Thursday, August 7, 2014

Visible Thinking ROUTINES

The book Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison is chalked full of thinking routines that can be used with students of any age, with any content to get their thinking visible.

Making students' thinking visible benefits everyone involved. When students are able to think about what's going on in their own heads (metacognition), they begin to actively take responsibility for developing conceptual understanding, instead of passively depending on teachers to provide them with information. 

Seeing students' thinking also is beneficial for teachers. When we are able to see how students are thinking about the key and related concepts of subject matter, we're able "to confront students' misconceptions and design experiences to advance their understanding," (p. 27 of M.T.V.). To confront students' misconceptions, we must give them appropriate, effective, and immediate feedback that will push their understanding further and deeper.

When learning about Visible Thinking Routines though, teachers often focus on the importance of making students' thinking visible and they miss the fact that these tools and structures are meant to be routines that should become patterns of behavior. On his site, Ron Ritchhart, defines Thinking Routines as "patterns of behavior adopted to help one use the mind to form thoughts, reason, or reflect. We see these patterns emerging as the routines that are used over and over, becoming ingrained in us, both teachers and students. Once these routines become second nature, flexibility can emerge."

One particular fifth grade teacher understands the importance of using a thinking routine over and over again. Recently, during the summer session, this teacher used children's books as a way to help students construct understanding of the PYP attitudes. To help make sense of what was going on in the texts, the teacher used the 4C's thinking routine (p. 140-146 in M.T.V.), where students read a text and identify connections, challenges, concepts, and changes (for more information about the 4C's thinking routine, check out this post dated May 1, 2014).

During the first week, the teacher read the text Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann to the students and completed the 4C's as a whole group.

As the class continued to read about, investigate, and construct meaning of the PYP attitudes, they also continued to engage with the 4C’s thinking routine. It was the teacher's hope that the habitual use of the 4C's would allow the students to get used to the activity so that it would become routine.

After using the 4C's multiple times over the course of four weeks, the students collaboratively used the thinking routine one last time as they read The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland, a text that focused on appreciation.  As they progressed through the 4C’s, the concepts section still seemed to be the hardest for the students to grasp, but the teacher was encouraged by the student work that was completed following the reading of the text.

After reading about how one class of fifth grade students used the 4C's thinking routine over and over, until it become ingrained in both teacher and students, how have you or could you use a routine over and over again until it became second nature to you and your students?


  1. Hi Ryan this is fabulous! Just wondering if you would give me permission to post a link to your blog on my Making Thinking Visible group page on FB?

    1. Hi Julie, Yes, please go ahead! The idea behind the blog is to observe and document best teaching practice in order to connect one good idea to other educators. If we can connect with people across the globe, all the better!