Thinking Made Visible

What kinds of thinking do you value and want to promote in your classroom?
What kinds of thinking does that lesson force students to do?

The book, “Making Thinking Visible”, addresses these two questions in addition to many others. It focuses on ways educators can promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all learners.

Students need to be challenged to think critically and deeply about course concepts. They come into the classroom with prior knowledge they can pull from, but may not be provided the proper scaffolds and educational support necessary to access that prior knowledge in a way they are then able to draw connections to new material. “Classrooms are too often places of talk and practice”(Page 9). This common instructional practice puts limits on the potential our students exhibit. This informational text guides us through ways of making students’ thinking visible through the use of effective questioning, listening, documentation, and facilitative structures called thinking routines. Let’s take a look at 3 MTV strategies that promote visible thinking, in more depth.

Zoom In

This routine focuses on looking closely and making interpretations. The key component in this thinking routine is that it reveals only small portions of an image over time. Students come to the realization that thinking is a process and minds can be changed based on new understandings. 

  1. The purpose of Zoom In is to ask learners to observe a portion of an image closely and develop a hypothesis
  2. New visual information is presented, and the learner is asked to again look closely and then reassess their initial interpretation in light of the new information
  3. Since learners must deal with limited information, they know their interpretations must be tentative and might change as new information is presented
  4. This process enables learners to see that not only is it okay to change your mind about something, but in fact it is important to be open-minded and flexible enough to change your mind when new and sometimes conflicting information is available and the original hypothesis no longer holds true
  5. Choose content that is meaningful to your subject area and that will pull students in to your topic of study
  6. Students come to the realization that thinking is a process and minds can be changed based on new understandings. 

Claim, Support, Question

This thinking routine helps students identify and probe claims of fact or belief, look for patterns, spot generalizations, and identify assertions. Claim, Support, Question promotes students to put forth their own claims about what is going on based on their analysis of events or investigation of phenomena. The process of this routine is:

  1. Students are asked to make a claim about the topic, issue, or idea being explored. A claim is an explanation or interpretation of some aspect of what is being examined.
  2. Students then Identify support for their claim. What things do they see, feel, or know that lend evidence to their claim?
  3. Lastly students raise a question related to their claim. What may make them doubt the claim? What seems left hanging? Are there any further ideas or issues their claim raises?

Red Light, Yellow Light

Red Light, Yellow Light is a thinking routine that focuses on students becoming more aware of specific moments that hold signs of possible puzzles of truth. This routine should be used in different ways to build sensitivity to spotting these potential puzzles of truth within claims, ideas, conclusions, generalizations, etc. As students read, view, or listen to the material for the first time, have them consider the following questions:

Red Light, Green Light is a strategy that pushes students to question the accuracy of a piece of writing and encourages students to stop and really think or listen about what they are reading or hearing.


  1. Hi Hannah, this is a really engaging post and I learned a lot! I also researched Claim-Support-Question in my post and I think it is a very useful strategy! What science topics do you think would fit best with Claim-Support-Question?

    • Thank you Audrey! I think Claim-Support-Quesiton is a great thinking routine to incorporate in science classrooms. You could find a way to use this strategy with almost any science topic. I think I would use it for some of the more controversial topics that exist in science. That way, it allows students to do a deep dive to gather substantial support for or against the claim that they may have had a different opinion on prior to researching.

  2. Hi Hannah, this is an awesome post. I really love the little instruction cards you included for each strategy, they would be nice to print out and give to students or to show on a presentation slide. Which strategy are you most likely to use in your classroom in the future?

    • Thanks Lydia, I can see myself using all three of these thinking routines in my classroom in the future. I do think that red light, yellow light is a great strategy for students to partake in while reading a difficult journal article or lab analysis. This allows them to make note of what they may not understand and what confuses them in a way that makes it easy to recognize! I think any of these routines will work great in a science setting!

  3. Hey Hannah,
    Great blog! I have never heard of the red light, yellow light method. I love how it brings literacy and reliability into the discussion. I don’t think students think about how reliable a source is before they trust it. With all the misinformation on social media that is readily available, it’s more important than ever to know what sources are trustworthy. Is there a method that would work best as an Engage activity for the 5E learning cycle?

    • Thanks Trinity! I agree that media literacy and being able to recognize how reliable a source is important for our students to understand. I think the zoom in method could potentially be used as an Engage activity for the 5E learning cycle. the image you use could be representative of a phenomena students are going to further explore in the following phases of the learning cycle!

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