And At Last I See The Thinking: Making Thinking Visible

Image result for making thinking visible

Making thinking apparently visible in the classroom is incredibly important if you want to be able to determine if your students are learning (and that should be something you want).  Ron Ritchhart thankfully has our back with his book, “Making Thinking Visible”. This book has a TON of different strategies in order to better make the learning that your students are doing more visible to you.

Why are MTV strategies critical?

I can almost hear you asking yourself this question. If the introduction paragraph didn’t already convince you that visible thinking is important through me telling you it is, then allow me delve deeper into the topic.

Visible thinking is really the only way that you, as a teacher, will be able to really gauge whether or not the students are on the right path with their learning and if they need any readjustments in their thoughts. Sure, tests and the like can gauge if the student is able to regurgitate the information that you want them to, but by Making Thinking Visible, you are able to really dive into the minds of your students and determine if you are doing your job effectively or not.

Here is a video that goes more into what Visible Thinking is, and three different strategies to make thinking visible

Making Thinking Visible StrategiesImage result for chalk talk

Strategy 1: Chalk Talk

This strategy is especially useful when proposing an idea or topic that is especially controversial, such as climate change. It allows for students to anonymously go around the room and comment on other people’s ideas and thoughts in a manner that gets students up, moving, and thinking.

Use in the Classroom

I would use this strategy if I were to introduce the topic of GMOs to my students. They would be able to get up and move around, commenting and discussing on large post-it notes that would be scattered around the room. Once everyone had commented at least once on each post-it, we would convene and discuss what had been written. This would allow for students who might not be willing or able to speak up during other discussions to have a voice without actually speaking.

Image result for compass point mtv

Strategy 2: Compass Points

This strategy is somewhat similar to Chalk Talk, but it revolves more around making a decision versus debating a topic. The decision to be made is posted on the board, and the compass points N, S, E, and W are posted on the walls. Students then write what they Need to know, their Stances/Steps/Suggestions for the decision, what Excites them about the decision (i.e what are the benefits), and what are their Worries about the decision (i. e what are the downsides).

Use in the Classroom

I would use this strategy to go outside the margins and talk about an ethical decision that is often debated: whether or not animal testing is a necessary evil. Students would then be able to go around the room and write down their answers for each of the compass points, then we could come together and debate/discuss the different points. Needs that the students have could then be put together into a sort of research project that the students could participate in to get more knowledgeable about the topic.

Strategy 3: Tug of War

This strategy is great for getting your students to understand both sides of an argument, which is useful when making big decisions. It will also help your students understand the thought processes that go into believing in things that the scientific community often shun. Students draw a line on a piece of paper, and write For and Against on either ends of the line. Students then go through and write arguments that could be posed for either side, and they rate them on how much of a “tug” they give, in other words how strong the argument is.

Use in the Classroom

I would use this in order to propose a controversial topic, much like Chalk Talk. I would propose a topic, such as GMO use, and ask students to write the different arguments that they have heard or said for the For and Against side of the argument, rating the statements as they go along. Then, we would come back as a class and discuss the different arguments and why they gave them that strength. This is incredibly useful to eliminate bias and misinformation.


  1. Bryce
    Great post! I love the title it really drew me in! I like how you started out with explaining what it means to make thinking visible and paired it with a video. I also really liked the strategies you chose to expand on. When it came to compass points, I’m curious as to what activities you’d do specifically in your classroom? You had great ideas for the other two! I also agree with your tweet completely; it really got to the point of MTV! Overall, loved this!

  2. Bryce, this is an awesome blog post! I love all of the pictures that you used. They really bring the whole post together. I also like how you described Making Thinking Visible. This gives insight to what the whole post will be about. I really like the second strategy that you used in the blog. I also like the topic that you used within all of the strategies. The video is also a really good source of information as well. Which of the three strategies that you explained is your favorite and why? Once again this is an awesome blog post!

  3. Bryce, I really enjoyed reading your blog! I like the first picture you included.
    Chalk talk would have to be my favorite MTV strategy! What’s yours?
    Your chalk talk example is great! I think this strategy is one of the best ways controversial topics can be talked about in the classroom, including your example of GMOs.
    Would you have the students move around individually or or as groups? What are the benefits of each?
    Again, great post!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.