IDEA: Thinking tree



See: Warden, C. (2012). Talking and thinking floorbooks (2nd ed). Glasgow: Mindstretchers.

What is it?

It is a physical process of collect children’s thinking about a given idea.  Society has traditions of decorating trees and hang objects on them, therefore this idea has a real or fake tree that becomes the ‘tree of knowledge’.

Why is it useful?

* It is a kinaesthetic process.

* It is visual which can help to stimulate children’s ideas and recall of information.

* The feedback loop of putting the ‘leaves’ on the tree, gives affirmation and encourages the children to share more of their thinking.

*  The accompanying talk stimulates the auditory sense as well.

* Can be used to sort the children’s ideas and make planning more comprehensible.

* A tool to build children’s oral and written confidence.

How do you use it?

A good way to introduce the tree is by using storytelling. Using a story that  mentions the key attitudes to be encouraged, e.g. hard work, teamwork, thinking about ideas and not worrying about being wrong or right. The story can also mention aspects of the subject that the class will be thinking about/line of inquiry. The story should motivate the children. At the end, the story talked the children to a clearing with a tree in the middle – The ‘knowledge tree’, but weirdly it never has any leaves on it. This then gives the children a challenge to create a leaf to add to the tree.

Children can write or draw (with teachers scribing) their ideas and share them by placing them on the tree. Older children will start to reason, bringing their prior knowledge and understanding of the world to the group.


At first, ideas can be merely gathered on the tree, and then the children can try to sort these ideas into lines of thought (using string to web the ideas together). The line with the most leaves obviously highlights a greater wealth of prior knowledge in the group and therefore, can become a secure and collaborative starting point.

At the end of the line of inquiry, the leaves can be left on display, and added to or changed as the inquiry develops. When starting a new line of inquiry, the old leaves can be collected and placed together in a floor book or as evidence in a child’s work book.



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