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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Visible Thinking Routines

Last Monday I wrote about Question Starts, a "thinking routine" that I learned about from the folks at Project Zero's Visible Thinking website. I was really impressed by their overall approach and many of the other routines they detail.

The best way to learn more about Visible Thinking is to go to their website (which includes examples of techniques being put into practice in K-5 classrooms), but I decided to offer a teaser to convince you to click through.

According to their website, "Visual Thinking is a broad and flexible framework for enriching classroom learning in the content areas and fostering students' intellectual development at the same time." It is a product of sustained research in which the creators found that "skills and abilities are not enough."
Often, we found, children (and adults) think in shallow ways not for lack of ability to think more deeply but because they simply do not notice the opportunity or do not care. To put it all together, we say that really good thinking involves abilities, attitudes, and alertness, all three at once. 
They believe that "making students' thinking visible to themselves" can help students learn to "manage it better for learning and other purposes."

I was particularly taken with the site's specific "Thinking Routine" suggestions. As the authors explain, just as it is helpful to have routines to manage behavior, it is useful to have routines to encourage thinking.

According to their site, each routine that they recommend:
  • Is goal oriented in that it targets specific types of thinking
  • Gets used over and over again in the classroom
  • Consists of only a few steps
  • Is easy to learn and teach
  • Is easy to support when students are engaged in the routine
  • Can be used across a variety of context
  • Can be used by the group or by the individual.
I'm sure you are already using some of the strategies that they suggest you make into "routines." (They explain that the difference between a strategy and a routine is that a routine is a structure used repeatedly so as to become part of the classroom culture and "the ways in which students go about the process of learning.") I know I have.  "What Makes You Say That" is very much part of Visual Thinking Strategies, a technique we feature in many lessons and I've detailed in other posts. And "Think, Pair, Share" is an oldie but goodie.

But there were some strategies/routines that were new to me, others that I had been introduced to but had never used, and still others that provided a slightly different take on a strategy I have found particularly useful. I was particularly enamored with
Two of them I'd seen in other contexts:  
  • Arlee high school teacher Anna Baldwin introduced me to "I used to think, Now I think," when she led a workshop activity on homesteading and allotment on the Flathead Reservation using a simple graphic organizer called a Four Square. The four squares were labeled: "At first I think," "Now I think," "And now I think," and "Finally." She provided us with four different documents, including short pieces of text, images, and maps, one at a time, giving us time to reflect after examining each one, about to document how the new evidence changed our thinking on the topic. She detailed the technique in her video Inside Anna's Classroom and the accompanying study guide.
  • Project Archaeology introduced me to "Circle of Viewpoints" through their 8-12 lesson plan "Investigating the First Peoples, the Clovis Child Burial," in which they ask students to take on various roles (archaeologist, traditional tribal elder, etc.) and together to wrestle with the question of reburying the 12,5000-year-old Clovis child and the artifacts found in his grave.
The third seemed incredibly obvious (writing headlines)--after I read about it.

Go check out the site and let me know which of the routines they feature have worked for you, which ones you've tried unsuccessfully, or which ones you'd like to try. Note that both Anna Baldwin and Project Archaeology used these strategies in high school lessons, but much of the focus of the Project Zero Visible Thinking website is K-5. Do you have grade level recommendations for any of the Visible Thinking routines, or do you think (as Project Zero seems to) that they work across all grades? Are there any routines you would particularly recommend? Let me know and I'll share out.

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