Making Thinking Visible Strategies for Science

Maxwell Wissman

Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart is an engaging and useful text that discusses one central question – For as much as we talk about thinking in school, why is it so difficult to observe it and describe what it is? The author explains that thinking needs to be more visible in the modern classroom in order to better develop true understanding and evaluate the efficacy of the education process. He provides many strategies for how this can be done. Some of these strategies, especially those are particularly useful in a science classroom, are described below:

Think, Puzzle, Explore – This strategy is excellent for the science classroom because it works so well with creating an inquiry based approach to learning. The method begins with a topic. Students must then write down or discuss what they think they know about that topic. Following this stage comes the puzzle stage. This is where students begin to question the topic and articulate what puzzles they have related to that topic. Finally, the explore stage is where students find ways to answer their own questions and puzzles and brainstorm how this might be done. Following this process, not only have your students made their thinking visible on the topic of your choice but they have also provided you with questions and potential activities that they are interested in related to the topic.

Yellow Light, Red Light – When it comes to reading for comprehension, science can be a bit of a tricky subject. Scientific vocabulary and writing structure can be difficult to understand for newcomers to the field. This is where yellow light, red light comes in. When presented with a text, students use yellow and red highlighter to indicate areas of the reading they find either somewhat confusing or completely confusing. This forces them to take their time and examine a new piece of material, and really focus on why each section is or is not comprehensible to them. From there, the teacher is able to provide more support or activities that will aid in the enhancement of the class’ learning. For scientific articles or papers, this can be a great strategy to introduce to make sure students are getting all they can out of a text.

CSI: Color, Symbol, Image – This technique is a great way to engage students with an entertaining activity. When presented with a new concept, students will be given three prompts: What color do you think should be assigned to this topic? What symbol could be assigned to this topic? Can you draw a picture related to this topic? The students will complete these prompts and justify their answers in some way either to their classmates or to the teacher. When using this strategy in the science classroom, this can be a great way to begin learning visually and associating complex concepts with more familiar simplifications. It also show you as the instructor what students are feeling about a certain science concept which will allow you to adjust your teaching to the class.

Each of these strategies could easily be applicable while in the science classroom. Below are some additional social media resources related to the Making Thinking Visible book and its potential use!


  1. Hey Max, I enjoyed reading your post. Red light, yellow light does seem to be a great way to introduce harder scientific readings into the classroom while scaffolding reading strategies for the articles. I also think that CSI is a good way for students to create connections with the material, but I have one question. What are the following steps for a teacher after receiving the students’ responses from CSI? How should a teacher use this information?

    • Thanks for the question Duncan. I think following CSI gives teachers a good idea of what students preconceptions are about a topic. Adjusting a lesson based on these preconceptions is the first step. After this, a teacher can lecture, provide an activity, or evaluate student knowledge with their preconceived notions in mind to avoid bias.

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