You’re Watching MTV

Making Thinking Visible strategies promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners.

Here are some examples!

Zoom In

What is the strategy?

  • Asks learners to observe a portion of an image close up and develop a hypothesis as to what the image is
  • New visual information is then presented and the learner is asked to look again and see if they want to change their hypothesis
  • Continue unveiling sections of the image until the whole thing is displayed

What is the purpose of this strategy?

  • To show students that it’s okay to change your mind about something
  • It is important to be open-minded and flexible in order to change your hypothesis

What’s an example of this strategy?

  • For an anatomy lesson, this strategy could be useful when teaching about the different tissues of the human body, since they all have their own unique characteristics

Here’s another example!

Compass Points

What is the strategy?

  •  Present an issue, event, or proposition to the students
  • Place 4 poster papers around the classroom (N,E,S,W)
    • N = Needs (what more information do you need?)
    • E = Excitements
    • S = Stances
    • W = Worries
  • Have the students write their ideas on sticky notes and place them on the poster papers

What is the purpose of this strategy?

  • Allows students to consider ideas from different points of view
  • This is a way to introduce controversial topics into the classroom

What’s an example of this strategy?

  • GMOs is a safe controversial topic to discuss (are they beneficial or not) because the two different stances not to offend each other
  • Give CREDIBLE articles about the benefits and harms of GMOs and let the students discuss their own thoughts by placing sticky notes around the classroom

Here’s one more example!

CSI: Color, Symbol, Image

What is the strategy?

  • Introduce the topic of the lesson
  • Have the students pick a color that they think best represents the essence of that idea
  • Have the students pick a symbol that they think best represents the essence of that idea
  • Have the students pick an image that they think best represents the essence of that idea

What is the purpose of this strategy?

  • Has the students come up with what they think the essence of the topic is in nonverbal ways
  • Enhances comprehension and develops metaphorical thinking

What’s an example of this strategy?

  • When teaching mitosis, divide the students up into five groups and have them come up with a color, symbol, and image for each of the five stages of mitosis
  • Have one person from each group come up and write their ideas on the board


MTV strategies are critical to understanding how students are thinking! It gives them freedom to express their thoughts, feelings, questions, etc. in many different ways. It gets them out of their seats and discussing with their peers!

Here’s the author of “Making Thinking Visible,” Ron Ritchhart discussing the importance of thinking:

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making thinking visible: How to promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


  1. Hello Katie!

    I really like how you added the subject of biology into your post. Like you, I also love biology and learning about it. I readly like the color, symbol, image idea being used on mitosis. Mistosis is a little hard for some kids to remember. I think that doing this in a classroom would be a great idea and would allow them to learn it better. I agree that GMOS are not a controversial topic. That is why I picked that topic for my MTV strategy. I sometimes do get a little sensitive about that topic because of my 22 food allergies, but most people do not get overly sensitive and I do not either. I like the second idea that you had about the sticky notes and the posterboard. Some kids are so shy and do not like to speak up. I was one of those kids in high school. This will allow them to speak up without all eyes on them, if you know what I mean. I also like your first strategy. I know for a fact that tissues of the human body can look quite weird under the microscope! I like the idea for this. Good job writing about how you can incorporate different MTV strategies in biology! Biology rocks (not literally, only geology truly rocks!), but biology is awesome!!! In also like watching your video. What an amazing man!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Delaina, thank you so much for the positive feedback! I put a lot of thought into what topics would work best for each MTV strategy. I’m glad you agree with them!

  2. Kate, thanks for the positive feedback! I agree that students can have trouble moving past their original ideas, even when evidence is presented that suggests otherwise. A high schooler always wants to think they know the right answer and not admit that they’re wrong! (I know I did when I was in high school)
    As for addressing the importance of a change in opinions, I would ask them to compare their original thoughts with their new ones after the new evidence had been presented. I would hope that by showing them that their ideas changed after seeing new evidence, that they see that it’s totally acceptable for that to happen! Especially if a lot of their peers are realizing the same changes! Thanks again for the feedback!

  3. Hi Katie! I love your blog. I want to zoom in on “Zoom In.” I think that this would be a fantastic thing to do when you first start teaching a class any topic considering the main purpose. It is so important to have your students understand that their ideas will change while learning, and that these changes are good! Students often times have trouble moving past their original ideas even when better evidence is presented. With this in mind, an activity such as the one you had described would be beneficial to the students’ ability to morph their existing thoughts and ideas. How would you explain to students after doing an activity such as this that change is crucial to their learning? Aside from “Zoom In,” I like that you explained that the strategies within Making Thinking Visible allow for students to express themselves, yet also give themselves independence.

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