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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    Q. State the 4 longest rivers in the world.

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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.