitive Toolkit and their practical uses

On the Foundations page, we have described a set of cognitive tools, organized in two toolkits, that we may use to evoke, stimulate, and develop historical and social studies knowledge and understanding. The first set of “cognitive tools” is more prominent in younger children, from pre-school to about age seven or eight, and the second set is more prominent for older students, say around seven or eight years to around fourteen. For older students a third set is more appropriate—though many of these tools below will still be useful—and we will add this further set later. There is a link from each “tool” in the lists below so you can explore the various ways you can make each of them into potent practical helpers in teaching and learning history and social studies in everyday classrooms and homes.

Cognitive tools used in early years history and social sciences learning

THE STORY One of the most powerful tools for engaging the emotions in learning;
METAPHOR Crucial for flexible and creative understanding;
VIVID IMAGES Generating images from words is central to engaging the imagination in learning;
BINARY OPPOSITES A powerful organizing tool, providing easy access to grasping knowledge;
RHYME, RHYTHM, AND PATTERN Potent tools for aiding memory and for establishing emotional meaning and interest;
PLAY Can help students’ develop increasing control over their knowledge and understanding;
MYSTERY AND PUZZLES Can create an attractive sense of how much fascinating knowledge about the world

remains to be discovered;

Cognitive tools used in intermediate and early secondary school science learning

CHANGING CONTEXTS “The redefinition of reality” –– in which students’ interest in content shifts in subtle and important ways;
EXTREMES AND LIMITS Engagement by the limits of reality and the extremes of experience –– students develop a fascination with

the exotic and extreme, as, for example, in the Guinness Website of World Records;

HUMANIZING Seeing knowledge in terms of human qualities –– recognize that all knowledge is human knowledge,

and a product of someone’s hopes, fears, and passions, and so make knowledge more full of rich meanings;

PERSONALIZING NARRATIVES Collecting things or a developing a hobby –– the urge to securely grasp some feature of reality can stimulate

Extensive knowledge;

THE SENSE OF WONDER Can capture the imagination in the world;
ASSOCIATING WITH THE HEROIC Gives confidence and enables students take on in some degree the qualities of the heroes with whom

they associate;