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Visual Thinking Routines: Classroom Snapshots

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Visual thinking routines are principles based on several theories, approaches, and strategies. Such routines, which are usually used again and again in the classroom, promote thinking skills, call for collaboration and sharing of ideas, and above all, make thinking and learning visible. Visual thinking routines are carried out in different Graduate Education courses at the American University in Dubai. The following article explores what visual thinking routines are, their merits, and how they are effectively implemented in the classroom. The visual thinking routines administered in the courses (I see, I think, I wonder routine; Connect, Extent, Challenge routine; 4C’s routine; Headlines routine; Color, Symbol, Image routine; Sentence, Phrase, Word routine; and I used to think…Now I think… routine) are described in the article in reference to the following three components: 1) Thinking moves: What thinking moves does the described thinking routine reinforce? 2) Application: When and how can the described routine be used? and 3) Classroom Example: How is the described routine used in the Graduate Education courses at the American University in Dubai? The article also documents snapshots and actual examples from classroom practices at the Graduate School of Education at the American University in Dubai. As with all original, new, and unique resources, visual thinking routines are not free of challenges. To make the most of this useful and valued resource, educators need to comprehend, model, and spread awareness of the effective ways of implementing such routines in the classroom. It is crucial that such routines are meaningfully and effectively integrated into the curriculum to reinforce thinking skills, collaboration, creativity, and make learning visible.
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Athens Journal of Education
January 2019
53
Visual Thinking Routines: Classroom Snapshots
By Alain Gholam
Visual thinking routines are principles based on several theories, approaches, and
strategies. Such routines, which are usually used again and again in the classroom,
promote thinking skills, call for collaboration and sharing of ideas, and above all,
make thinking and learning visible. Visual thinking routines are carried out in different
Graduate Education courses at the American University in Dubai. The following article
explores what visual thinking routines are, their merits, and how they are effectively
implemented in the classroom. The visual thinking routines administered in the courses (I
see, I think, I wonder routine; Connect, Extent, Challenge routine; 4C’s routine;
Headlines routine; Color, Symbol, Image routine; Sentence, Phrase, Word routine; and
I used to think…Now I think… routine) are described in the article in reference to the
following three components: 1) Thinking moves: What thinking moves does the
described thinking routine reinforce? 2) Application: When and how can the described
routine be used? and 3) Classroom Example: How is the described routine used in the
Graduate Education courses at the American University in Dubai? The article also
documents snapshots and actual examples from classroom practices at the Graduate
School of Education at the American University in Dubai. As with all original, new,
and unique resources, visual thinking routines are not free of challenges. To make the
most of this useful and valued resource, educators need to comprehend, model, and
spread awareness of the effective ways of implementing such routines in the classroom. It
is crucial that such routines are meaningfully and effectively integrated into the curriculum
to reinforce thinking skills, collaboration, creativity, and make learning visible.
Keywords: Visual Thinking Routines, Thinking Skills, 21st Century Education.
Thinking: Identified and Explained
Thinking is a major component in schools, as students are encouraged to
think at all times and everywhere. Let us stop for a while and think about the
various definitions of thinking. What is meant by the term, ‘thinking’? What
makes thinking so special and important? What are thinking skills? How can a
teacher tell a child is thinking? Sousa (2011) believes that thinking is easier to
describe than to define: "its characteristics include the daily routine of reasoning
where one is at the moment, where one’s destination is, and how to get there"
(p. 250). Orlich, Harder, Callahan, Trevisan, and Brown (2012) mention that
thinking is a multifaceted act that includes attitudes, knowledge, and skills,
which allow an individual to effectively shape his or her environment. On the
other hand, Arends (2014) explains that thinking is a mental process involving
a variety of operations such as induction, deduction, classification, and reasoning.
In conclusion:
Assistant Professor, American University in Dubai, UAE.
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Gholam: Visual Thinking Routines: Classroom Snapshots
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"Thinking skills are the mental processes we use to do things like solve
problems, make decisions, ask questions, make plans, pass judgments,
organize information, and create new ideas. Often we’re not aware of our
thinking it just happens automatically." (Moore, 2015, p.376)
The various definitions suggest that thinking is purposeful and involves a
certain cognitive process. It is important to also consider some other essential and
vital questions related to thinking: What types of thinking do teachers value in
their classroom? Do teachers want their students to understand? analyze?
interpret? reason? What types of thinking do specific disciplines, assignments,
and activities call for? Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011) clarify the types of
thinking that are essential and central to different subject areas:
"We need to be aware of the kinds of thinking that are important for scientists
(making and testing hypotheses, observing closely, building explanation….),
mathematicians (looking for patterns, making conjectures, forming
generalizations, constructing arguments….), readers (making interpretations,
connections, predictions….), historians (considering different perspectives,
reasoning with evidence, building expectations….), and so on, and make these
kinds of thinking the center of the opportunities we create for students." (p.
10-11)
What about interdisciplinary thinking? Ritchhart Church, and Morrison
(2011) include important questions related to interdisciplinary connections: "Are
there particular kinds of thinking that serve understanding across all disciplines?
Types of thinking that are particularly useful when we are trying to understand
new concepts, ideas, or events?" (p.11). The authors suggest eight thinking
activities that are integral to understanding: 1) observing closely and describing
what’s there, 2) building explanations and interpretations, 3) reasoning with
evidence, 4) making connections, 5) considering different viewpoints and
perspectives, 6) capturing the heart and forming conclusions, 7) wondering and
asking questions, and 8) uncovering complexity and going below the surface of
things (p.11-18).
The eight thinking moves are logical. Let us connect this valuable
information to our own experiences. We do use such thinking moves to reach
understanding an understanding of an idea, thought, or any new novel
situation. We may first observe closely and try to describe what we see and what
we think. We try to make sense of what we experience. Then, we may find
ourselves engaged in different explanations and interpretations that are built on
evidence. We may even make connections with our previous knowledge of a
certain idea, thought, or situation. Finally, we may be involved in different
conversations and talks to consider different perspectives, raise questions and
doubts, and reach final conclusions. Such processes become valued and visible
in the classroom when they start being reinforced and modeled by the teacher.
When students become familiarized with the various thinking moves, they refer
to them to identify what they will be doing to learn. As a result, students
Athens Journal of Education
January 2019
55
become more aware of their own thinking strategies and processes, and this in
turn leads to metacognition (Ritchhart, Tuner, & Hadar, 2009). Metacognition,
which is the ability to form a judgment related to our own thoughts, is a precursor
for learning and success (Fleming, 2014).
Let us consider the question posted at the beginning of the article: What
types of thinking do teachers want to value in their own classrooms? Teachers
definitely want their students to understand, but, is the only goal of thinking to
reach understanding? We also think to go beyond the facts and make connections,
solve problems, make judgements, and reach generalizations. Ritchhart Church
and Morrison (2011) suggest additional types of thinking moves that need to be
valued in the classroom: 1) identifying patterns and making generalizations, 2)
generating possibilities and alternatives, 3) evaluating evidence, arguments,
and actions, 4) formulating plans and monitoring actions, 5) identifying claims,
assumptions, and bias, and 6) clarifying priorities, conditions, and what is known.
Visual Thinking Routines: What? Why? How?
We should also note that thinking is usually invisible. So, if thinking is
invisible, what is really meant by the term, visible thinking? Tishman and Palmer
(2005) refer to visible thinking as any kind of observable representation that
documents the development of an individual’s or group’s thinking, questions, and
reflections. They argue that tools such as mind maps, charts and lists, diagrams,
and worksheets are considered visible thinking if and only if they make
students thinking visible. Ritchhart and Perkins (2008) provide a list of
characteristics that anchor visible thinking. Some of these characteristics
include: learning happens as a result of thinking; the development of thinking
is a social endeavor; and developing thinking requires making thinking visible.
Visual thinking is a flexible framework that encompasses a variety of methods
to make students’ thinking visible to themselves, their peers, and teachers (Dajani,
2016).
What tools are used to make thinking visible? Questions promote visible
thinking. Teachers ask their students questions on a daily basis, however, it is
important to note that the purpose and form of these questions can vary widely
(McTighe & Wiggins, 2013). Tishman (2002) provides an example by stating
that questions, such as "What is going on here?" "What do you see that makes
you say so?" call for visible thinking. Johnston, Ivey, & Faulkner (2011) affirm
that such questions convey that you are expecting your students to engage in
thinking and you are interested in their response. Ritchhart, Church, and
Morrison (2011) clarify that: "Open-ended questions as opposed to closed-
ended, single-answer questions are generally advocated as means of pushing
beyond knowledge and skill and toward understanding" (p.30). Ritchhart
(2012) believes that teachers need to understand how the use of questioning
can help foster a culture of thinking and make a classroom a place where
individual and collaborative thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted.
Listening is another tool that is used to make thinking visible. Listening
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conveys a sense of respect for and an interest in the learner’s contributions, and
when this is present, students are more willing to share their thinking and put
forth their ideas (Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011). Sue Patton Thoele has
highlighted the role of listening in the classroom: "Deep listening is miraculous
for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted,
non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand" (quoted in Rao,
2010, p.24).
Other tools that can be used to make student thinking visible are visual
thinking routines. Such tools are referred to as routines because they represent
a sequence of actions designed to achieve a specific outcome in an efficient
manner (Ritchhart, 2015). Visual thinking routines were first designed by Faculty
at the Harvard Graduate School of Education:
"Thinking routines are one element of an initiative called Visible Thinking
that we, our colleagues at Project Zero, and collaborators in various schools
have developed. In our research, we have explored the practically of using
thinking routines and documentation as classroom learning tools, developed
a framework for pursuing cultural transformation in classroom and schools,
and devised tools for integrating the arts. This work has spanned elementary
through university settings, included both public and independent schools,
and involved schools in the United States, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium,
and Australia" (Ritchhart & Perkins, 2008, p.57)
Wolberg and Goff (2012) provide a rationale for implementing thinking
routines in the classroom and explain that such routines make students’ thinking
and learning visible to themselves, peers, and teachers. Costa (2008) strongly
believes that thinking needs practice and students need practice, reflection, and
modeling to engage in skillful thinking. Researchers highlight that visual
thinking helps learners connect with familiar and relevant events in their lives,
expands their repertoire of thinking, engages them in the learning process, and
motivates them to learn (Salmon, 2010; Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011).
Visual thinking promotes deep inquiry (Project Zero, 2010). Tishman and Palmer
(2006) also assert that visual thinking reinforces skills through engagement and
participation and deepens students’ understanding. Wolberg and Goff (2012)
stress the fact that "certain thinking skills, such as being able to understand
different points of view or providing evidence, do not come naturally to young
children and must be taught explicitly and strengthened within a learning
environment" (p.60). When students recognize relationships between facts and
questions and claims and evidence, they form authentic knowledge (Ritchhart,
Palmer, Church, & Tishman, 2006). Dajani (2016) mentions that visual thinking
creates a learning environment where students are: open-minded, curious, critical,
and skeptical. In addition, Dajani (2016) explicates that visual thinking allows
teachers to track difficulties and challenges students come across. According to
Ritchhart (2015), visual thinking forms a culture of thinking where students are
strongly encouraged to make great use of quality thinking time, share
collaboratively, and reflect upon the different viewpoints and perspectives of
Athens Journal of Education
January 2019
57
their peers. Ritchhart (2004) confirms that in such creative classrooms students
are doing more than just learning content, and teachers are doing more than
teaching. Hattie (2012) notes that since visual thinking makes learning visible,
teachers can know whether they have an impact on learning, and since it makes
teaching visible, students can learn how to engage in metacognition and thus
become their own teachers. Ritchhart (2007) strongly believes that a quality
curriculum engages students in a variety of thinking moves, such as, making
connections, observing closely, asking questions, and evaluating outcomes.
In the classroom, visual thinking routines are used in three different ways.
First, they can be used as tools to support specific thinking moves such as:
making connections, describing what is present, building explanations, considering
different viewpoints and perspectives, capturing the heart and forming conclusion,
and reasoning with evidence (Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011). They are
similar to cognitive strategies (Ritchhart, 2015). Barahal (2008) states that such
routines are flexible and "can easily be used to strengthen student thinking
about virtually any topic or subject, from a math problem to an historical
document, from a poem to a work of art" (p.299). Salmon (2008) mentions that
thinking routines provide students with meaningful and rich experiences in an
arranged manner that offers overall structures in which learning takes place.
Second, visual thinking routines can be used as structures where they follow a
natural progression in which each step builds on and extends the thinking of
the previous one: "Therefore, in using the routines the goal is never simply to
fill out or complete one step and move on to the next but to use the thinking
occurring at each step in the subsequent steps" (Ritchhart, Church, &
Morrison, 2011, p.47). Therefore, they become the scaffolds for thinking
(Ritchhart, 2015). Wolberg and Goff (2012) proclaim that what makes thinking
routines structures is the fact that they comprise a series of steps that provide
teachers with a protocol for enabling thoughtful discussion in the classroom.
Finally, visual thinking routines are used in the classroom as patterns of
behavior (Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011). Barahal (2008) clarifies that:
"when used regularly, thinking routines help students master and internalize
new thinking processes until they become second nature" (p.299). They are
used regularly and become part of the pattern of the classroom, and students
internalize messages about what learning is and how it happens (Ritchhart,
Church, & Morrison, 2011). Therefore, after several uses in the classroom,
teachers can initiate any thinking routine merely by naming it (Ritchhart, Palmer,
Church, & Tishman, 2006).
Visual thinking routines are designed in such a manner to serve different
purposes in the classroom: routines for introducing and exploring ideas, routines
for synthesizing and organizing ideas, and routines for digging deeper into
ideas (Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011). Table 1 shows a brief overview
of visual thinking routines used for introducing and exploring ideas.
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Table 1. Routines for Introducing and Exploring Ideas
Routine
Key Thinking Moves
Routines for Introducing and Exploring Ideas
See-Think-Wonder
Describing, interpreting, and wondering
Zoom In
Describing, inferring, and interpreting
Think-Puzzle-Explore
Activating prior knowledge, wondering, planning
Chalk Talk
Uncovering prior knowledge and ideas, questioning
3-2-1 Bridge
Activating prior knowledge, questioning, distilling, and
connection making through metaphors
Compass Points
Decision making and planning, uncovering personal
reactions
The Explanation Game
Observing details and building explanations
Source: Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, 2011, p.51.
Table 2 shows a brief overview of visual thinking routines used for
synthesizing and organizing ideas.
Table 2. Routines for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas
Routine
Key Thinking Moves
Routines for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas
Headlines
Summarizing, capturing the heart
Color, Symbol, Image
Capturing the heart through metaphors
Generate-Sort-Connect-
Elaborate: Concept Maps
Uncovering and organizing prior knowledge to identify
connections
Connect-Extend-Challenge
Connection making, identifying new ideas, raising
questions
The 4C’s
Connection making, identifying key concept, raising
questions, and considering implications
The Micro Lab Protocol
Focusing attention, analyzing, and reflecting
I Used to Think…Now I
Think
Reflecting and metacognition
Source: Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, p.51-52.
Table 3 shows a brief overview of visual thinking routines for digging
deeper into ideas.
Table 3. Routines for Digging Deeper into Ideas
Routine
Key Thinking Moves
Routines for Digging Deeper into Ideas
What Makes you say That?
Reasoning with evidence
Circle of Viewpoints
Perspective taking
Step Inside
Perspective taking
Red Light, Yellow Light
Monitoring, identifying of bias, raising questions
Claim, Support, Question
Identifying generalizations and theories, reasoning with
evidence, making counterarguments
Tug of War
Perspective taking, reasoning, identifying complexities
Sentence-Phrase-Word
Summarizing and distilling
Source: Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison, p.52
Athens Journal of Education
January 2019
59
Visual Thinking Routines: Pictures from Practice
Visual thinking routines were carried out in different Graduate Education
courses taught at the American University in Dubai during Fall 2016: EDCO602
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, EDEL606 - Elementary Science and
Mathematics Methods, and EDSE608 - Secondary Math Methods and
Assessment. The participants referred to in the following paper were 17 student
teachers enrolled in the three courses: EDCO602, EDEL606, and EDSE608.
Nine student teachers were enrolled in EDCO602 (1 male and 8 females). One
student teacher was teaching at the preschool level, two at the elementary level,
one at the high/secondary level, and five were not teaching at the time. Five
student teachers were enrolled in EDEL606 (1 male, 4 females). One student
teacher was teaching at the preschool level, one at the elementary level, and
three were not teaching at the time. Three student teachers were enrolled in
EDSE608 (1 male and 2 females). Two student teachers were teaching at the high/
secondary level and 1 was not teaching at the time. A profile of the student
teachers is presented in Table 4.
Table 4. Student Teacher Profiles
Characteristics
EDCO602
EDEL606
EDSE608
TOTAL
Course Size
9
5
3
17
Gender
Male
1
1
1
3
Female
8
4
2
14
Teaching Level
Preschool
1
1
0
2
Elementary
2
1
0
3
Middle
0
0
0
0
High/Secondary
1
0
2
3
Not teaching
5
3
1
9
I focused on modeling the utility of visual thinking routines in my courses
for two main purposes: first, to ensure a student-centered learning culture that
embraced the following essential factors: collaboration, reflection, and higher-
order thinking; and second, to make sure student teachers receive hands-on
experience related to visual thinking routines and implement them meaningfully in
their own classroom.
In every learning session, student teachers enrolled in the courses were
asked to make their thinking visible through a variety of visual thinking routines.
The different routines were used as tools to promote engagement and deep
understanding. They were seen and perceived as structures that followed
predetermined steps and tasks designed by the professor. Therefore, with time
such routines became patterns of behavior.
The thinking routines administered in the courses are described in the
article hereby in reference to the following three components: Thinking moves:
What thinking moves does the described thinking routine reinforce? Application:
When and how can the described routine be used? Classroom Example: How
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was the described routine used in the Graduate Education courses at the American
University in Dubai?
Visual Thinking Routine 1: I see, I think, I wonder
Instructions: According to Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011), I see, I think, I
wonder routine includes the following directions or order:
Looking at an image or object:
What do you see?
What do you think?
What do you notice? (p. 55)
Thinking moves: The "I see, I think, I wonder" routine is used for description,
interpretation, and wondering purposes. Such a routine highlights the essence
of observation, as it first requires students to carefully look at an image or
object. Then, it involves them in thinking and interpretation, as students are
expected to make meaning from their observations. Finally, students are asked
to formulate meaningful questions and wonderings related to the image or
object they examine.
Application: I see, I think, I wonder routine can be used at the beginning of a
lesson, when a teacher is about to introduce a new concept, making it a perfect
tool for exploration. I see, I think, I wonder routine can even be administered
as an exist card at the closure of a lesson. Students can also watch short movies
or even observe their surrounding and engage in the routine. In summary, it can
be a valuable and a meaningful tool anytime during the lesson. Students can be
given the choice to work individually, in pairs, or in groups. For assessment
purposes, I see, I think, I wonder routine can be used as a pre-assessment,
formative assessment, and even as a summative assessment. Table 12 represents a
summary of the routine’s thinking moves and application.
Classroom Example: Throughout two learning sessions, student teachers were
inquiring into the purpose, focus, and uses of assessment and evaluation. At the
beginning of the second session, they were asked to carefully observe a picture
of a chef trying to blend different ingredients together and tasting the dish
before being served. Student teachers were asked to report what they observed,
thought, and wondered about the picture. They were strongly encouraged to see
the connection between the image and the concept under exploration, assessment.
A whole classroom discussion followed. Table 5 represents a descriptive summary
of the student teachers’ responses.
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January 2019
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Table 5. Student Teachers’ Responses – I See, I Think, I Wonder
I See
I Think
I Wonder
A woman, white blowse,
cooking tools
She is tasting her food in
order to see if she is
satisfied with results
I wonder if she is satisfied
with the results
Someone preparing food
She is a cook, assessing
the food
What stage is she
assessing in
A lady tasting food!
She looks like she’s
experimenting
What is she thinking:
assessing or evaluating?
Observing, checking what
she has
She is assessing a
student’s work
If she thinks student has
done well?
A lady
The lady is a chef and she
is tasting something she
made
What she is tasting? Why
is she alone?
A sink
I think someone who did
a big effort in cooking
and now she is tasting her
food
I wonder if she spotted
something strange?
Kitchen utensils
I think she is trying to
check if the blended
ingredients up to the level
she wants!
I wonder if she will fix
and add more amount of
the ingredients!
Kitchen appliances
I think she has to use her
expertise to judge what
she has just tasted
I wonder if she will
condemn the novice for
his/her messiness of base
judgement only on
product
A chef making
something, looks like
dessert to me, she is
observing the spoon
I think she might have
spotted something while
mixing. She might be
checking an amount of
what she wants to add
I wonder what is she
cooking
I see a woman cooking
A woman trying to blend
some ingredients
I see a chef (based on
attire) in a novice’s
kitchen
Figure 1 shows a visual representation of the student teachers’ responses.
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Figure 1. Visual Representation I See, I Think, I Wonder
Visual Thinking Routine 2: Connect, Extend, Challenge
Instructions: According to Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011), the "Connect,
Extend, Challenge" routine includes the following directions or order:
Consider what you have just read, seen, or head, then ask yourself:
1. How are the ideas and information presented connected to what you
already knew?
2. What new ideas did you get that extended or broadened your thinking
in new directions?
3. What challenges or puzzles have come up in your mind from the ideas
and information presented? (p.132)
Thinking moves: The Connect, Extend, Challenge routine helps students bring
together and assemble different pieces of information. It can be used as a
reflection tool to assist students in making connections with what they already
know, identifying new ideas that push their thinking deeper, and raising questions
for further examination and analysis. It offers rich opportunities for newly
acquired thinking to form from a variety of learning experiences
Athens Journal of Education
January 2019
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Table 6. Student teachers’ responses – Connect, Extend, Challenge
Connect
Extend
Challenge
Ships from tell to do
Students should think,
analyze, create, and explore
What about the number of
students in class?
Inquiry based = questions
Prescriptive, guided, open
Testing, Differentiation vs
std. testing
Theory + practice = Best
teaching methods
In Maths: focuses not on
calculation but application
How to engage all children
in critical thinking
It confirmed my
understanding of IBL
Shift from simple coverage
to a deep understanding
Inquiry based in little
children????
21st Century learner
requirement: think,
communicate, collaborate
Preparation for the future
and work challenges
Reaching the brains of
challenging students
Covering to uncovering
the curriculum, deeper
understanding, real world
experience
Developing thinking and
not memorization
Teachers need a lot of
training
Generalizations to apply
what we learn to real life
situations, schools need to
better represent the real
world
Problem solvers succeed in
the future
I didn’t feel any general
educator can teach easily
using IBL
Active participants
21st Century skills: critical
skills, communication,
collaboration
Practical side? How does it
work?
Asking questions, gather
data, think and decide
21st Century skills: critical
skills, communication,
collaboration
Is it the only magical
solution?
In Math you can use
inquiry
How do you test analytical
higher order thinking?
Inquiry trains the brain to
find solutions
If the student didn’t do
good or learn well from
the inquiry what is to be
done to help him?
Knowledge, no need to
memorize: not final goal as
before
Cognitive science + educ.
psychology helps increase
teacher effectiveness
Real world experience =
engagement
Application: Connect, Extend, Challenge routine can be used when a teacher is
about to launch a new inquiry or after students acquire new information. It can
even be used as a closure engagement, as teachers may ask their students to
make use of such a routine and engage in self-reflection. Students can be given
the choice to work individually, in pairs, or in groups. For assessment purposes,
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Connect, Extend, and Challenge routine can be used as a pre-assessment,
formative assessment, and even as a summative assessment. Table 12 represents a
summary of the routine’s thinking moves and application.
Classroom Example: Student teachers were investigating the characteristics,
examples, and non-examples of inquiry based learning. They were asked to
read and explore a document related to inquiry-based learning. Then, student
teachers were requested to pair up and share their thoughts, wonderings, and
views on the reading. As an exist ticket, student teachers had to individually
complete a Connect, Extend, and Challenge routine. A whole classroom
discussion followed. Table 6 represents a descriptive summary of the student
teachers responses.
Figure 2 shows a visual representation of the student teachers’ responses.
Figure 2. Visual Representation Connect, Extend, Challenge
Visual Thinking Routine 3: The 4C’s
Instructions: According to Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011), The 4C’s
routine includes the following directions or order:
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1. Connections: What connections do you draw between the text and your
own life or your other learning?
2. Challenge: What ideas, positions, or assumptions do you want to
challenge or argue with in the text?
3. Concepts: What key concepts or ideas do you think are important and
worth holding on to from the text?
4. Changes: What changes in attitudes, thinking, or action are suggested
by the text, either for you or others? (p.140)
Thinking moves: The 4C’s routine reinforces and strengthens text built discussions
by asking the students to make connections, challenge ideas or assumptions, ask
questions, identify important relevant concepts, and consider change. It is a
meaningful and engaging routine that promotes text-to-self connections, critical
and analytical thinking, concept/theme identification, and synthesis.
Application: The 4C’s routine can be used after reading a piece of literature. It
can also take the form of an exist ticket. Teachers who implement such a visual
thinking routine involve their students in deep self-reflection by challenging
them to think how the lesson is connected to what they already know, what
ideas do they find difficult or wish to test, compare the different ideas to unwrap
hidden messages, and identify any possible change in thought or behavior.
Students can be given the choice to work individually, in pairs, or in groups.
For assessment purposes, 4C’s routine can be used as a pre-assessment, formative
assessment, and even as a summative assessment. Table 12 represents a summary
of the routine’s thinking moves and application.
Table 7. Student teachers’ responses – 4C’s
Connections
Challenges
Concepts
Changes
Area and side of
squares connected
to perfect squares
and square roots
Multiplication
tables
Perfect squares
Manipulatives
provide deep
understanding
showing the why
and how
Concrete materials
help the students
get their hands
involved as well as
their minds
Asking
manipulatives area
of big #’s
Square roots
Better
understanding
about the square
unit
Some students
don’t prefer to use it
Side measuring
Will use
manipulatives in
the next square root
lesson
Area
Manipulatives:
hands-on experience
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Gholam: Visual Thinking Routines: Classroom Snapshots
66
Classroom Example: Student teachers were exploring the role of manipulatives
in Mathematics. They were asked to read a document related to the use of
manipulatives. In groups, they had to make connections with the text, identify
any idea they wanted to challenge or found difficult, unwrap the concepts/
themes from the reading, and pinpoint any changes in attitudes or thinking. A
whole classroom discussion followed. Table 7 represents a descriptive summary
of the student teachers’ responses
Figure 3 shows a visual representation of the student teachers’ responses.
Figure 3. Visual Representation - 4C’s
Visual Thinking Routine 4: Headlines
Instructions: According to Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011), Headlines
routine includes the following directions or order:
Think of the big ideas and important themes in what you have been learning.
Write a headline for this topic or issue that summarizes and captures a key
aspect that you feel is significant and important. (p.111)
Thinking moves: Headlines are used to provide a summary of a certain topic,
issue, idea, or thought. They engage the students in apprehending and capturing
the implications or core of the topic, issue, idea, or thought being explored.
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Application: Headlines can be used at the end of a lesson when a teacher expects
the students to provide a brief summary or quick synthesis regarding a certain
topic. They can also be used at the beginning of a lesson, by asking the students to
design a headline that demonstrates what they already know about a certain
issue, concept, idea, or topic. For assessment purposes, headlines routine can be
used as a pre-assessment and formative assessment. Table 12 represents a
summary of the routine’s thinking moves and application.
Classroom Example: After spending some time inquiring into the essentials of
project-based learning, student teachers were asked to write a headline that
summed up their understanding of project-based learning and its impact on student
learning. Student teachers were asked to present their headline to their colleagues.
Table 8 represents a descriptive summary of the student teachers’ responses.
Table 8. Student Teachers’ Responses – Headlines
Headlines
Project Based Learning: communicate, collaborate, creative learning worldly, the
creative collaborative educational model
Project Based Learning: The key to college and career ready students!
Project Based Learning is a cycle of teaching methodology that promotes authentic,
21st century skills, analytical and inquiry skills in students.
PjBL promotes developing 21st C skills and develop transformation of knowledge to
real life.
Project Based Learning is a scientific process of learning starting with a question,
incorporating critical thinking and communication resulting in an end product
answering the question.
PjBL involves students in group work, exploration and creation to prepare them for
21st century capable citizen.
Figure 4 shows a visual representation of the student teachers’ responses.
Figure 4. Visual Representation - Headlines
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Visual Thinking Routine 5: Color, Symbol, Image
Instructions: According to Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011), the "Color,
Symbol, Image" routine includes the following directions or order:
Think of the big ideas and important themes in what you have just read,
seen, or heard.
Choose a color that you think best represents the essence of that idea.
Choose a symbol that you think best represents the essence of that idea.
Choose an image that you think best captures the essence of that idea.
(p.119)
Thinking moves: The Color, Symbol, Image routine is used when teachers
want their students to think symbolically and figuratively. Students are asked to
reflect on the major ideas and assumptions from a variety of media (audio,
video, visuals, text) and represent these ideas and assumptions in nonverbal
ways using a color, symbol, or image.
Application: The Color, Symbol, Image routine can be used as frontloading or
closure engagements when teachers are looking for interpretation, clarification,
and open discussion. Such a routine can be implemented any time during the
lesson or unit. Students can be given the choice to work individually, in pairs,
or in groups. For assessment purposes, Color, Symbol, Image routine can be
used as a pre-assessment, formative assessment, and even as a summative
assessment. Table 12 represents a summary of the routine’s thinking moves and
application.
Classroom Example: Student teachers were considering and exploring gender
bias in science. They were asked to read an article that explored gender bias in
science. Then, in groups student teachers had to choose a color, symbol, and
image that best represented the major ideas in the article. A sharing and
discussion session was followed. Table 9 represents a descriptive summary of
the student teachers’ responses.
Table 9. Student Teachers’ Responses – Color, Symbol, Image
Color
Symbol
Image
We chose blue first
because it represents bias
towards boys in science
and we chose pink to
show that we need to
equalize the gender
disparity.
We specifically switched
the colours to show that
we need to move from
gender bias. We are
socialized to think that
blue is for boys and pink
is for girls.
We chose the weighing
scale to represent the need
for gender equality in
science education.
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69
Figure 5 shows a visual representation of the student teachers’ responses.
Figure 5. Visual Representation - Color, Symbol, Image
Visual Thinking Routine 6: Sentence-Phrase-Word
Instructions: According to Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011), the "Sentence-
Phrase-Word" routine includes the following directions or order:
In your discussion group, review the text that you have read and each
select your own:
Sentence that was meaning to you, that you felt captures a core idea of the
text
Phrase that moved, engaged, or provoked you
Words that captured your attention or struck you as powerful (p.207)
Thinking moves: Sentence-Phrase-Word routine is used for summarizing and
refining purposes. Such a routine helps students become active readers and
derive significant meaning from text with a focus on seizing the core of the
text. A discussion of sentence-phrase-word routines allows for the consideration of
different meanings, connotations, messages, themes, implications, and inferences.
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Table 10. Student Teachers’ Responses – Sentence-Phrase-Word
Words
Phrases
Sentences
Systematic
"We’re almost done"
I’ve learnt how to create a
unit plan from scratch
Clear
Very motivating
A quality curriculum
aligns standards,
assessments, and content
Interesting
3 Dimensional, Enduring
Understanding,
Assessment vs Evaluation
The course summarizes
the main purpose of
learning and education,
which is conceptual
learning
Challenging
Essential questions: Lead,
guide
Curriculum design is a
very essential skill for
effective teaching
Instruction, 3D,
Assessment, 2D
Reteaching the 21st
century thinking
A new and innovative
way to understand
curriculum, instruction,
and assessment
Conceptual, KUD,
Questions, Thinking
Eye opening
It explained the process of
Ed. from A to Z
Curriculum, Assessment,
Evaluation,
Differentiation
Conceptual
understanding, Backward
design
I was really mixed up
with what is really an
assessment. This course
was encouraging, diff.,
beneficial
Generalizations,
Performance Tasks
Understanding what a
curriculum is, knowing
difference between
assessment and evaluation
The vision and mission
statements are crucial in
understanding the
experiences (hidden) and
(unhidden) that a student,
teacher, & parent will
endure
Student experiences,
Enduring understanding
All encompassing
I didn’t know before what
is really a curriculum, I
didn’t know how to
effectively plan my lesson
& units
Authentic learning
Thinking outside the box
Guideline map
Provokes thinking!
Interesting
Authentic assessments,
KUDS. 2D vs 3D
curriculum
Authentic learning,
Engaging learning,
Learning styles
Application: Sentence-Phrase-Word routine can be administered anytime during
the lesson. It is considered a meaningful reflection tool because students have
to think of a particular idea, concept, thought, or object and generate a list of
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71
sentences, phrases, and words that cross their mind. Students can be given the
choice to work individually, in pairs, or in groups. For assessment purposes,
Sentence, Phrase, Word, routine can be used as a pre-assessment and formative
assessment. Table 12 represents a summary of the routine’s thinking moves
and application.
Classroom Example: Sentence-Phrase-Word was used as an exist ticket in
EDCO602: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. During the last session,
students were asked to think of the course and reflect on their learning journey
by completing a sentence-phrase-word routine. A sharing and discussion session
followed. Table 10 represents a descriptive summary of the student teachers’
responses.
Figure 6 shows a visual representation of the student teachers’ responses.
Figure 6. Visual Representation - Sentence-Phrase-Word
Visual Thinking Routine 7: I used to think……Now I think
Instructions: According to Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison (2011), the "I used
to think… Now I think …" routine includes the following directions or order:
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Gholam: Visual Thinking Routines: Classroom Snapshots
72
Reflect on your current understanding of this topic, and respond to each of
these sentence stems:
I used to think…
Now I think… (p.154)
Thinking moves: I used to think… Now I think routine is an effective routine
that allows students to connect on a certain topic or issue and reflect on their
acquired knowledge. Students are given the opportunity to explore how their
thinking has changed and matured in time. Such a pre/post reflection tool
strengthens cognitive abilities and the identification of cause effect relationships as
students visually monitor the change in their thinking and identify new opinions
and acquired knowledge.
Application: I used to think… Now I think routine can be used when a teacher
needs to visually experience the change of students’ views, opinions, feelings,
ideas, and knowledge as a result of learning. It can be used after a novel
learning experience such as reading a piece of literature, watching a movie,
listening to a song, or engaging in a classroom debate. Usually, teachers make
use of such a routine after completing a unit of inquiry or study. Students can
be given the choice to work individually, in pairs, or in groups. For assessment
purposes, I used to think… Now I think routine can be used as a formative
assessment and even a summative assessment. Table 12 represents a summary
of the routine’s thinking moves and application.
Classroom Example: During the last portion of the teaching methodology
course, student teachers explored what is meant by classroom assessment and
inquired into the different tools and methods of assessment. As a closure
engagement, student teachers were asked to complete this routine related to the
concept of assessment. A sharing and discussion session was followed. Table
11 represents a descriptive summary of the student teachers’ responses.
Table 11. Student teachers’ responses – I used to think… Now I think
I used to think that assessment was:
Now, I think that assessment is:
Tough and complicated
I know that assessment is innovative
assessment
Limited ways to assess
Variety of ways to assess!
All about grading
It can be more authentic
Confused between assessments and
evaluation
Focus on 21st learning skills
Observations and tests only
Very important to remember your
purpose for assessing
Assessment is evaluation
Having students display (show) their
understanding of the concepts
Importance of reflection
Assessment is collecting data while
evaluation is the process of making
judgments
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73
Table 12. Summary of Visual Thinking Routines
Visual Thinking
Routine
Encourages this
thinking move
Can be used
during this time
of the lesson
Can be used for
the following
assessment
purposes
I see, I think, I
wonder
Observing,
interpreting, and
questioning
Frontloading
During
Closure
Pre-assessment
Formative
Summative
Connect, Extend,
Challenge
Formulating
connections,
identifying new
knowledge that
pushes the
thinking,
questioning
Frontloading
During
Closure
Pre-assessment
Formative
Summative
The 4C’s
Formulating
connections,
identifying
concepts and
themes,
questioning,
providing
implications and
changes
During
Closure
Pre-assessment
Formative
Summative
Headlines
Summarizing and
outlining
Frontloading
Closure
Pre-assessment
Formative
Color, Symbol,
Image
Thinking
symbolically and
figuratively
Frontloading
During
Closure
Pre-assessment
Formative
Summative
Sentence, Phrase,
Word
Summarizing and
distilling
Frontloading
During
Closure
Pre-assessment
Formative
I used to
think…Now I
think
Reflection and
metacognition
Can be completed
once: As a closure
Can be completed
twice:
As frontloading
and closure
Formative
Summative
Figure 7 shows a visual representation of the student teachers’ responses.
Vol. 6, No. 1
Gholam: Visual Thinking Routines: Classroom Snapshots
74
Figure 7. Visual Representation - I used to think… Now I think
Conclusion
Any teacher is held accountable for preparing students to contribute to the
future world. Learners need to be equipped with skills needed to face problems
and create new products and services. No one can deny the fact that thinking
skills are essential for dealing with the demands of future life. Students need to
connect with previous learning, extend their thinking in new directions, apply
their thinking to new situations, identify generalizations, reason with evidence,
and formulate meaningful questions. However, it is also important that such
skills be armored in a social manner, where students cooperate with one
another, take on and complete tasks, listen to one another, discuss ideas, ask
questions, and reach decisions. Learning for work and life in our times means
helping as many children as possible learn to apply 21st century skills and
reach a solid understanding of different core subjects (Trilling & Fadel, 2009).
Implementing visual thinking routines in the classroom will aid teachers and
educators in making sure 21st century education is reaching every child. When
used in Pre-K 12 settings, such tools allow for student engagement, collaboration,
thinking, curiosity, and creativity.
Given the benefits and importance of including visual thinking routines in
daily curricula, how do schools create a thinking culture? What are the essential
elements needed to make sure visual thinking routines are effectively and
efficiently implemented in schools? First, schools need to believe in a culture of
thinking. Therefore, it is central that school administrators and coordinators design
curricula that promote student engagement, cooperation, thinking, questioning,
Athens Journal of Education
January 2019
75
and 21st century education. Second, teachers should be well-equipped with the
knowledge and skills needed to design and implement effective visual thinking
routines in the classroom. In order to do so, teachers need to participate in
study group programs related to visual thinking routines. Teachers need to have
quality time to share and exchange ideas acquired from these study group
programs. Third, teachers should be given a trial period to implement visual
thinking routines in the classroom and prepare an evaluation of the process: the
strengths, the weaknesses, what could be done better, etc. Fourth, trained
teachers should offer hands-on training to the ones who are still new and are
not familiar with the use of visual thinking routines. Fifth, teachers should
participate in ongoing professional development programs related to visual
thinking routines. Such programs help teachers stay up to date with the recent
trends in visual thinking routines.
Teachers prepare students for the future world. Whether we like it or not,
we cannot teach our students the way we did fifteen years ago. Educators need
to make sure we equip our students with the skills and knowledge they need to
successfully face the outcomes of the 21st century. To do so, students need to
be active participants in the learning process. Students, collaboratively, need to
observe their surroundings, ask questions, experiment, predict, formulate
hypotheses, test hypotheses, arrive at conclusions, communicate their findings,
and take action in serving the world. Visual thinking routines in the classroom
facilitate these necessary outcomes.
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The writers describe how apparently ordinary decisions about what to say when talking with children can have substantial effects on their learning and development. The language we use with children influences, among other things, who they think they are, what they think they're doing, the relationships they have with others, the strategic information available to them in the classroom, and the possibilities available to them for thinking about literacy and their own lives. The writers offer some principles for the kind of talk that helps build learning communities, engagement, a sense of agency, social relations, self-regulation and even moral development.
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How children learn mathematics has been the focus of research for many years. The research base has developed with theories from mathematics education, educational psychology and cognitive psychology (e.g. Geary, 1990; Ginsburg, 1997; Rousselle and Noel, 2007; Wright, 1994). Math educators have used this research to help guide instructional practices and to help them make sound instructional decisions. Recently, brain-imaging technology has brought the field of neuroscience into the study of teaching and learning mathematics. Imaging technologies have allowed scientists to determine which areas of the brain are active when the mind is engaged in mathematics. This technology has given researchers and educators a new piece of the learning puzzle. It is now possible to compare learning theories in mathematics to neurological analyses of how the brain physically functions while it is doing mathematics. In this book David Sousa links research and theory in mathematics teaching and learning to emerging research in neuropsychology. He reviews knowledge of the human brain's evolution and physiology, as well as current theories about teaching and learning and merges that knowledge with new information from brain imaging. In the first two chapters of How the Brain Learns Mathematics, Sousa traces a genetic history of number sense using research from cognitive science and psychology. He begins with the assertion that people have an innate number sense (p.9). He cites experiments, such as infant gaze studies that suggest a basic and innate sense of number. In these gaze studies, babies are shown images of sets of two objects and sets of three objects. The babies consistently look for longer periods of time at the sets of three objects. This finding indicates that babies can detect differences in quantity at very early ages. Mathematics may be viewed as a subject learned in school but this
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Everyone thinks. Keeping five themes in mind will ensure that every learner thinks skillfully. How do you know that your students need to learn how to think? When I have posed this question to teachers of all grade levels in countries around the world, teachers have given surprisingly similar and consistent descriptions of their students' thinking: They just blurt out answers. They should think before they respond. They depend on me for their answers. I wish they would think for themselves. They give up so easily on difficult tasks. I'd like them to hang in there. They can't seem to work in groups. They must learn to cooperate and work together. They don't apply their knowledge. I want them to use what they know in other situations. They are afraid to take risks. I'd like them to be more creative, more adventuresome. Such comments reflect teachers' awareness that to function in school, at work, and in life, students must persist when faced with adversity, solve cognitively complex problems, draw on vast reservoirs of knowledge, and work collaboratively. To strengthen these skills, instruction must become more reflective, complex, and relevant (Commission on the Whole Child, 2007). Curriculums must become more thought-filled in the sense of enlarging students' capacities to think deeply and creatively. Five Themes to Shape Curriculum I propose that educators make five themes part of any thought-filled curriculum. These themes provide lenses through which we can shape, organize, and evaluate curriculums.