Training of the Mind

This quote stuck with me when I first read it because I relate to it in many ways. As a fourth year college student and future educator, I have realized over the past years that one of my goals is to not only learn, but think. In the classroom I want to foster thinking in my students as well. This can be difficult task, but Ron Ritchhart’s book, Making Thinking Visible, highlights “thinking routines” to guid you.

Routines for Introducing and Exploring Ideas

Routines in this section can be used at the beginning of the unit or lesson. The content for these activities should be engaging so the students will collaborate with their peers. You want to make sure your students are being challenged to think deeper about the topic. The seven routines for introducing and exploring are:

  • 3-2-1 Bridge
  • Chalk Talk
  • Compass Points
  • See-Think-Wonder
  • The Explanation Game
  • Thinking-Puzzle-Explore
  • Zoom In

Lesson: Chalk Talk

This routine helps students voice their ideas, questions or problems with the topic anomalously. It is a good way to get initial thoughts about the subject. This is done by students writing their thoughts down on a chalkboard, white board or paper. The students are provoked by a word or phrase. They are able to write initial comments and then peers are able to make secondary comments off of the first one. They can also build their understanding by reading their peers comments to them.

Routines for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas

Routines in this section are used throughout the unit or lesson. These activities are used to help students connect ideas together that makes sense to them. Make sure that students are questions during this phase of the learning process. These routines will make the ideas more concrete. The seven routines for synthesizing and organizing ideas are:

  • Connect-Extend-Challenge
  • CSI: Color, Symbol, Image
  • Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate: Concept Maps
  • Headlines
  • I Used to Think…, Now I Think…
  • The 4C’s
  • The Micro Lab Protocol

Lesson: CSI: Color, Symbol, Image

This routine uses something other than words to help students make the connections between concepts. The students are given a word or phrase to think about. They have to come up with a color, symbol and image that goes along with their word or phrase. The students then have to justify their answers. The class should discuss what they thought. There are no wrong answers in this activity.

Routines for Digging Deeper into Ideas

Routines in this section are normally used at the end of a unit. These activities help students combine all of the ideas in the unit or lesson. These use reasoning skills along with thinking outside the box. The seven routines for digging deeper into ideas are:

  • Circle of Viewpoints
  • Claim-Support-Question
  • Red Light, Yellow Light
  • Sentence-Phrase-Word
  • Step Inside
  • Tug-of-War
  • What Makes You Say That?

Lesson: Sentence-Phrase-Word

This routine uses a text (paragraph, article, chapter, etc.) to help solidify the components of the lesson or unit. The activity make students summarize and discuss the overall topic. It requires deep thinking truly master a subject. After reading the text, students find a sentence, phrase  and word that gets at understanding and theme of the topic. Students should justify why they felt a connection to these pieces of the text. They can discuss with their peers and think about alternative ways to think.

I would suggest learning and thinking about all of these routines to add to your students curriculum. They can be a bit benefit in the classroom to help your students visualize instead of memorize.



  1. Katin,
    Great blog post! I’d like to start off that your organization was awesome! It flows really well and doesn’t look like it was all clumped together in a mess. Your descriptions of each strategy were also short and sweet, and get right to the point. I really like your video, the beginning part about teaching skills and teaching students about their thinking and how they are thinking is really important.
    I do have a question though, how would you use MTV outside of your classroom?

    • Dillon,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I appreciate your liking of my organization and graphics. That is a great question! I think that using MTV strategies inside the classroom will allow students to use the skills practiced during the activities outside the classroom. MTV’s routines are a great way to foster student intrinsic motivation because it allows students to think for themselves and be passionate about the topic. It also helps them relate what they are learning inside the classroom to the outside world. They can talk about climate change in class and then look at their life and see how climate change could be affecting them.

  2. Katin,
    I liked how your blog is organized in the same way that the book is because it makes it easy for me to follow along with, and still flows well for those readers who haven’t read the MTV book. I would love to see a some of the strategies you focused on and how they would look in a science lesson plan. I love the last graphic that you used at the conclusion of your blog because it touches on the idea of fostering students to use inquiry in the classroom and question ideas. It makes a nice connection to the visible thinking that we want our students to show us with their ideas and thought process. Good job!

    • Hayley,

      Thanks for your wonderful comment. I should have specific science lessons in my blog and will take that into account in future blogs. I’m glad you enjoyed my last graphic. I think that it is important for students to question the world around them and it is our jobs as teachers to inspire the students to seek out the answers to their questions. Having students find the answers allows them to go through the whole thought process. I think that this really ties into MTV.


  3. Katin,
    I really like that you start your posts off with quotes. This weeks quote was especially powerful. The training of the mind is as essential, if not more than the learning of facts. This is especially evident when talking about Making Thinking Visible. Being able to allow students to see the process of their own thinking is what Ritchhart really emphasizes throughout his book. One thing I would have liked to see is an example of a lesson using these strategies. This could have been really powerful and would have reinforced your explanations.

    • Billy,

      Thank you for your comment. I also thought this quote was powerful. Training the mind to think is way more important then memorizing facts. It helps with connecting to the real world and critical thinking skills.There are some reasons why MTV is so important to implement into the classroom. I should have given specific examples of the routines I highlighted in my blog, but I also wanted my readers to explore these routines as well.


  4. Katin,

    Great job on this blog post! The video at the beginning did a great job of showing examples and practices of putting thoughts together and organizing them. I also liked how you were able to mention a lot of techniques. You focused on a couple, but you still listed all the rest so that readers can look into them if they’re interested. Awesome!


    • Aesa,

      Thanks for you thoughtful comment! I thought it was important to give my readers all of the routines and encourage them to look into each one of them further. These will help students deepen their understanding while also having fun!


  5. Katin,
    I really liked the quote you used at the beginning of this blog post!
    I think you gave a great summary of the three strategies that you chose. I also really liked how you included a list of the different strategies for each part of the learning cycle.
    I would like to know how you would use the three strategies you included in your classroom?

    • Shay,

      Thank you for your comment on my blog post! That is a great question. I think the a chalk talk would be great for the explore stage of the learning because it allows students to work off of each others thoughts and gets them thinking about the topic at hand. As for CSI, I think it works well in the elaborate stage because the students use conceptual understanding to think deeper about the topic. Lastly, sentence-phrase-word is also great for the elaborate stage of the learning cycle because it allows students to think deeper and make broader connections with the topic. Overall, I think that most of the activities can be modified to be used throughout the learning cycle!


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