Transparency of Learning

Transparency of Learning

By: Hayley Johnson

Have you ever been teaching and feel like your students are listening but not understanding, or your students are in class but aren’t actually participating in the learning? (I can admit that I have done this many times as a student, too) Well, this blog is here to introduce some ways to get your students more involved in their own learning, and how they can show it.

Making Thinking Visible

A wonderful book that reveals efficient methods and ideas for dissecting your students’ knowledge and understanding. The book proposes over 20 methods to use in your classroom to get students to think and share their thoughts. These methods will help stimulate your students’ critical thinking skills and showcase their creativity and thought process. This book showcases how students learn by explaining their thinking.

Buy Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart

Key Words

Visibility, opportunity, understand, dissect, purpose, explore, powerful, identify

Let’s see how we can use MTV strategies in the classroom:

Chalk Talk

Topic: Environmental science

Phase of the learning cycle: Explore

Directions: Give your students stations with large poster paper and colored markers at each. Write one of the following prompts on each poster and have them silently rotate around the classroom writing initial responses/questions/thoughts, as well as responses to their classmate’s ideas.


-Climate change is largely man made

-Zoos and aquariums should be abolished

-Animal testing should be illegal

-Deforestation should cease

-There should be more intense restrictions on waste disposal/recycling

-Food industry should be penalized for overcrowding, mistreatment, artificial insemination, etc.

-Clean water usage should be regulated

Purpose: This will allow students the opportunity to question and respond to various topics that will be focused on in a unit. This also gives the students who wouldn’t typically raise their voice in class to answer/ ask questions. It gives each student an equal voice and equal opportunity in the classroom. It can be used as an explore activity since the students can use any prior knowledge to respond to the prompt or simply ask questions that they are curious about exploring.

The Explanation Game

Topic: Environmental Science

Phase of the learning cycle: Explain

Directions: Students in pairs will be shown the following image. For the game, the partners will name it, in which they will name key aspects of the drawing. They will then explain it, by discussing what it could be, what it represents, or why it looks the way it does. The next step of the game is to have the partners give reasons, where they will give support for their explanations in the previous step. Lastly, the partners will generate alternatives. This is where they could give alternative explanations for what the object shows or represents.

Purpose: This activity will have the students analyze and use their prior knowledge as well as new knowledge they recently learned in the unit to dissect the image and explain how it might represent concepts in the environmental unit. This is an opportunity for the students to build their own explanations and interpretations without being given a specific answer and they can make connections to what they know/have learned.

CSI: Color, Symbol, Image

Topic: Environmental Science

Phase of the learning cycle: Elaborate

Directions: The students will individually read through an article, textbook chapter, or watch a video. They will then choose a color that they feel represents the core ideas. Then, students will find a symbol that they can use to represent a concept or idea in the piece. The students will also sketch their own image that they think encompasses the main idea of the piece. Lastly, the students share with the class and explain their chosen methods to represent the piece.

Article: Air and Water Pollution: KidzWorld

Student Example: 

Color: Symbol: Image:

Purpose: This is an opportunity for students to make a deep connection to a subtopic in the unit. The students formulate their own symbolic connection to the article by designating a color, symbol, and exemplar image of the concept. This will heighten their understanding of the concept and help their brain make connections in the future when they think back on this knowledge as well. This takes the explaining phase one step further and access their creativity by having them elaborate their understanding and share it with their classmates.

Final Thoughts:

Theses activities can be easily  incorporated to just about any lesson plan. It would be beneficial to the teacher and students to at least have one of the phases of the learning cycle include an MTV strategy. This will allow for the teacher to assess where the students are at with their learning and will also help the students understand and take control of their own learning in the classroom, rather than routinely taking notes, listening, or reading.

^Not quite, but a valiant effort


  1. Hayley,

    I really liked your level of detail when it came to describing the techniques. I feel like an educator could just read this blog without having read the book and still understand how to implement these! Your additional comment about each technique’s place in the learning cycle is icing on the cake. Great job!


    • Aesa,
      I was assuming that my readers for the most part wouldn;t have previously read the book so I’m glad it was easy to understand for those who might not be familiar with the book! I added the link for any viewers that might be interested in it after reading my blog too so I’m glad it was easy to follow! I like putting it in terms of the learning cycle because it makes it easy for me to personally see where I can utilize the technique so hopefully it helps others as well. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Hayley,

    I really enjoyed your blog this week! You had great elements from MTV. I liked how you talked about the major concepts in the book and highlighted some of the activities from it. It well organized and had specific lesson examples. The phases of the learning cycle was a good addition. Although you did have some great pictures, I would have liked to see some media posts. What was your favorite activity in MTV? Overall, great blog!


    • Katin,
      Thanks for the feedback! I definitely see now that I could’ve found some real examples on youtube or twitter of my MTV strategies at work. My favorite MTV strategy besides the ones that I outlined in my blog was see think wonder. I liked this one because it can be so easily incorporated into just about any lesson and it is a great way to show students something and give them time to analyze and make their own connections and ask questions themselves. These are some common ideas in a lot of the strategies so I actually took a lot away from many of them. Thanks again!

  3. Hayley, first of all I love how your title in itself is an interpretation of Making Thinking Visible. I think it is important to look into your title a little bit. To me it seems to me that in learning there are no secrets each side (teacher and student) are working together to reach one common goal and that helps the student see their learning. I also love how you give concrete examples of how to make thinking visible in a science classroom. I love the examples, definitely something I will have to reference in the future!

    • Tom,
      Thanks for noticing that- I was hoping people would take note of the caption since I was trying to find another term to represent what making thinking visible actually means. I really like the distinction you make that this visible thinking really has to involve the teacher and student in a cooperative way. The student has to be willing to expose their thoughts and ideas to the class in many of these activities and the teacher plays a key role in giving students the right environment and platform to do so in their classroom. Thanks for the comment!

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