Cognitive Verbs
See how thinkdrive can help you to find and use the correct thinking tools

What are cognitive verbs?

Cognitive verbs represent mental tasks that we ask our students to undertake, such as compare, analyse and explain. You may know them by other names, such as task verbs, thinking skills or common curriculum elements (CCE's).

All cognitive verbs must be clearly defined for students, as it sets the direction for the task or activity. For students to use cognitive verbs successfully, the verbs must be explicitly taught and modelled.

thinkdrive recommends a minimum of 4-steps for the teaching of any cognitive verb:

  1. Explicit use: Explicitly use the cognitive verbs in all your tasks. Do not rely on the students being able to determine the correct cognitive verb if you are using the term implicitly.
  2. Define the cognitive verb: use student-friendly language and ensure your definition aligns with your state and Australian curriculum documents.
  3. Use an aligned thinking tool: Provide students with an appropriate thinking tool to capture their data and thoughts. thinkdrive aligns over 40 thinking tools to 16 regularly-used cognitive verbs.

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  4. Use the appropriate language: Each cognitive verb has its own set of language. Provide students with the relevant sentence starters and connectives. Where appropriate, model part of the response.

Example: Industrial Revolution (1750 - 1914)

Step 1: Explicit Use of the cognitive verb

TASK: Explain the causes and the impacts of the Industrial Revolution in Britain (1750 – 1914) (History, Yr.9: ACDSEH017)

Step 2: Define the cognitive verb

Explain, means to make the reader or listener understand something by giving reasons for both 'how' and 'why' things are as they are. In this content, the reader must understand 'why' the Industrial Revolution occurred and understand its effects.

Step 3: Thinking Tool: Cause-Effect Map

Cause-Effect Map Thinking tool

Available at

Step 4: Language of explain.

'Explain' Sentence starters and connectives 'Explain' assessment response example

thinkdrive and cognitive verbs

thinkdrive has curriculum-aligned and student-friendly definitions for 16 regularly-used cognitive verbs (including alternate verbs affiliated with each one) with aligned thinking tools and language and writable templates. thinkdrive also provides assessment response extracts with over 100 Primary and Secondary examples.

All the documents are available as MS Word and google docs, so you can easily download, manipulate and distribute to your students.

Confidently Teach Cognitive Verbs

Cognitive verbs are an integral aspect of the Australian Curriculum. As such, it is critical to instil comprehension of these verbs when teaching students in Australia. Based on the levels of thinking and understanding for educational development, cognitive verbs build the foundation for academic learning. They also form the foundation for all assessment pieces with Australia.

itc thinkdrive was designed to make your life as a teacher easier with a wide array of online teaching resources. There are thousands of writable templates and interactive activities that significantly reduce the amount of time you spend preparing lessons, while at the same time empowering students to become independent thinkers.

itc thinkdrive, an online teaching resource and cognitive verb toolkit for teachers, has drawn on years of educational resources from itc publications and respected educational professionals. itc thinkdrive will help you and your students develop invaluable skills using simple steps to unpack cognitive verbs, for early years, primary and secondary curriculums.

The Importance of Cognitive Verbs for Primary/Junior School Teaching

thinkdrive’s cognitive verb toolkit for primary levels is fully aligned with the Australian Curriculum. It is a valuable resource for teachers to effectively teach cognitive verbs and teach children how to apply cognitive verbs in their assessment through the use of thinking tools.

  • Our cognitive toolkit for junior levels equips teachers and students with the ideal thinking tools to help unpack and explain any assessment item. It helps students effectively organise their thoughts and helps teachers effectively breakdown the assessment. thinkdrive focuses on the 16 major cognitive verbs, with aligned thinking tools, sentence starters and assessment exemplars which are all linked to the Australian Curriculum. This online resource significantly cuts down on lesson preparation time, maximising productivity in the classroom.
  • Each cognitive verb is broken down to maximise the understanding of cognitive verbs and the best way to approach the assessment. Each cognitive verb has an aligned thinking tool such as SWOT analysis, PCQ charts and PCQ extension charts- everything a teacher requires to effectively impart the full understanding of the cognitive verbs and encourage critical thinking in their students. This is all readily available at the touch of a button.
  • Understanding the definitions of cognitive verbs will help establish the foundation of what students need. Using a simple 4-step to success format, students will be able to formulate the processes involved in performing the task and understand the difference between similar verbs. For instance, analyse and compare can be easily mistaken as the same thing.

The importance of Cognitive verbs for secondary/senior school teaching

thinkdrive’s cognitive verb toolkit for secondary school provides students with all the necessary tools to further develop their educational knowledge, best approach assessment pieces, and understand what thinking tool they should use based on the cognitive verb in the assessment item. thinkdrive assists teachers by unpacking all regularly used cognitive verbs within the Australian Curriculum.

  • The cognitive verb toolkit for senior students is designed to develop problem-solving skills that are critical in tertiary educational courses or for real-life scenarios in the workplace. Students will learn the four steps to success involved with unpacking the cognitive verbs and be able to formulate problem-solving skills to effectively approach assessment items.
  • Students will be able to fully understand how to break down the cognitive verbs using steps to perform the relevant tasks and form opinions based on their acquired skills. The skills acquired in learning how to unpack cognitive verbs will play an essential part in their educational experience.
  • Cognitive verbs are present in all secondary school subjects from mathematics to science and everything in between. Cognitive verbs are used throughout all assessment pieces, so knowing how to best approach a cognitive verb and which thinking tool to use is an essential skill for all students.

About itc thinkdrive

itc thinkdrive is a product of itc publications, an established teaching resources company that made its name in 2002 with the launch of the highly popular innovative teacher’s companion. The companion is a teacher’s diary with teaching and learning materials that cover an array of interesting and innovative teaching ideas for teachers.

itc thinkdrive is an online resource for teachers with a difference, focusing on cognitive verbs as the basis for student development and teaching. itc thinkdrive delves into regularly used cognitive verbs, giving teachers and students access to cognitive and cooperative thinking tools to aid in the teaching of cognitive verbs. It also includes a student feedback area and various downloadable templates. Contact us today for more information.