Have you ever really sat down and took the chance to just think? What about thinking about your thinking? Most people will probably answer no, and I’d understand why. I never really thought about sitting down and thinking about my thinking. But I’ve come to understand the importance of just thinking in general, and making sure you know you are thinking.
There is no point where if you keep thinking, you’ll just stop. There is so much to think about, and students often don’t show how they are thinking. We as educators have to get that thinking visible, because once we can see it, we’ll never be able to stop. In Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison’s book Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, they give us lots of tips, strategies, and tools to recognize this thinking and to get students to begin thinking. Once the students start thinking, they start learning.
Strategy for Introducing and Exploring Ideas
This is where it begins, this is when you get your students thinking and then we just keep encouraging their thinking.
Chalk Talk is a wonderful way to get students thinking about their previous knowledge and past experiences. To begin Chalk Talk you set up areas in the room for students to do a silent conversation or discussion based on each topic/question that you create. The best questions are ones related to controversial or complicated topics, such as cloning or climate change because everyone has something to talk about.
The students will wander around the room and write out responses/questions to the initial question posed. This allows a silent discussion between the class as they will be able to give their points. This is a great way to get students that are quiet to share their responses with the class. Students start thinking about what they feel and what they know.
— Trish Klapprodt (@mrsksworld) November 1, 2017
Strategy for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas
This is where students take all their thoughts and ideas and then place them together in an organized fashion. This is how they can get a better understanding of the main ideas and concepts they are thinking about.
This strategy has students stop and think about the central idea of what they are learning or have learned. The goal is to get them to produce some kind of tangible thought that they can present. There are multitudes of ways to do this, including just having the students write out the central idea. To make this more creative, the students are supposed to create a “headline”. Something that is attention seeking like from a newspaper that will draw a reader in or at least give them a good summary of what everything is about.
One way to do this in a classroom is to go through a learning cycle, then towards the end in the evaluate have the students come up with a central idea to the entire learning cycle. For example, if talking about forces, students could sum up what they learned in a headline they create. They would then share it with a small group, and provide justification and reasoning behind their choice for the headline title. This is an easy way to assess students as well, as they are providing the reasoning behind their choice, which can show their understanding.
This video shows a great demonstration of headlines in a 2nd Grade Music classroom!
Strategy for Digging Deeper Into Ideas
This is when the students take everything they have learned so far and put it into a new light. Maybe it is a new scenario that they didn’t have before with much more complicated situations, which forces the students to think about each decision that they make.
Circle of Viewpoints
The goal of this strategy is to get students thinking in more than one perspective. Often times students will only be able to see things from their own view, but in this activity they start to take on a role that they are given or they choose.
First, an event, situation, or question is posed to the students. Most likely with a complicated scenario where more than one “right” answer is possible. These students then will form a circle where they can see things from a different angle. They are prompted to take on a role in the situation and provide the viewpoint of the role. They must explain this viewpoint and be prepared to defend it. The students are encouraged to question based on the role they are in, as that role may not be able to understand another role’s perspective at all.
The best part of the strategy is the flexibility of when it is done. It could be done at the beginning to get new ideas flowing or at the end to extend the learning and thinking. For example, a teacher could do this at the beginning of a lesson on deforestation. The students could be given roles that they must portray in the event of a forest being taken down around a village. This would show them a perspective they may not have ever had before or even recognized, because not everyone sees a problem and situation in the same way.
Why It’s Important
It might be easy to just write off the strategies as more random ideas that people throw out in the education field, but they are tangible activities that make thinking visible. It’s very important to make sure you can see when students are thinking and what they are thinking, because if it isn’t visible they may not get a clear scope of what they must do or what they are supposed to be learning. If their thinking is visible then you can help them expand their thinking or even catch them if they get lost along the way.
Comedian, TV man, and writer John Lloyd summarizes the entire concept of making thinking visible with multiple examples and other invisible things in our lives. Most of these invisible things are just as important or more important than the visible.
I encourage you to look at more strategies from the other wonderful bloggers on here, as I only gave you one example of each kind!