Nov 132013

As a classroom teacher, I often focused on what my students did during a class period.  If I wasn’t wondering about what they did, I wondered about what information I needed to give them. Less often, I wondered about their thinking and how I might help them to think about their thinking.  Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison helps classroom teachers who want to cultivate classroom environments rich in thinking. 

 The book is broken into three parts:        

  • Part One – looks at kinds of thinking and how improved practices for uncovering student thinking can impact student achievement and classroom culture
  •  Part Two – provides detailed processes for implementing thinking routines into your classroom
  • Part Three – showcases classroom practice and common difficulties in implementing thinking routines 

 While I read through Part One on the kinds of thinking, I was struck by the similarities between the thinking list and the comprehension strategies that have been listed in Harvey and Goudvis’ work. In the following list, the first item is the thinking types recommended in Making Thinking Visible and the second item is from Harvey and Goudvis’ Strategies that Work

  • Observe and Describe = Summarize
  • Explain and Interpret = Infer
  • Making Connections = Activate and Connect
  • Capture the heart and from conclusions = Summarize or Determine Importance
  • Wonder and Ask questions = Question
  • Uncover complexity = Synthesize

 Good thinking and good thinking about reading are the same process.  I wonder if students know the thinking work they do when they read is something they can do with other learning as well.  I wonder, if we talked about these ideas as ways of thinking instead of reading comprehension strategies, if we would see students transfer the skills to other areas or if they are already doing so.

 In this brief video, March Church talks about the importance of cultivating good thinking in our classrooms.

 Part Two has a wealth of interesting thinking routines for teachers to try.  The section is divided into three parts: thinking routines for introducing or exploring new ideas; routines for organizing and synthesizing; and routines to dig deeply into ideas. 

 A few examples from the many routines in Part Two include:  the traditional KWL (Know-Want to Know-Learned) structure re-worked as Think-Puzzle-Explore – a thinking routine for introducing new ideas.  Concept Maps are structured into Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate – a thinking routine for organizing and synthesizing ideas.  Sentence-Phrase-Word is a few familiar literature circle roles expanded and worked on collaboratively to allow students to dig deeply into ideas.

 Part Three, Making Thinking Visible, allows teachers to be the “fly-on-the-wall” in a few teachers’ classrooms as they start to use and reflect on using some of the thinking routines.  It is interesting to see the challenges faced by the teachers and the ways in which they used their own experiences and interactions with their colleagues to improve their practice. 

 Some of these thinking routines can make for very productive teacher learning group or collaborative inquiry group work within our division.  Using a new routine to facilitate better thinking, and then talking with a group of colleagues about what worked and what didn’t, would support me when the new work I was trying didn’t go as well as I hoped.  Whether you want to work on reading comprehension, writing, math, or art, Making Thinking Visible is a book full of great routines and tips for improving student understanding within our classrooms.


  One Response to “Cultivating Engaged, Independent and Thoughtful Learners”

  1. I know that you wrote this post awhile ago, however the concepts of critical thinking are so important for students to grasp and hold on to there own learning and make up their own minds about what they have discovered. thanks for the review of this resource. I will have to check it out in order to beef up my instruction/facilitation abilities.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>