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14 VTR Final by LAB

Visible thinking routine: 3-2-1 Bridge
Why use this routine?
This routine is used to connect prior knowledge and initial thoughts, ideas and questions to
those that they develop after having received new information and understandings on a topic
or theme. Bridges are built between prior knowledge and new ideas.
When to use it?
When students are developing knowledge and understandings of concepts over time. The idea
is to show students that new knowledge moves our thinking in new directions.
Step 1: Introduce a topic and have them write down:
✓ 3 ideas or thoughts that they have about this topic
✓ 2 questions about things they have doubts on or would like to learn more about
✓ 1 analogy (compare it to something similar)
They should know they are not being judged on this information. It is just a starting point.
Step 2: Show the participants data, texts, videos, images or do an activity which explains or
focuses on the main points of the concept at hand.
Step 3: Ask participants to write down on the other side of the bridge their new ideas:
✓ 3 ideas or thoughts that they have about this topic
✓ 2 questions about things they have doubts on or would like to learn more about
✓ 1 analogy
Step 4: Ask them to compare their thoughts and reflect on why their thinking has changed or
Step 5: Share their findings with others. They can do this is small groups.
Suggestion: The topic can be very general and just be given to them orally as a way of
introduction. “Let´s think about education/modern music/the clothing industry” are some
examples. Or it can be something more specific you are going to be working on in class (the
Cold War, post Roman times in Europe, etc).
This routine could also be done in pairs or groups, but is best to be done individually and then
shared, to assure a wide variety of ideas and questions.
By Lee Ann Bussolari
Visible thinking routine: Chalk talk
Why use this routine?
This silent conversation routine allows participants to write down their own ideas and
comment on others´. It builds understanding through the careful consideration of other points
of view. It gives students who tend to be silent during class discussions a place to participate.
When to use it?
✓ At the beginning of a unit to check for previous knowledge and to find out what
students are curious about.
✓ After having dealt with new information. They may have learnt a new concept or
watched a video about something and the teacher wants to check their understanding
and discover the gaps in the learning.
Step 1: Write a prompt (question or a topic) on a large piece of paper or cardboard and place it
in the middle of the table. If you have four tables you should have four prompts. They can be
words or images, but big questions tend to generate more conversation. Leave different
colored writing materials to hand. Explain that they can write in any direction and even make
drawings or visuals. The end result should be “messy”, not a carefully structured scheme.
Step 2: Ask students to start writing ideas or questions on the prompt at their table. They
should begin by writing their own and then answering or commenting on the writings of
others. The only “rule” (and biggest challenge) is that they must not speak. This silent
conversation strategy takes the pressure off students who are shy or less verbal.
Step 3: The facilitator decides beforehand if she will either then allow the students to wonder
to the other tables on their own, or each group will rotate every X amount of minutes that the
teacher has decided on. A minimum of 5 minutes at each prompt is a good guide.
Step 4: Class discussion: The routine ends when the groups rotate back to the table where they
began. Here, they should reflect and think about what others have written on their ideas. Are
they surprised by anything? What things were common to all tables? This information can then
be shared with the class in a sort of “debriefing”.
Suggestion: The first time they do this exercise they may need more specific instruction:
“Respond to others”, “Connect to their ideas”, “Ask a classmate for more information about
their comment”. Remember, the idea is to generate a conversation (although written not
It is also important to regulate the timing and warn them “One minute left at this table”.
Visible thinking routine: Compass points
Why use this routine?
This routine is a useful tool for checking for previous understanding and as a way to introduce
and “flesh out” new topics or information before forming an opinion. They explore the pros
and cons of the issue and decide what information they are missing and how to proceed from
When to use it?
✓ As a warm up for a new topic or unit.
✓ A first look at an idea.
Step 1: Explain that they are going to use the points of the compass to think through a new
idea or proposition. (This can be anything from a new classroom seating arrangement or the
choosing of a new class book to a political idea)
Step 2: Explain what each point on the compass represents.
✓ N: Need to know: What information do they feel is missing? What are they curious
✓ E: Excited about: What are they looking forward to? What makes it interesting for
✓ S: Suggestions, stance or steps: What is their stance now? What do they see as ways to
move forward?
✓ W: Worried about: What is the downside? What worries them?
Step 3: This can be done in groups at a table where they can write on a large piece of
cardboard with the compass drawn in the center and the letters on the sides or it can be done
as a class with the compass on the wall or board with post its.
Step 4: Students should be given a time limit to think about and write down their thoughts.
Step 5: When everyone has finished, students can compare the post its and form new ideas or
question about the topic.
Suggestion: It is usually easier for students to start with what they are excited about and then
move on to the others. So it may be interesting to scaffold the routine one compass point as a
Another idea is to ask students about their opinion or stance before doing the routine and
then ask again afterwards to see if there has been a shift in their thinking.
Visible thinking routine: Connect-Extend-Challenge
Why use this routine?
This routine helps students to connect prior knowledge to new learning
When to use it?
✓ After having dealt with new information.
✓ As a tool for reflection
Step 1: Choose a text or video on a topic that the class has already been working on, but that
provides some new ideas or perspectives.
Step 2: The students read or view the source material. This can be done individually or in a
Step 3: Students answer the following questions
✓ Connect: How do the ideas and information in this reading connect to what you
already know?
✓ Extend: How does this reading extend or broaden your thinking?
✓ Challenge: Does this reading challenge or complicate your prior understandings? What
new questions does it raise for you?
Step 4: Students should discuss their answers either in pairs, small groups or as a class.
Suggestion: The new questions that have arisen from the routine can be placed in a visible
place in the classroom where answers can be posted as the inquiry moves forward.
Visible thinking routine: CSI
Why use this routine?
This routine is a useful tool for allowing students to communicate and express
themselves in a non-verbal way. It is a way for them to look at concepts from a
different perspective and to express the essence or heart of an idea using metaphors.
It also will allow them to connect visual aspects to concrete ideas and to transmit
personal feelings.
When to use it?
✓ Formative assessment after assimilating new information (text, video, etc)
✓ As a way to reflect on a certain aspect of their learning
✓ To gage the emotional reaction of students to an issue or problem
Step 1: Explain that they are going to represent one of the main ideas they have taken
from their learning and express it through colors and images.
Step2: Have each student (or group) choose one of the important or interesting ideas
that have come form the reading or learning.
Step 3: Write the letters CSI on the board and explain what each one stands for.
✓ C: Color: What color do you “feel” when you focus on this?
✓ S: Symbol: What symbol comes to mind? It can be a conventional one or one
they make themselves.
✓ I: Is there an image that represents this point?
Step 4: Give each student or group a large piece of card and tell them to divide it in 3
sections or columns. Explain that they should color, write and draw the CSIs.
Step 5: Students should be given a time limit to work on this routine (about 15
Step 6: When everyone has finished, students can compare their results and comment
on and ask questions about the work of the other students. Students can justify and
explain the reasons for choosing the CSIs that they have chosen.
Suggestion: Instead of all the students or groups working on the same idea, several
“big ideas” can be taken form the learning and each group can work on one.
The first time you do the activity it may be helpful to allow them to look at examples
of symbols, especially if they are younger.
Older students may accompany their work with a few written sentences to explain
their choices.
Visible thinking routine: Headlines
Why use this routine?
This routine is a useful tool for checking for understanding. It is used to sum up and to capture
the heart or the essence of the ideas, key concepts or questions under consideration.
When to use it?
✓ After having dealt with new information. Maybe they have learnt a new concept or
watched a video about something and the teacher wants to check their understanding.
If they are able to sum up the main idea, then they demonstrate they have understood
the core issues.
✓ At the end of a class or a unit of inquiry. Again, to show that they are able to
summarize an aspect of their learning experience.
Step 1: Explain that they are going to write a newspaper headline which sums up what they
have been working on. They should try to capture the essence of the ideas in an interesting
Step 2: Ask students to write their headline. This can be done individually, in pairs or in small
Step 3: The students share their headlines with the class. They can put them on the wall or in
the center of the class for all to see.
Step 4: Students should be asked to explain, justify or provide reasons for their headline and
class discussion can revolve around common themes and similarities and differences amongst
the headlines.
Suggestion: These headlines can later be printed as banners to hang around the classroom.
Visible thinking routine: I used to think
Why use this routine?
To reflect on how or why our thinking has changed. It is a way for students to consolidate their
new knowledge and think deeply on the changes that they have undergone. This routine can
help to focus on their thinking processes and pave the way for analysing future opinions and
When to use it?
✓ At the end of a unit to check for understanding
✓ As a way to reflect on a certain aspect of their learning
✓ After new information has been introduced
Step 1: Explain that they are going to be reflecting on their own learning. This exercise is
usually done individually.
Step2: Ask them to think back to the beginning of the learning, before receiving the new
information. Ask them questions such as “What did you think about this then?”, “Did you have
any ideas about …….?”, “What did you think was true then?, etc.
Step 3: Indicate that they should write these ideas in the “I used to think” column
Step 3: Next, have them write comments in the second column, based on the “I used to think”
Step 4: After giving them a few minutes to do this, ask them to check and see which answers
have changed and which have not.
Step 5: When everyone has finished, students can compare their results and comment on and
ask questions about the work of the other students. Student can justify and explain the
reasons for the changes and check to see if others have undergone the same process.
Suggestion: Students can compare answers in pairs before sharing with the whole class.
Stress that it does not mean that their thinking was wrong before. They should focus on how
the new knowledge has helped them to get a clearer picture of their learning.
This is a great way for teachers to check if the unit has had the desired impact on learning.
Visible thinking routine: KWL
Why use this routine?
It is a very easy way to check for prior knowledge at the beginning of the learning or to engage
them in new learning.
When to use it?
✓ At the beginning of a unit to check for prior knowledge
✓ As a way to reflect on a certain aspect of their learning
✓ Before new information is introduced to gauge what must be taught
Step 1: This can be done individually or in small groups. Present the topic or unit you and your
class are going to be working on. Ask students to reflect on what they know about the topic
and to fill in the first column “What I know”.
Step2: After completing the first part, move on to what they want to know. This can
sometimes be difficult if they do not know a lot about this topic so it may be useful to prepare
some questions beforehand to help them out.
Step 3: The KWL chart should be kept at hand during the unit so students can add in things that
have learnt and understood in the third column “What I have learnt”. It could be interesting to
have them fill it out at the end of each week, or at the end of a particular lesson.
Step 4: Along the learning they can also add new questions to column 2 or put a check next to
questions that they have now found the answers to.
Step 5: After the unit has finished, students can have a class discussion on how their prior
knowledge (column 1) was correct or not and how and why their ideas have changed.
Suggestion: As a teacher, make a list of all the prior knowledge (first column) to see which
areas they have the least understanding about or to check for misconceptions that you will
have to deal with in the unit. Some misconceptions may need to be cleared up before moving
on, while others can be left for them to discover on their own.
Visible thinking routine: Red light, yellow light
Why use this routine?
This routine is a useful tool for flagging information that may be unreliable. In the age of “fake
news” this routine makes students stop and think about the veracity of what they read or hear.
The ability to read “critically” is something that should be constantly developed in our
When to use it?
Any time there is a question of reliability: a political speech, a Wikipedia entry, a newspaper
article, a film/book review, etc. They can even use it to peer correct others´ work.
Step 1: Give students the source you want them to analyse. It should be a larger piece of text
with some depth and complexities for the exercise to be useful.
Step 2: Ask students to carefully read the text and to stop where they see things that may
indicate that the author is not being totally truthful (blatant self-interest or bias, generalities,
bold claims, lack of expertise, angry comments, unfounded opinions, etc).
Step 3: The students should mark in red (or with an R in the margin) the comments that would
seem very doubtful and with yellow (or with a Y) the ones that seem somewhat untrue.
Step 4: Students should be asked to explain, justify or provide reasons for their decisions. The
teacher or students can then decide on one or two to investigate more deeply if they wish.
Suggestion: This routine is focused on identifying unreliable information and soucres, but to
decide if they are actually true or not, further investigation must be undertaken.
Visible thinking routine: Step inside
Why use this routine?
This routine allows students to look at things through other points of view or perspectives. It
forces them to step inside the mind of another person and try to understand their feelings and
When to use it?
✓ To delve deeper into a character in a text
✓ As a way to comment on an image or video
✓ To get students to study other perspectives on a topic you are dealing with
Step 1: Show students a situation (video or image) or have them read a text. Ask them to think
about how many different perspectives they can imagine that exist in that situation.
Step2: As a teacher you can either assign them a certain perspective to look from (Example:
the girl in the left-hand corner of the painting or the main character of a novel) or ask them to
choose one themselves.
Step 3: Once the subject has been decided, ask them to step into the mind of that person and
to pretend they are looking at the surrounding situation through that person´s eyes.
Step 3: Next, have them write what they are perceiving, what they know and what they care
about in the three different columns or sections of a paper.
Step 4: After giving them a few minutes to do this, ask them to share their ideas with a partner
or with the class.
Step 5: Finally, they can develop a short monologue using the character as a mouthpiece to
speak about the topic at hand.
Suggestion: This routine is generally done using a person, but it can also be done using an
object. They can imagine the perspective from the view point of a planet in the solar system or
even a number in an equation.
Another variation would be for the students to be given an image with many different people.
They write their perceptions, knowledge and what they care about without naming the
subject. The rest of the class has to guess which perspective the student is speaking from. This
could also work for famous people in a certain time period or works of art.
Visible thinking routine: Think-pair-share
Why use this routine?
This is a very simple routine useful for sharing ideas and collaborating. It moves from individual
thoughts to shared learning and foments critical thinking, participation and communication
skills. It allows students time to think and write before communicating orally with others.
When to use it?
To delve more deeply into an issue after reading or learning about it
To develop possible solutions to problems
To think through a big idea
To check prior knowledge
Step 1: Provide students with a problem or issue to “solve” or an open-ended question.
Step 2: Ask students to think quietly for a designated time (about 3 minutes) and then to write
down their ideas about aspects of the problem/question and possible solutions or answers.
Step 3: After the allotted time, the student shares their ideas with a partner. Together, they
combine or refine their ideas to develop new thoughts.
Step 4: Finally, the pairs share their work with the class, which will prompt class discussion.
Final answers or solutions can be written on the board or on a large cardboard on the wall.
Suggestion: This activity can be short and be used on the spur of the moment for something
that arises during the class or it may involve a higher-level thinking question and be more
*Another version of this is Think-Pair-Square where students move from individual thinking, to
pairs, to a group of four (instead of going directly to whole class discussion).
Visible thinking routine: Tug of War
Why use this routine?
Not all arguments have the same weight. This routine allows students to analyse the
importance of evidence and facts when presenting information to others and when reviewing
evidence presented by others.
When to use it?
✓ Any time questions of truth or debatable issues arise.
Step 1: On the wall you can pin up a long piece of string or just draw one on the board. “True”
is at one side and “False” is at the other.
Step 2: Choose a controversial issue or claim that you know students will be able to find
evidence on both sides for. Example: Animals testing is justified, laptops should be allowed in
the classrooms, cloning people is ethical, media should be censored, school uniforms ensure
equality, etc. More specifically, teachers can choose a topic they are working on in class or
even make claims about a book students are reading.
Step 3: Explain to students that they are going to use post its to add evidence to the line, either
on the “true” side or the “false” side. The stronger the evidence, the closer they should be
placed to the extremes. If the evidence is weaker, it should be placed closer to the centre.
Step 4: Individually or in groups, give them time to investigate, discuss with peers, consult
sources, etc. and then ask them to start putting up their ideas.
Step 5: Set a time limit (according to age and ability) and let them know two minutes before
time is up.
Step 6: Read through and discuss the evidence given. Is there a clear “winner”? Why or why
not? Many times there will not be and that is fine.
Step 7: As an added step, students can use other colored post its to “challenge” or “question”
evidence put up by others using questions such as “What if….?” or “Can you tell me about
your source?”
Step 8: Discuss if any students have changed their minds after reading comments from
classmates. Talk about new information.
Suggestion: Another version of this routine is to write two conflicting ideas on each side
(instead of true or false). Example: “Animal testing is justified” on one side of the string and
“We need to protect animals from testing” on the other.
Leave the Tug of War up for a few days and ask students if they would like to add anything else
or if they have had any other ideas after the routine.
Visible thinking routine: Word-idea-sentence
Why use this routine?
This routine is a useful tool for generating discussions and for helping students to learn to
synthesize. They also practice defending their choices and appreciating the different choices
their peers have made.
When to use it?
To spark class discussion
To reflect on different points of view
To gauge the understanding of a text
To capture the essence of a text
Step 1: Have students read a text (or watch a video). This may have to be done before class at
home if time to digest the task is needed. On the other hand, if the text is short, it can be read
in class.
Step2: Tell them that now they are going to choose:
✓ a word in the text that they thought was powerful
✓ an idea that sums of the text
✓ a sentence that was meaningful for them
Explain they should choose what most stood out for them and write them down. There are no
right or wrong answers.
Step 3: After giving them time to do this, they can get together in pairs or groups and share
with others why they chose what they did and discuss their reasons. They should focus on
“defending” their choices.
Step 4: Class discussion can ensue when they talk about the common themes that have
emerged from the groups. Why have they all focused on the same ideas? Or why are there so
many different words?
Use short texts such as poetry, newspaper articles, etc to engage students while making them
delve deeper.
Have them call out the words they have chosen and write them on the board. Look for
similarities and differences or synonyms. Discuss how similar or different the choices have
For the words, they can enter them on a Mentimeter (www.mentimeter.com ) to form a word
Visible thinking routine: See, think, wonder (STW)
Why use this routine?
Looking closely at something, stopping to actually observe and clarify it, helps us to gain
insights, make thoughtful interpretations, put forth theories, foster curiosity and set a base for
When to use it?
✓ At the beginning, to set the stage for the inquiry and peak interest.
✓ In the middle, to connect to something you want them to contemplate carefully.
✓ At the end, to see if they can apply the new knowledge gained in the unit.
Step 1: Choose an image/object/situation that involves enough detail for students to spend
time observing it (image, painting, artwork, photo, object, video, text, cartoon, data, etc.).
Step 2: Ask participants to look carefully and to take notice of what they see. They should be
recording data or observations in the “I see” column, without interpreting them. This can be
done individually, in pairs or in small groups.
Step 3: Now is the time for participants to interpret. Ask them what they think might be going
on in the image/object. What does it make us think? What else might we be able to
understand from our observations? They should base their “I think” notes on evidence. “I think
_____ because__________”. Reasoning is important at this point.
Step 4. Based on their interpretations, what do they now wonder? This can be difficult to
separate from the interpreting step so be sure to make them understand that it is more
abstract. Have them talk about feelings.
Step 5: Share the thinking. Students can put their ideas together, compare them and then
debate or argue why they have written what they have written.
Suggestion: Scaffold the learning in order. Do not allow them to move on to the next step
without having completed the first one. This of course does not mean that they may not go
back and add things to the other columns, but the idea is to go through the steps in order.
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