Loud Thoughts in Science

In 2015 Pixar released the film Inside Out. Along this film was the quote, “Do you ever look at someone and wonder, what is going on inside their head?” While sentient embodiments of emotions do not control the students’ minds as in the movie, teachers are still vested in the thoughts and patterns within a student’s mind. In Making Thinking Visible, Richart, Church, and Morrison inform the reader of many ways to create spaces in the classroom that allow a teacher to visibly see the thought processes of a student. In doing so, a tailored classroom can be presented to each individual in the room while creating a connection with the students and what is being discussed within the classroom.

Why should there be a focus on making students’ thoughts visible?

  • Provides the teacher with a reference to what the students are thinking
  • Shows student understanding of content
  • Opens the classroom to explore student’s interest
  • Invites questioning of knowledge and metacognition
  • Gives the teacher interests of their class

Chalk Talk

Brainstorming is a vital skill that allows a person to create thoughts, questions, and points to dive into and focus on. A chalk talk is exactly this, but with the whole class and written down. This strategy employs the use of multiple boards (can be chalk, white, or large sheets of paper) where the students have some sort of question, idea, or problem on each. Everyone quietly moves around the room and writes their thoughts and questions under each heading. In addition to this, students are encouraged to look at what others have written and make comments, connections, or questions about their peer’s material. The students are encouraged to be floating around the room multiple times, returning to a previous board to see and comment on what others have posted. At the end, the class is encouraged to share what has been written on each board and converse openly about the ideas. During the analysis at the end, focus on the connections made underneath the heads, what new questions have arisen, and if any new thoughts have been generated as a result of the ‘talk’.

The Micro Lab Protocol

How can a teacher create a small group discussion that runs well? Some students are content to sit back and relax while another individual leads the discussion and covers every topic. Other instances will have a block of silence equal to the allotted time for the activity. The micro lab protocol solves the lack of evenly distributed time and creates a space where everyone has the opportunity to share and discuss each point. Each student is given around 2 minutes to share their information while others listen quietly. Following this is a 30-second (can fluctuate) period of silence for every individual to reflect. Once one cycle has

been completed, another team member shares and the process is repeated. When everyone has shared, a time for discussion is allotted and each member can share in a free-flowing conversation. The goal of this protocol is to create opportunities to have students share while others are actively listening while also giving time for each member to think after each sharing portion. Only after everyone has presented will a discussion take place over each’s input.

What Makes You Say That?

Why do we say what we say? In science, there is always evidence backing up any sort of claim. In the same way, whenever someone speaks, there is a reason for the types of words that come out of their mouth.

When I was a child, my father would always ask me the question, “Why did you do that?” after I was caught doing something that I was not supposed to. In doing so, he was getting the the root of the problem and the heart behind my actions. In the same way, the phrase “What makes you say that?” targets the reasoning behind a learner’s words. In doing so, the teacher is given an easy one-line that bridges the student’s answer with the thought processes behind it. In addition to this, it gives access to the reasonings that a student has for their response and shows that evidence is important and not the authority of another.

Many more strategies can be used to make thinking visible in the classroom. If you want to read about more strategies, I would recommend picking up the book Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison or exploring the following website Thinking Pathways for more tips and tricks to create visible student thoughts. Be prepared to have a vibrant and loud classroom!

https://thinkingpathwayz.weebly.com: Loud Thoughts in Science



  1. Hi Duncan! I really like how we both referenced to Inside Out! Keeping things relevant is important for engagement. Also, I really liked the “What makes you say that?” technqiue. It follows how students naturally question things and fosters their curiosity. What will you do if a student has no reasoning behind their thinking?

    • Often I run into students who say they have no reasoning behind their thinking because it is an easy answer to the teacher (and it is snappy). This might be a general response given when a teacher first introduces this strategy into a classroom (especially if it is in the middle of the year) and requires more effort from the teacher to draw out a student’s reasoning. Depending on the student, a teacher can try and help the student explain how they answered what they did. Even if a student claims that they guessed an answer, a process can be walked through that deduces why their guess was the correct answer which will also benefit others in the class as they can see reasons for why other solutions were not chosen. You can also invite other students to help with the reasoning from the correct answer and try to move the question from a one-on-one with the student to a class discussion.

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