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Visible thinking

Stories that Move has been inspired by the concept of ‘visible thinking’. Teaching often takes the form of talking, and students are expected to listen. But what if this is turned around? If teaching becomes listening and the learning happens through talking. In exploring the mechanisms that play a role in societies and in personal lives in relation to discrimination, being conscious of the learning process can open new ways of thinking.

At Harvard University ‘visible thinking’ routines were introduced as a new way to teach. ‘In broadest terms, the idea calls for externalising the processes of thought so that learners get a better handle on them. Visible Thinking makes use of learning routines, simple structures, such as a set of questions or a short sequence of steps.

From activity to routine

Visible thinking can be used in all age groups and content. The routines often start off as activities. What makes them into routines is that they get used over and over again in the classroom. Learners get familiar with them and the routines become integrated in their learning process. Routines are really just patterns of action that can be integrated in lessons and used in a variety of contexts. You might use more than one routine in teaching a single lesson, as is being done in Stories that Move.  Although the routines are usually straightforward, they do need to become routines for the educator, too. Essentially, ‘visible thinking’ is learner based. The starting point is the thoughts and questions that the learners have. It means taking time for learner-led exchanges and discussion.

Thinking mechanisms

Visible thinking has several goals. First, it aims to give learners the chance to develop thinking skills such as creativity, curiosity and concern for truth and understanding. Second, it also aims to deepen understanding. This makes learners alert to opportunities for thinking and learning. The routines help to document the thinking process of the learner. It shows how every learner contributes to classroom learning, and opens up possibilities to talk, share and discuss.

Using visible thinking routines

  • By repeating thinking routines often learners get familiar with them and they become integrated in their process of learning;
  • It is the learners’ process of learning, and that means there is no wrong or right;
  • By revealing the development of learning visible thinking makes it easy to support your learners;
  • In the classroom, it’s not just the routines themselves but the discussions that take place around routines that makes them powerful.

Routines used in Stories that Move

See Think Wonder

Learners are shown an image and asked to write down first what they see, then what they think, and then the questions the image triggers in them. This routine combines careful observation with the natural curiosity of learners.
This is used in LP 3 – Track 2 and LP 4 – Track 2 and 3.
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Think Pair Share

Learners study an image or topic, then discuss their findings in pairs, enabling each learner to voice her or his own ideas. Then some thoughts are shared in the larger group. It might be something that surprised them in their partner’s answers. It is a routine for active reasoning and explanation.
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This is a routine for capturing essence.  Learners are asked to capture a topic or idea in a tight newspaper-type headline, forcing them first to weigh and then revisit key issues.
This is used in LP 4 – Track 2.
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I used to think…, but now I think

A routine for reflecting on how and why our thinking has changed.
This is used in LP 2 and LP 4 – Track 3.
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Zoom in – Zoom out

A routine for examining details and making interpretations. Learners are shown an image a bit at a time and asked what they think they see, and what they think might be going on. It can open up discussions on the ‘bigger’ picture.
This is used in LP 1 – Track 1 and LP 2 – Track 1.
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