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Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

Half Way There







"When we ask teachers in workshops, 'What kinds of thinking do you value and want to promote in your classroom?' or, 'What kinds of thinking does that lesson force students to do?' a large percentage of teachers are stumped." Ritchart, Church, & Morrison, Making Thinking Visible
As I read this on the first page of my new "favorite" book, Making Thinking Visible How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners, I questioned whether I could answer those questions.  I picked up this book to further my thinking on student metacognition (see http://mossyoakmusings.blogspot.com/2015/08/i-think-therefore-i-am.html).   When we educators think of student metacognition we think of Bloom's Taxonomy.  The authors of this book assert that learning isn't such a linear process, that understanding is an outcome of different thinking processes.  As seen in the graphic, Bloom's Taxonomy includes understanding as a thinking process, rather low on the continuum.  Instead, the authors of Making Thinking Visible present thinking processes like this:
Their assertions are that Bloom suggests that knowledge precedes comprehension,  which precedes application, and so on.  But, when you think about your own learning, and your own educator observations, we can see that thinking isn't hierarchical or sequential.  They give the example of a child painting (application), when he mixes a color on the paper by accident, and a new color develops.  He analyzes what happened and does it again in a different place.  He experiments and reflects about the effect, and tries it again with different colors.  There is a constant back and forth between the ways of thinking the child is doing.  This idea reminds me of how the writing process changed from the time I completed my undergraduate degree to now (24 years).  Initially, the writing process was presented as a linear process, moving from one stage to the next. Now, writing process graphics show arrows going every which way, because that is truly how the process works. 
The authors present a quick exercise we can do as educators:
  1.  Make a list of actions and activities that your students are engaged in.
  2.  Now take that list and use it to create three new lists that define these activities like so:
    • What actions and activities account for 75% of what student do in your class on a regular basis?
    • What actions and activities are real things that real scientists, writers, artists, and so on actually do as they work?
    • What actions and activities do you remember yourself doing when you were engaged in new learning?
I did this exercise. It was startling in many ways.  I have work to do.  I'm confident with the thinking I am asking my students to engage in in reader's and writer's workshop.  However, I'm only "half way" there in my math workshop.  One of the practices I do engage in is conferring with my math students the way I conduct writing and reading conferences.  I open conferences with, "Tell me about the thinking you're doing today."  Initially, students are confused by the questions, which is telling in itself.  However, I've found that the more I push the questioning, the more comfortable they become, and the more they are able to tell me about their thinking.
Additionally, I document their math thinking in the same way I do in writer's workshop. I keep a conferring clipboard with conferring sheets and appointment calendar pages on it.  I also keep a binder that houses completed conferring sheets.  This helps me know where students are with learning targets, assures that there aren't unpleasant surprises come assessment time, and helps me communicate effectively on report cards and during parent-teacher conferences.  The conferences also help students develop authentic math goals.
I am very excited about this book and will continue to blog about the classroom thinking routines it discusses!  In the meantime, THINK ON!
To hear more about how I organize my math conferences and workshop and see the sheets I use, check this link out below:

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4 comments

  1. I'm definitely going to have to read that book!

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    1. Natalie, it really is rocking my world! I would love to have some sort of online discussion with you! I'm eager to stretch my thinking with someone else!

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  2. Just stumbled upon your site while looking for literature on Making thinking Visible. I am very inspired by your writings.Thanks , and i will definitely be reading Ron Ritchart, and Paige Britt's book this Summer!

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you've found my sharing useful!

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