Now You See It

Making Thinking Visible and Why It Is Important

No one wants a teacher who stands up in front of the classroom and lectures the entire period about a new biology concept.  Instead, get inside your student’s heads!  If we really want to know what they are thinking, let them visualize it!  MTV strategies are a great way to understand your student’s thinking process and have them interact with their fellow classmates.  In Ron Ritchhart’s Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Leaners, he gives countless MTV strategies.

Strategy 1: Chalk Talk

First, pose a question to your students.  Have them write it in the center of their large poster paper, then allow them to silently jot down their first thoughts or opinions about your question.

Second, let the students rotate around the room and have them read other’s responses.  Again, have them silently respond to their classmate’s initial thoughts.  This allows them to anonymously and carefully explore what everyone is thinking and have them interact with other student’s responses.

Lastly, once everyone has gone around the room, have each group talk to the class about what was written on their paper.  This can start good class discussion on the posed question!

Using Chalk Talk in the classroom can be very effective! In a biology classroom, we can use this strategy when talking about the use of GMO’s, the shark finning industry, or the use of fossil fuels and its effects on the environment.

Strategy 2: Claim, Support, Question

First, present an idea or situation to the class.  Give them data or prior information to the topic.  In groups, they will need to create a claim (statement to defend) and support it with the information they have.

Next, they will create a claim as a table and they will make sure they can support and defend it. After this, they will collectively ask a new question that furthers the idea or situation.  This can create a more open-ended, inquiry-based discussion.

Finally, have each group present their claims and evidence that they have to support it.  They will follow up with their question.  As everyone goes along, the class can openly discuss and compare their findings.  Not every group will have the same claim, so it makes for a good activity with many perspectives.

Using Claim, Support, Question in the classroom can be a good way to engage the class in discussion and argumentation.  In a biology classroom, I would have students read an in-depth, factual article on climate change and have them determine what the main cause is.  Or I can have them make claims to what the most important organ in the body is and have them support it with evidence.

Strategy 3:  Red Light, Yellow Light

First, start the class by telling them what the topic or lesson is that is being started.  This will be a good introduction to what will be done.

Second, give everyone a seemingly reliable article about a science concept.  What they will do (individually or in groups) is mark up the article up while they are reading it.  “Red light” refers to information in the text that does not seem reliable or factual at all.  “Yellow light” refers to information that seems questionable, but you don’t know much about it.

Lastly, once students have written on the text if certain information is “red” or “yellow”, have them discuss what they thought was questionable or not true, and have them further their research into the topic.

Using this strategy in the classroom can be used at the beginning of a lesson!  It’s a good way to fact check sources.  Red light, yellow light is also a good way to get students thinking about what they are about to learn and what is actually true about it.

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