Monthly Archives: June 2015

Making Thinking Visible: Building Understanding through Critical and Creative Thinking.

My thoughts after reading and article on Thinking Tools as part of my Harvard course.

Light bulb moment 1: ‘What kind of thinking does that lesson force students to do?’ When I read this question at the beginning of the article I had to stop and reflect. What kind of thinking are my students forced to do? Do I know? Have I planned the thinking connected to the learning outcome? Can I articulate the thinking I want my students to do?

Thinking and the quality/type of thinking can be planned and directed. I know this, however, when planning am I thinking about this? Am I planning the thinking that I want my students to do, or be forced to do? The answer is, I am thinking about the outcome, but not necessarily about the actual thinking or type of thinking my students can or could be directed to do.

Light bulb moment 2: The next part of the reading that stood out was ‘understanding is not a precursor to application, analysis, evaluating, and creating but a result of it ‘(Wiske, 1997). Therefore, understanding is a result of observing, explaining, interpreting, reasoning & evidence, making connections, perspective, making conclusions, wondering and questioning, thinking deeply and reflection.

Light bulb moment 3: When learning is visible, we are able to evaluate a student’s understanding, the process they went through to understand and any misconceptions. Being able to understand the process a student goes through to understand lends itself to planning lessons which cater for individual students and their unique thinking styles.

 Our Inquiry: Transportation systems are connected to the needs of the community.

  1.  Unpacking what the central idea means including vocabulary. What is transportation? What is a system? What is a community?

Thinking Routine: Explosion (modified)

Part One: The children were asked to draw a community and its transportation. The children drew the different types of transport for land, sea and air that they were familiar with.

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Part Two: I posed the following question: If I was at X how would I get to Y? We discussed systems. The children added systems e.g. roads, trains etc. to their picture and how they were connected and met the needs of the community.

Dictionary: System: a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism: Transportation systems are connected to the needs of the community. System:  an interconnecting network

 We need transport to live.

Thinking Routine: Headline

After completing the Explosion Routine the children were introduced to the Headline thinking tool. We discussed headlines. The children were given the statement (We need transport to live.) and asked to come up with a headline.

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Reflection: The students required greater frontloading and criteria because a number of students wrote long statements or questions. I have kept all their efforts and selected some for display. We will revisit their first headline attempt later after we have used this tool a number of times.

Routine: Claim Support Question Visible Thinking

CLAIM: We need transport to live.

SUPPORT: The children came up with a variety of statements to support the claim. Their support statements reflected different levels of thinking e.g. we would not be able to eat. We would not have ambulances to take us to hospital. Fires would not be put out by the firetruck.

QUESTION: E.g. How does transport connect and why? How will you get to far places if you didn’t have transport? How would I get to school if I didn’t have a car?

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Reflection: The questions reflected the level of thinking. This routine was new to the children and their thinking demonstrated this. The posters will be displayed as a reference for each new thinking tool introduced to the children.

Once these Thinking Routines actually become routine I can see many applications. And I know that many people who read this post will be far more familiar with these routines but I / we are all learners.

Cheers Nina

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Making Thinking Visible: Building Understanding through Critical and Creative Thinking.

I’m part of a team completing an online course at Harvard University. Visible Thinking… In the past I’ve completed a number of PD’s on Thinking Tools and used the tools from time to time BUT they never became embedded in my teaching. That’s changing! My goal is to understand each tool, be able to select the right tool and to make thinking visible for my students. I’ve already clarified my thinking. What have I learnt that I can share so far – basic but important!

  • No learning will happen without thinking. That seems very straight forward, but there’s more to this assumption…

  • So what is good thinking? Thinking and quality are related. Thinking therefore is more than a skill, it’s a disposition.

  • Good thinking does not happen in isolation and needs to be visible so the thinking can be reflected upon and used at a later time or as a base for future learning.

  • The culture of a school is crucial to developing quality thinkers and teachers need to be supported to assess using evidence grounded in student work.

Recently, my students and parents completed a thinking exercise. They were asked to reflect and record together their thinking about how driving a car is like reading and writing. Firstly, I wanted the parents to understand that thinking isn’t always recorded neatly in books. As part of a group assignment my team explored Connect – Extend – Challenge in our classrooms or in other school roles.

Following on the parent and student session, I used the same question to complete a Connect, Extend and Challenge in the classroom. My students’ thinking had developed from the initial session with parents and with a thinking tool for structure I was surprised by the further connections they were able to make. The children used sticky notes and all students confidently contributed.

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Examples of their thinking:

CONNECT: There is a beginning, middle and end in a story and on a journey. Red lights are a big full stop. When you are driving you read a map. Concentrating on the road is like concentrating on your writing.

EXTEND: Writing on a line is like driving on a line. There is a problem in a story and there can be a problem on a road. The yellow light is like slowing down or a comma.

CHALLENGE: Having you car on the right track and having your writing on a line. Forming letters is like driving a car because you have to go the right way. Focusing on the road and focusing on the writing. How can I write smoothly? What will the middle of my story and journey be like? How can I check I’m going the right direction?

Lot’s to learn and improve upon but you’ve got to start somewhere!

Cheers Nina

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