Let’s Make Thinking Visual!

As teachers, it’s crucial that we set up and provide tools for our students to gather knowledge easily. One thing that we have been going over in class during the past week is the method of making teaching visible. You might ask, what does making thinking visual mean? Well, it’s an awesome way for a teacher to help their students grow into high-level learners!

Making thinking visible allows for teachers to gauge and monitor the learning process of their students. They can be used to understand how much students know before, during or after a lesson. It makes the learning process visualized which allows teachers to be able to better adapt to provide the best learning. Today, I will be going over a few examples of how this can be conducted!


Tug-O-War is an awesome strategy that teachers can use in their classroom to have their students express their ideas and opinions. This strategy is set up like the traditional game of Tug-o-War. Their will be a controversial subject in the middle of the rope and students will present information or make claims of their own to support either side on an argument.

This method of visual learning allows for the the teacher to observe students ideas and contributions in regards to the content being addressed. Students can write on post it notes and place their ideas on the side they chose. They have to be able to support their side however. This style of learning promotes students to express their stance as long as they can back it up. This can empower students and lead to an increase in class participation.

Once everyone puts up their statements on the side they agree with, the teacher can go through and give strength to the claims. If there are a lot of statements involving the same thing , then this would be a stronger claim for the side. These stronger claims would be considered anchors and be towards the ends of the rope.

Overall, the tug of war strategy is an awesome way to visualize students ideas and organize them in a observable fashion. This strategy also promotes students to express themselves which helps develop students into future scientists!


This method really resonated with me and I felt it could a resourceful tool in the classroom. It’s most effective time to use is when first introducing a topic. It starts by having the students write down 3 things they know about a certain topic. I would tweak this however into three things of how a concept relates to their own personal life. For example, if the topic was DNA, I would have the students write down at least one way on how they think DNA is connected to their own personal life. I think that this will help build a connection with the content being learned. At the same time, this would be a great way for the teacher to analyze what the students already know.

The second part is for them to write two things they wonder or have questions on about the topic. This allows the teachers to gauge what the students want to know about the new topic being introduced. It can be used as a starting point to lead to discussion and learning on the topic. This is one of the reasons on why I feel that this is such a strong strategy for teachers to use.

The next part is to have the students write an analogy comparing the topic to something. This establishes another form of connection with the word to help solidify their construct of the idea. This can be a way for the students to express their ideas on the topic through words.

After this initial 3-2-1 is performed, the teacher can lead into a discussion to have with the class. This would allow students to share their ideas and bounce these ideas off each other. This can follow up with a lesson and afterwards another 3-2-1 can be performed to analyze the efficiency of the lesson. Overall, this method can be used to visualize the learning that takes place in the class for the teacher to help adjust and bring forth the best style of education for that specific class.

Here is a video I found in regards to this strategy that hits on more key points of using this method!


Sentence Frame Word

This method I felt would be strong to reinforce key concepts to students. This breaks down literature that’s used in class to make it easier for students to comprehend. With science literature being very complex in nature, this strategy will help students be able to understand harder scientific text in a process that is organized and visualized.

Once your students read the text, have them write down any thing that they are confused on or would like to breakdown for compression. These can be words, sentences or phrases that they find in the text. A way students could record these would be to have them write it down on post it notes that they could later use to build sections for phrases, words, or sentences.

This can be followed up with the students sharing their findings and having a discussion on the topics. Students that have similar words or sentences can talk about their findings to try and find the answers on their own! This leads into a strong discussion and supports students in allowing them to be unsure. This provides them a way to take their uncertainly and use engagement to better understand the content.

This is a great way to excite students for reading. It can be a tedious and boring to read a textbook, but with this strategy it puts a spin on reading that benefits the students!

In Conclusion

Making thinking visual can help students tremendously in the classroom. It helps organize students’ thoughts and gives them a map to follow as they grow their education. It also is very beneficial to teachers as it allows them to know what’s going on in their student’s heads when it comes to the education they are providing them. It gives teachers the ability to change and adapt to provide the best educational experience by giving them visualized feedback of the learning process. These strategies will be deployed in my own classroom and recommend them for any teacher who strives on becoming the best that they can be!


  1. Hey Grace,
    Thanks for the honest feedback. I appreciate hearing from a fellow student’s perspective. I think that the 3-2-1 activity is an awesome way to monitor learning throughout the cycle. I think I would confront any misconceptions by preventing them from happening. I would explain and provide examples beforehand. I would also be open for students to come up and ask me questions regarding the portion. I would want the students to express their ideas in this section!

  2. Hi Steven!
    I really like 3-2-1 as an activity and think it could be useful across a variety of content areas. I like how you mentioned that you’d have students write down how the concept connects to their personal life- this is so important in showing students that science is real and is more than just words on a page. I think when it comes to the anaology portion, though, that misconceptions that the students have might come out. As a teacher, how would you make sure to confront those?

Leave a Reply

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