Let’s Visualize Student THINKING!!

How do educators make our students’ thinking visible? Can we see the thought processes in real-time? Within this blog, we will examine the teaching strategies within the book Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (Will be referred to as MTV): 


This method of teaching is best used with an assortment of texts or passages. Students will be pushed to make connections, ask questions, challenge key points, and create class discussions. Texts can include books, short passages, podcasts, videos, and anything that provides thought-provoking content. So, where to start: 

  1. Set up: Includes introducing the text and content in a way that gets students engaged. You should also display The 4C’s on the board with clear expectations: Connections, Challenges, Concepts, and Changes. 
  2. Connections: Have your students make connections to the text in any way they see fit. This could be connecting it to something they learned in math class or even their personal experience. 
  3. Challenges: Have your students identify areas of the text that they do not agree with or have additional questions about. 
  4. Concepts: Have your students list the key concepts within the text that may apply to classroom content. These concepts can be explained as finding the main points of the text to explain it to someone who has never read it before. 
  5. Changes: Have students identify how this text changed their initial opinions on the subject and what caused this change. 
  6. Discussion: Students should be given the opportunity to discuss their thinking at each of The 4C’s. This is a good sign that students have gone through the process of critical thinking. 

The 4Cs are a great tool for educators to teach a specific passage. Thought-provoking ideas can be formed if you use texts that are about controversial subjects. An example could be “What came first? The chicken or the egg?” There are many great resources to find texts about these subjects. 


This method of teaching can best be described as a way to get students to view multiple perspectives on a topic. Circle of Viewpoints allows students to take a stand on a subject that might differ from their own by playing into a “character.” How can you implement this method: 

  1. Select appropriate content to use in your classroom. This can include videos, images, and texts that present multiple perspectives all experiencing the same thing at the same time. Some great examples are provided below: 
  • Should we experiment on animals for human benefit?
  • Images of climate change through showing pictures of loggers. 
  • Videos about science-related subjects are also great resources. 
  1. After students are presented with the image, topic, or video of discussion, allow your students to identify multiple viewpoints within the scenario. For example, in an image of loggers, students could identify the perspectives of the people, the animals, the atmosphere, and any inanimate objects. The options for viewpoints are endless. 
  2. Have students select one of these viewpoints and expand on it. If a student chose the perspective of the logger, they might make connections that it is their job, they may need to feed their family, and that this is their only source of income. 
  3. Have students respond to the “I Think” prompt in the position of their chosen viewpoint. An example could be “I Think logging is essential for my community because it boosts our economy.”
  4. Have students respond to the “A question I have from this viewpoint” prompt in their chosen viewpoint from above. They can list multiple questions. 
  5. Finally, encourage your students to share their thoughts in a class discussion. This should be the way students show their thinking verbally. 

Educators could utilize the circle of viewpoints to peak engagement at the start of the subject. As for the examples above, this could be a great way to introduce students to environmental sciences and climate change. This method is also a great way to get students thinking outside the box of their original thinking. To gauge individual engagement, have students write each step of the process down to be collected. 


The purpose of using this method is to help students develop the skills to take a position on a subject based on substantial evidence. Within the growing modern world, students must develop these skills of critical thinking and resource literacy. How to use this method: 

  1. Use this method with content that contains issues with two obvious contrasting sides. Some examples include Evolution, Climate dilemmas, and genetic engineering. 
  2. Have students identify the two opposing sides of the issue. One could be that Humans are causing climate change and the opposing side being climate change is naturally occurring. Write these on the board with a long line separating them. 
  3. Students should record different stances for both sides of the debate using research-based information. Students should have access to the internet and make informed decisions on what sources they choose to use. Students should find evidence for both sides, not just one in particular. This can be done on sticky notes. 
  4. Have students decide the weight of the information they collected. Is the information positive or negative? Is it a strong point for one side or is it more in the middle? While doing this, have them evaluate if the sources used are trustworthy. Allow any questions students have to be placed above the line separating the two stances. 
  5. Make the whole process into a student-led discussion to truly make their thinking visible. You can use the sticky notes as a measure of their engagement in the activity. 

The method of Tug-Of-War is best used to help students identify reliable sources, and how they should make informed stances on an issue using evidence. Most students have assumptions of the world based on their peers or parents that are not backed by evidence. This method can be used to build resource literacy and help dismantle misconceptions in the classroom. 


Above, three major teaching strategies were covered. These three strategies are awesome ways for students to physically demonstrate their thinking outside of worksheets and labs. These can be incorporated into the classroom in many different ways and have a multitude of benefits for student critical thinking. 


  1. Hi Katie, this is a very engaging post! I especially liked that you included videos depicting the strategies in an actual classroom! This is very useful because theoretical knowledge of a strategy can only get you so far, seeing it in real-time is a great way to get an idea of how it will work in a classroom setting. Of the strategies you mentioned, which one is most useful or best suited for a science classroom?

    • Thank you for your comment. I really wanted to include the videos as an application in a real classroom because it can be easier said than done. In terms of the strategies mentioned above, I believe that Tug Of War is best for science classrooms. It teaches students to support their claims with good sources and lets them see both sides when researching the claim.

  2. Hi Katie, I love your post. I really like that you give step-by-step instructions for each MTV strategy. Which of these three strategies are you most excited to use in a lesson and why? Nice job 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment! My favorite in theory has to be the Tug of War method because it teaches the students’ resource literacy within science. Being able to support our claims with accurate evidence is something all scientists must be skilled at.

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