IDEAS: Visible thinking – Thinking routines part 2

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Research has found that  teachers who are successful at promoting students’ thinking tend to develop, adapt, and make use of specific routines to scaffold and support students’ thinking (Ritchhard, R. (2002). Intellectual character: What it is, why it matters, and how to get it, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass).

Below are some of the thinking routines suggested by The Project Zero team and the Cultures of Thinking team.The routines are some suggestions of ways to make thinking visible in your classroom and for educators to be able to support students’ development of understanding.

These routines can operate in different ways in your classroom as they can be thought of as: tools, structures or patterns of behaviour.

If used as tools – as teachers we must first identify what kind of thinking we are trying to elicit from our students and then select the appropriate tool for the job.

If used as a structure – teachers need to think about how they will use student responses at each step of the sequential routine to set them up for good thinking in the next scaffolded step.

If used as a pattern of behaviour – once students have become a “way of doing things” then teachers and students can utilise the flexibility that comes with this knowledge of behaviour to greater serve their need.

The 3 categories used to organise the thinking routines reflect the inquiry steps that teachers often utilise during inquiries. For each routine there is a link to a youtube video showing the routine in action.


The second category of thinking routines is below, see part 1 and part 3 for the other categories, and the introduction.


Synthesising and organising

Headlines – for summarising, capturing the heart

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Image from: Mary Cantwell at shared under   Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial International License.

For thinking of the big ideas and important themes in what you have been learning: write a headline for the topic or issue that summarises and captures a key aspect that you feel is significant and important.

CSI : Colour, symbol, image – for capturing the heart through metaphors

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Image from: Mary Cantwell at shared under   Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial International License.

For thinking of the big ideas or important themes that you have just read, seen or heard: chose a colour that you think best represents the essence of the idea; create a symbol that you think best represents the essence of the idea; sketch an image that you think best captures the essence of the idea.


Generate-sort-connect-elaborate: Concept maps – for uncovering and organising prior knowledge to identify connections

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For selecting a topic, concept or issue for which you want to map your understanding: generate a list of ideas and initial thoughts that come to mind when  you think about this topic or issue; sort your ideas according nohow central or tangential they are (place central ideas near the centre and more tangent;l toward the outside of the page); connect you ideas by drawing connecting liens between the ideas that have something in common, then explain and write on the line in a short sentence how the ideas are connected; lastly, elaborate on any of the ideas or thoughts you have written so dar by adding new ideas that expand, extend or add to your initial ideas.


Connect-extend-challenge – for connection making, identifying new ideas and raising questions

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For considering what you have just read, seen or heard: how are the ideas and information presented connected to what you already knew?; what new ideas did you get that extended or broadened your thinking in new directions?; what challenges or puzzles have come up in your mind from the ideas and information presented?


The 4C’s – for connection making, identifying key concepts, raising questions, and considering implications

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Use after reading a text: connections – what connections do you draw between the text and your own life or your other learning? challenge – want ideas, positions or assumptions do you want to challenge or argue with in the text? concepts – what keep concepts or ideas do you think are important and worth holding on to from the text? changes – what changes in attitudes, thinking or action are suggested nay the text, either for you or others?


The micro lab protocol – for focusing attention, analysing and reflecting

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For individually reflecting the issue or topic being examined, then working triads: share – the first person in the group shares for a set time (usually 1-2 minutes) whilst the other members listen attentively without comment or interruption; pause – for 20-30 seconds of silence to take in what was said; repeat for persons two and three, pausing for a moment of silence after each round; discuss – as a group (for 5-10 minutes), referencing the comments the have been made and making connections between the responses of the group.


I used to think…, now i think… – for reflecting and metacognition

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Image from: Mary Cantwell at shared under   Creative Commons Attribution -NonCommercial International License.

For reflecting on your current understanding of this topic, and respond to each of the sentence stems: I used to think…; Now i think…




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