The Importance of MTV in the Classroom

I know what you may be thinking, “MTV in the classroom? I don’t know how shows like The Hills, Jersey Shore, or Catfish can be important for my student’s education.” 


I agree! What I’m talking about when I refer to MTV is a set of strategies that Make Thinking Visible. Using MTV strategies in the classroom are so important because they can aid both students and teachers.


These are some of the numerous MTV strategies that you can employ in your classroom!

MTV Strategies Aid Students Because They…

  • Can allow for student recall of past information.
  • Give students the ability to actively participate in their learning.
  • Can allow for student idea synthesis.
  • Give students an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of information.
  • Can allow for students to explore new concepts/ideas.
  • Give students the ability to organize their thoughts and knowledge.

MTV Strategies Help Teachers Because They…

  • Give educators the opportunity to see student misunderstandings or misconceptions.
  • Provide student-driven activity and engagement

3 Specific MTV Strategies That Can Be Used in the Classroom…

1. The Explanation Game

Purpose: Aid students in building CAUSAL explanations for why something is the way it is and the purposes and reasons of its function (Ritchhart et. al., 101).


  • Give students a picture or object that they may already know what it is. 
  • Point students in the direction of parts of the picture or objects they may not yet know/understand. 
  • Have students work in teams to name features that they noticed with the object/image.
  • Have students explain the features that they have previously named. 
  • Have students give reasonings to why their explanations are reasonable.
  • Give students time to generate alternative explanations to the features they initially reported.
See The Explanation Game in action with this video! Dr. Ron Stout discusses both the execution of this strategy as well as giving examples.

Classroom Activity (for a Physics Classroom):

  • State Standard: P.W.1: Wave properties
    • Give students a small demonstration or video of waves hitting a surface. 
    • Once the students have had time to observe what is occurring, given them prompting to begin The Explanation Game for the phenomena they see occurring. 
    • The students should understand the liquid medium and the barrier. 
  • Educators could use this as an engagement activity for their students to lead into a lesson on wave properties and energy.

2. The Micro Lab Protocol

Purpose: Help students engage with ideas, ensuring all student voices are heard before delving deeper into a topic. (Ritchhart et. al., 148).


  • Students should be divided into groups of 3. The educator should be considered the time keeper. 
  • Assign each student in a group, either 1, 2, or 3. This will be their speaking order. There should be a particular note made to students that no one is to be talking within the specified round except for the assigned speaker. 
  • All 3 rounds should be completed within 5 to 10 minutes – so the time should be kept as such. Between each round the educator should call for group silence of about 20 to 30 seconds before the next round (i.e. next speaker) can begin. 
  • After all speakers have shared their thoughts, the groups should be allowed to freely discuss their ideas. The activity should take approximately 5 to 10 minutes. 
  • Following the group discussion should be a full classroom discussion reflecting on the student’s thinking.
Mary Guggenberger provides an excellent example of The Micro Lab Protocol that was lead during a faculty meeting for elementary teachers!

Classroom Activity (for a Physical Science Classroom):

  • State Standard: PS.FM.1: Motion
  • Students should be given a small “quiz” of motion problems related to displacement, velocity, and acceleration. 
    • The quiz should not be taken as a graded assignment, rather the students should be paired into groups of 3 and should be walked through The Micro Lab Protocol to discuss challenges they faced, reasons for the challenges, or problems they could not figure out. 
    • Once the students come back together in the big group, the class should discuss why they may have faced those challenges. 
  • Educators could use this as an informal assessment (evaluation) activity.

3. Circle of Viewpoints

Purpose: Aid students in identifying and considering different and diverse perspectives on topics, events, or issues. The ultimate purpose of this strategy is to aid students in gaining more broad/complete understanding of a topic, issue, or event (Ritchhart et. al., 171).


  • The educator will be helping in mediation of this strategy.
  • Students should be given materials to examine involving a particular topic, issue, or event. Students should be prompted to take note of the overall topic, their observations, initial conclusions, and their reasoning. 
  • The educator should then call for students to give their decision on what the topic/issue/event is.
  • The class should then generate a list of viewpoints, objects, themes, and features of the topic. 
    • The educator should record these viewpoints around the topic in a circle.
  • The class should choose viewpoints they would like to explore further and be placed into groups to discuss. 
    • Groups should be prompted to embody the viewpoint they chose to explore and describe the topic from the perspective. 
    • Groups should then be prompted to share what a person/group that has that particular viewpoint might question or be curious about with the topic. 
  • The class should then come back together and share the different perspectives and the main thoughts/differences of the viewpoints noted.

Some blogs that discuss MTV…

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., and Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Jossey-Bass.


  1. Colleen,
    Great post! I really enjoyed reading about your ideas on how to use MTV in the science classroom. I also LOVE the graphic that you used at the beginning of your post that showed images of various visible thinking strategies (it really helped me to think about visible thinking visibly ha!). What is one way that you think you would use the Circle of Viewpoints in your science classroom? For me, I think I would use this strategy in chemistry to learn about various social issues where there are a bunch of different perspectives at play.

    • Hi Emilia! Thank you so much for reading and responding to my post! That is an excellent way to use circle fo viewpoints in the science classroom. I think another way this could be used in the classroom is to use the strategy to discuss historical viewpoints of an issue. People could take different historical sides of the argument and develop a broader view of the issue.

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