In 21st-century learning, students have almost unlimited access to information. Yet many students seemingly lack the skills to benefit from this abundance of information. While students may gather and read information from libraries, textbooks, and digital materials, the acts of making meaning, discarding irrelevant details, and determining credibility often escape them. For students to process information, prepare to become contributing members of their communities, and succeed in school and eventually in the workplace, teachers must teach for challenging and rapidly changing times. And what is just as essential, students must learn how to develop and apply four competencies within core content areas and beyond—critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication.



Educators must have resources that build the skills into K–12 education, into standards, assessment, and professional development. Mentoring Minds offers ThinkUp!  as an opportunity to build a school-wide thinking culture while deepening student engagement with standards-based content—in both digital and print platforms. The developers of ThinkUp! designed thinking-centered resources that intentionally and purposefully infuse the Four Cs to advance achievement.

Critical Thinking

Mentoring Minds recognizes critical thinking as a key component of today’s teaching and learning. Students need to question data, consider various perspectives of issues, evaluate evidence, determine patterns of information, synthesize information from different viewpoints or sources, and present their points of view with evidence and logical reasoning. These are merely a few of the skills of critical thinking that are essential for students to acquire in order to become productive citizens and members of a future workplace.

  • ThinkUp! showcases a common language of thinking in the resources that helps students learn, discuss, and practice the skills and strategies of critical thinking.  
  • Throughout the resource offerings, critical thinking plays a central role through the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™.
  • The nine traits are the focus of Team ThinkUp!, representing behaviors that students need to develop to become skillful thinkers.
  • The traits and a multitude of engaging activities help students develop, practice and reinforce their critical thinking skills.
  • ThinkUp! Math, ELA/ELAR, Writing (TX only), and Science (TX only)teaches critical thinking through the lens of standards-based content with meaningful application rather than taught in isolation. Within the content, connections are made to the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™.
  • Students are asked to engage in thinking critically through questions and learning tasks specifically written to address the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge.
  • ThinkUp! presents prompts in context that require students to reflect, make inferences, synthesize, draw conclusions, evaluate, and support their thinking with evidence.
  • Other resources in ThinkUp! offer teachers the tools to design instructional activities that stimulate deeper thought and provide students the tools to develop and monitor content-based skills while applying critical thinking.


Creativity includes innovation, original ideas, and risk-taking. Students demonstrate creativity in many forms and through multiple learning preferences. When students can examine and evaluate ideas from different perspectives, think in new directions, and synthesize information in useful ways, they demonstrate their creative abilities by thinking ‘outside the box.’

  • ThinkUp! offers varied opportunities through multiple resources to promote creative thinking. In Team ThinkUp! students learn the value of creative thought by developing the 9 Traits of Critical Thinking™.
  • Students discover that creative thinking is better when combined with the traits (e.g., collaborate, reflect, communicate).
  • Students learn there is no ceiling to the creative process and working with peers in different group formats can result in an explosion of ideas.
  • ThinkUp! Math, ELA/ELAR, Writing, and Science invite learners to apply creative thinking when problem solving, developing products, researching, investigating, exploring, composing, combining ideas, or considering viewpoints of others. The goal is to stretch thinking and move beyond traditional ideas, improving what exists.


In the world today, individuals from diverse backgrounds and people with different abilities work together to study situations and bring resolution to issues or problems. Thus, students must learn how to collaborate with others, respecting the knowledge, cultures, and offerings of peers. Teachers serve as facilitators, modeling standards of behavior that guide 21st-century learners as they acquire the skills for collaborative problem solving. Teachers might incorporate onsite discussions as well as encourage digital contact with thinkers beyond the school walls and from other parts of our global society.

  • In its teacher resources, ThinkUp! offers multiple suggestions in which teachers can engage students in collaborative experiences, leading students to value individual contributions and work with peers to achieve better outcomes.
  • The student resources provide learning opportunities that invite students to work independently and collaborate with partners and in small groups while completing tasks, or while investigating and exploring. During these collaborative opportunities, students learn to demonstrate flexible thinking by a willingness to compromise when problem-solving.
  • Instructional activities include discussing characters’ actions, predicting future events, finding reasonable solutions to problems, analyzing text, responding to text, making inferences, and drawing conclusions—all supported by evidence.


Unlimited opportunities are present for communication in 21st-century classrooms and showcase different ways of conveying ideas. Students demonstrate effective communication skills by clearly expressing their thoughts to various audiences and for a range of purposes, including those of entertaining, persuading, or informing.

  • Through ThinkUp! Math, ELA/ELAR, Writing, and Science and Team ThinkUp! communication appears in many forms including printed texts, digital texts, or visual texts. Students learn to move easily from print to nonprint, and from communicating face-to-face with peers to communicating through other means such as online learning environments.
  • Through ThinkUp! resources, students experience a wide range of opportunities to engage in written, oral, and digital communication by responding to open-ended prompts/questions and collaborative activities or tasks.
  • Oral language practices are utilized in many of the strategies or learning experiences noted throughout the student and teacher resources.
  • Students are encouraged to hold peer- and teacher-guided conversations which extend critical and creative thinking.
  • Students may dramatize events to present their interpretations. Students may determine the underlying messages in an email, a letter, an advertisement, or a text.
  • Written, oral, and non-verbal communication are utilized when students work together to share ideas, produce products, use technology-based tools, or create media presentations to demonstrate understanding of concepts or skills.
  • Other resources in ThinkUp! include tools that cultivate skills and behaviors that nurture effective face-to-face, written, visual, and online communication.

The Four Cs are not meant to be isolated, but competencies that work together to improve student performance. Likewise, all components in ThinkUp! are designed to work together to create global citizens—empowered and prepared to successfully face and solve the challenges and complexities of today and tomorrow.
Would you like to download a PDF of this article to share? Click here.