Thursday, May 1, 2014

The 4C's

The 4C's is a Visible Thinking Routine used to synthesize and organize ideas. It comes from the book Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (p. 140). According to the authors, the 4C's is used to make connections, identify key concepts, raise questions, and consider implications. It is a text-based routine that helps identify key points of complex text for discussion that demands a rich text or book.

What are the 4C's?*

Connections: What connections can you draw between the text and your own life and/or other learning?

Challenge: What ideas, positions, or assumptions do you want to challenge or argue in the text?

Concepts: What key 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 by the text, either for you or others?

*Click here for a more detailed description of the this Visible Thinking Routine.

In fifth grade, a teacher was looking for a learning engagement that would allow her students to get into issues related to human and natural changes to the environment. She was noticing that there was a lot of news that connects with this topic every day.

Specifically, the teacher decided she wanted to focus on water scarcity. In her class, the students were investigating how human development affects the water supply and water quality because there are so many obvious global connections to make. After doing some quick searching, the classroom teacher quickly learned that there was a lot of content out there on water scarcity. The trick was finding the right resource that contained enough information but was still fifth grade appropriate.

After finding some sources that fit the "rich text" description that this Visible Thinking Routine demands, the teacher identified a conceptual understanding she wanted her students to develop during the learning engagement: Students will understand that the availability of water affects human interactions with the environment.

In planning the learning engagement, the teacher used the inquiry cycle developed 
by our staff recently during a professional development day.


The staff in our building used the Visible Thinking Routine "I used to think .... Now I think" to show their understanding of inquiry. Their responses were then synthesized together and fit under three major parts of inquiry: invitation, investigation, and demonstration.

Invitation: During the invitation stage of an inquiry, the teacher is responsible for igniting an authentic interest in the students and capturing their hearts, brains, and spirits. 

In order to do this, the teacher had the water fountain turned off after gym class so the students didn't have access to water, especially when they needed it the most. She gave the students a Dixie cup that they could use to walk upstairs to the office to get some water.

Investigation: During the investigation stage of an inquiry, students need to discover information from a variety of sources, construct knowledge and understanding by digging deep into the material, and make their thinking visible.

To investigate the topic of water scarcity, the students watched a video about Gladys and how The Water Project helped her village get access to clean, fresh water.

Students then were introduced to the 4C's activity and were given the article Food for the Hungry Establishes Clean Water Systems for 200,000 People Worldwide. Students individually read the article and were instructed to write down any connections, challenges, concepts, and changes they thought of while they read (a copy of their recording sheet can be found below).

Demonstration: During the demonstration step in the inquiry process, students are given the opportunity to reflect on their learning, while they generate additional thoughts and questions.

To demonstrate their thinking and learning, fifth graders came together and shared their connections, challenges, concepts, and changes in a discussion. Students continued to add to their recording sheets as they heard the ideas of others.



An example recording sheet of the 4C's.

The teacher continually asked students to back up their responses with evidence. As students would share their statements, assertions, or opinions, the teacher often would ask, "“what makes you say that?” or “tell me more about that", which is the Visible Thinking Routine, "What makes you say that?" also from Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison's book Making Thinking Visible (p. 165).

After reading about how 5th graders used the Visible Thinking Routine of 4C's to identify key points of complex text for discussion, how could you or have you used this Visible Thinking Routine to make your students thinking about key points in complex texts visible?

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