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Making Thinking Visible

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Using Visible Thinking to Read with Wonder


Criss-cross applesauce. That's how I was sitting on the floor of the kindergarten classroom. I had scrunched my 40-something year old self into a pretzel so I could watch kindergartners with chocolate milk mustaches and grass-stained knees eyeball goldfish in science class aquariums. The excitement was palpable.

"Whooaaaaa! Look at that one!"
"He's fast!"
"Can I name mine Stella?"
"I'm gonna name mine Batman!"

Then the scientists got down to business. They whipped out pencils and orange, yellow, black and white crayons. They drew what they saw. They drew arrows to label fins, eyes, gills and tails. Riveted, their kindergarten eyes were glued to every movement in their aquariums. 

The room was filled with wonder, and for a brief moment, I thought about moving from fifth grade to kindergarten. 

I quickly got over my lapse of reason. Teaching upper elementary is my happy place, but the seductive glory of kindergarten wonder and astonishment turned my head. I ambled back to my own classroom thinking about the importance of wonder in learning and teaching. 


As a dinosaur in the teaching world (I prefer to think of myself as an armored triceratops), I've noticed a trend in my readers. My students gravitate toward what I call "hot fudge sundae books." They read the trifecta: Wimpy kids,  underpants, the Disney-endorsed fiction. Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that they are reading, but my heart longs for them to independently experience books on a deeper level...books that stay with them like a fabulous meal at a five-star restaurant...books that make them wonder about the world.

That's how I talk to them about reading. They need a balanced diet. I go into the whole nutritional reading metaphor and talk about how dessert books only fill your mind up to a certain point, and then you're hungry again. That approach works, but only on a short-term basis. So I decided I had to do some marketing. 


First Chapter Fridays & Visible Thinking

Taking a page from Ron Ritchart's Making Thinking Visible, I massaged the Zoom In thinking routine, and added a dash of the See-Think-Wonder routine. 

Every Friday, I bring three chapter books from my classroom library to our meeting area. I facilitate a see-think-wonder about the covers of each book. 
What do you see? What do you notice on the cover?
What do you think about what you notice?
What are you wondering about?
Then I read the first chapter of the first book. I stop about 3 to 4 times as I read through the chapter so students can zoom in. The zoom-in thinking routine is usually used with visuals. It allows students to view an image in small chunks.  I modified this routine and used it with text. Students were allowed to see/hear small sections of the first chapter, until the whole chapter was revealed. At each stopping point, I ask students to stop and jot their noticings, thoughts, and questions. At the end of the first chapter, they stand up and walk and talk with a thinking partner about the chapter they just heard. 


Then I do it again with the second and third books I choose. By the end of the session, they are jockeying in line to get those books, so much so, that we have created wait lists for our First Chapter Friday books.

It's funny how simple some solutions can be, isn't it? As a result of our see-think-wonder, zoom-in routines and First Chapter Fridays, my students are branching out as a readers and thinkers. They're discovering new worlds, and I couldn't be happier. 
There are worlds within worlds...Everything in our world is connected by the delicate strands of the web of life..."
                                                                                      -"Ferngully"

Want to explore some visible thinking routines in your classroom? Do your students read a balanced diet? Check out these resources! They could make a difference for your kiddos, as they did mine!


I'm so lucky and privileged to be part of a phenomenal group of upper elementary bloggers. You won't want to miss out on their posts about wonder and curiosity this month! Visit them below!



2 comments

  1. Oh my! I love this post! So exquisitely written!

    Zooming in is such a great idea! I can see it being an amazing help for comprehension.

    I'm going to use this strategy in one-one conferences whenever my readers are struggling to comprehend!

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    Replies
    1. Laura,
      Thank you so much for the positive feedback. I hope you return and comment again to let me know how it goes! I can't wait to hear about it!

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