IDEAS: Visible thinking – Thinking routines part 3

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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 third category of thinking routines is below, see part 1 and part 2 for the other categories, and the introduction.


Digging deeper

What makes you say that? – for reasoning with evidence

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

For use when following up a statement, assertion or opinion that has been expressed by someone, ask: What makes you say that?


Circle of viewpoints – for perspective taking

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For identifying different perspectives that could be present in or affected by what you have just read, seen or heard. Similar to OPV organisers but recorded differently: record the viewpoints in a circle with the issue or event at the center. Choose one of these perspectives to explore further, using the following prompts as a starting place – I am thinking of … from the point of view of ….; I think …. because ….; or A question/concern I have from this viewpoint is … .


Step inside – for perspective taking

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

For thinking about a person or object that is a part of connected to the event or situation you are examining. Place yourself within the event to see things from this point of view. Think about: What can this person or thing see, observe or notice? What might the person or thing know, understand, hold true or believe? What might the person or thing care deeply about? What might the person or thing wonder about or question?


Red light, yellow light aka Stop light- for monitoring, identifying bias, raising questions

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

When reading, viewing or listening to materials, consider: What are the read lights? (What things stop you in your tracks as a reader/listener/observer because you doubt their truth or accuracy?); What are the yellow lights here? (What things slow you down a bit, give you pause, and make you wonder if they are true and accurate or not?).


Claim-support-question – for identifying generalisations and theories, reasoning with evidence, making counterarguments

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image from:

For drawing on your investigation, experience, prior knowledge or reading: Make a claim about the topic (an explanation or interpretation of some aspect of the topic); identify support for your claim (evidence); Raise a question related to your claim (What may make you doubt the claim? What isn’t fully explained? What further issues does your claim raise?).


Tug-of-war – for perspective taking, reasoning, identifying complexities

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

For working with a dilemma that can be considered from multiple perspectives or stances: Place a line across the middle of your desk to represent the tog-of-war rope; Identify and frame two opposing sides of the dilemma; Generate as many “tugs” or reasons that pull you towards that stance, those that support it, for both sides; Determine the strength of each tug and place it on your rope; Capture any “what ifs” that arise in the process to consider or further investigation and discussion.


Sentence-phrase-word – for summarising and distilling

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

During discussion or reflection time: Select a sentence that was meaningful to you, captures a core idea, or summarises the information; Next select a phrase that moved, engaged or provoked you; Then, choose a word that captured your attention or struck you as powerful; Finally, discuss and record your choices. Make explanations for your choices  and then reflect on the choice of words, phrases and sentences as a collective – identifying themes that emerged, implication or predications that can be drawn and noticing any aspects that were not captured.


2 thoughts on “IDEAS: Visible thinking – Thinking routines part 3

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