Visual Thinking

February 19th, 2013

By Crystal Rainey and Paz Mercado

One of the challenges of teaching nowadays is to keep our students consistently engaged in the classroom environment. With modern technology and today’s push button era our students find a void in skills used to think critically and and analyze. We, as educators, have to create an environment and approach to develop and foster students’ thinking. North Broward Preparatory School, one of our Meritas Schools, spearheaded “Creating a Culture of Thinking in Our Classroom and Schools,” a conference on Visible Thinking. This was inspired by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero led by Ron Ritchhart. We were fortunate to attend a 3-day immersion style forum to familiarize ourselves with visual thinking and its structured critical thinking routines. Some of the objectives of this event included:

  • Tools and opportunities for critical thinking instruction, reflective, proactive, and collaborative learning and teaching
  • The characteristics of a thinking-centered learning environment
  • Thinking Dispositions, Thinking Routines, and Visible Thinking

The three days we spent in North Broward Prep School inspired us to be more reflective of how we teach. When we returned to our own classrooms, we started applying and implementing some of the thinking routines we learned in the conference.

The third graders started with the “See-Think-Wonder” visual thinking routine as a tool to introduce a new story, Boss of the Plains by Laurie Carlson. This routine involves looking at an image or object. The students were asked the following questions:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think is going on?
  • What does it make you wonder?

Introducing this routine before reading the story helped them generate ideas as to what the story was about. With continued practice of this routine, student’s ability to be more observant and reflective will increase.

After reading the story, the students practiced the “Word-Phrase-Sentence” routine. This is a routine for “essence capturing” and exploring the meaning of text from a variety of personal viewpoints. Students chose a word, a phrase, and a sentence from a page that they thought best described the main idea of the selection.

As a culminating activity, students created a reflective painting to illustrate the main idea of the passage. The experience of these different routines continued to arouse the interest of the students.

The kindergarten team has begun working with a routine called “I used to think.., Now I know…..” In this critical thinking activity the students are introduced to a new story and are only shown the picture of the front cover. The picture is discussed in detail as a class. Then the students write a sentence about what they think the story will be about based on their limited exposure to material. Their responses are displayed on chart paper for all to see during the duration of the lesson. At the end of the lesson, students add to the chart by writing sentences about what they have learned. This has really helped the kindergarten students to reflect on their thinking and what changed their thoughts about the story. Student participation has increased to nearly 100% when using this routine. Students look forward to the opportunity to share their thoughts and to be included as an equal in the classroom setting.

Overall the energy of the conference was contagious and we are enthusiastic about sharing our experiences and knowledge of Visual thinking! The excitement has carried over to H.I.S. Many teachers are experimenting with these routines and are engaging their students in new hands on ways. Please stop by Mrs. Mercado or Ms. Rainey’s class to see samples of the student’s work, and make sure to be on the lookout for more examples of visual thinking from H.I.S. students.



Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchahart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison


This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 at 7:50 pm and is filed under Academics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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