Lets Make our Thinking Visible in Science!

A science classroom sets up an opportunity for students to think critically, explore new information, and engage in thought-provoking discussions based on the content presented in the class. Knowing this, how can we make our students’ thinking visible? How are we, as teachers, able to hold our class accountable for thinking critically but also recognizing when these different thoughts are occurring?

Ron Ritchhart provides meaningful insight on how teachers are able to make thinking visible in the classroom. While it is helpful foe teachers to examine how students are perceiving information presented to them, it can also be helpful for the student as well to see how their learning grows from the experiences they have in class. Let’s take at look at some strategies that teachers can implement in their class:

Red Light Yellow Light

This is a strategy that is more reading focused, causing students to slow down and really absorb the information that they are being presented with. For this activity, I think it would be very beneficial in a science classroom to present students will scientific articles that include bias, improper sampling techniques, or other areas of concern for ethical scientific research.

  • Students should receive red and yellow markers alongside a reading material
  • Places where students slow down and begin to question what they read, can be underlined in yellow
  • Places where students stop and doubt what they read can be underlined in red

Chalk Talk

This strategy mentioned in MTV can be used to get students moving around, sparking conversations, and bounce ideas off of each other. For this activity, I think it would be a good starting point to present students with a topic, and have them generate their own questions that arise afterwards. Then, students can write an overarching question that encompasses smaller questions on whiteboards or poster paper. This activity can be a fun way to make students walk around, get active, and use color to share their ideas.

  • Supply students with markers, poster paper/whiteboards
  • Encourage students to walk around, write their thoughts/questions on the different poster papers
  • Engage in a discussion after the activity to connect the activity with the broader scope of the class

Think – Puzzle – Explore

This strategy is described as a step by step process, encourage students to slow down and really think about the information they are being presented with. Ritchhart explains TPE as an opportunity for students to get more comfortable using their observational skills which can be extremely beneficial in a science classroom. Providing an image to students while simultaneously having them engage in this strategy could help them adapt a deeper understanding of content that a teacher is trying to provide them with.

  • Think: what do students “think” about the topic?
  • Puzzle: what are students still wondering? What questions begin to arise?
  • Explore: how can students explore what they are still puzzled about? Encourage investigation duting this step

While these are just three MTV strategies mentioned by Ritchhart, there are many more that can get students and teachers alike to witness their thinking physically and creatively. Exploring the many different ways that teachers can encourage deeper thinking in a science classrooms is one of the first steps to creating a space that welcomes new ideas and participation.

@Ritchhart #Making Thinking Visible


  1. Hi Maddie, I loved your notes about the importance of both students and teachers being able to perceive the information they are taking in along with all they are doing with the information they receive! One thing that I always think about is the constraints that we have on time in the classroom, especially with all we are supposed to get through. In what ways do you see yourself implementing these strategies when you are working on a bit more of a time crunch?

    • Hi Melinda, I definitely think it is important to account for which techniques would take more/less time depending on what your class time allows for. Whereas chalk talk might be more time consuming, red light yellow light might be one where students spend less time on depending on their reading level.

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