Thinking Routines for Exploring New Content

Welcome back to the conclusion of Chapter 4 of Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart. Last week I discussed the first four (of seven) thinking routines for introducing and exploring ideas. These are thinking routines that can get your kiddos up and thinking about the content before you start exploring them – whether it be an entire unit or just a lesson. This week, we are going to discuss the last three.

Do you need some new, engaging strategies to help your students explore new ideas in your content area? This blog post has several strategies for thinking routines that will engage your students and get them thinking!
3-2-1 Bridge Thinking Routine

The 3-2-1 Bridge reminds me of all those various closings that are out there. You know the ones- the ones that say name three things you learned, 2 things you still have questions about and 1 thing… blah. But it’s a bit different. Instead, you are just trying to get the background knowledge of your kiddos to peek out. It’s a bit like that stuff the movies portray psychologists doing- you know… “What is the first thing that comes to your mind with this inkblot?”

 (I see a dog or wolf… what do you see?)

Anyway, I digress. You will provide the students with a topic or subject. They are to then write down the first three words that comes to their mind when they think of the topic. Then they should write down two questions that come to mind regarding it, and finally, create one metaphor or simile to explain it. (For younger students, you may want to give a stem such as “Planets are like…”) 

Students should record this some place where they can access it later (as this is the “Bridging” part) and should definitely NOT overthink things to list. After teaching, at some point, you should repeat this activity with students and have them meet with a partner. At that time they will discuss what they notice about their thinking and (if) how it changed. How thinking has changed is the key part of this routine- so it’s critical to return to it later.

Compass Points Thinking Routine

I found the thinking routine Compass Points to be interesting. I’m not sure how often I would use it, but it is mostly for topics that involve decision making or even persuasion. For instance, you may suggest the issue “elimination of the dress code.” Students first begin by exploring multiple perspectives (the positives [excitements] and negatives [worries] of an issue [what’s the upside? What is the downside?]).

Then they move into steps that are a “call to action.” The call to action steps involves identifying what they need to know more about to make a decision and depending on the issue, what steps, stance, or suggestions they have for the situation. The teacher will place four different pieces of chart paper around the room with the letters of a compass. Students respond on sticky notes through all of them and then as a class discusses what emerged. (I personally, think you could do this in groups with one chart paper per group broken up into quarters — one for each letter. Then you could give each member sticky notes of a particular color. Just a thought…)

The Explanation Game Thinking Routine

The Explanation Game.  Ah. I’m just not sure about this routine and I guess I won’t completely believe it’s going to generate a lot of thinking until I see it in action. (Be watching for that updated post!)  This routine is meant to get students to slow down and really think about the parts of a whole. For instance, you may place a microscope in front of students and even though they know what it is, they will explore each part of it. Students begin by listing all the various parts and features of the object. (It doesn’t have to be a physical 3D object- it can be a mathematical model, geographical image, or a historical event.)  After they name all the parts they notice, then they explain each part they list. They really should come up with as many different explanations as possible. Then they will give reasons why their explanations are plausible. (There is that evidence again!)  Overall, the goal is to have students focusing on the relationship between the features of the object.

Next week, I’m going to dive into thinking routines for synthesizing and organizing ideas. Just like this last set, I’ll likely have to do it in two posts, as there are seven of those also. If you missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can find them here:

 Week 1- Throw Bloom’s Taxonomy Away!

Week 2- Guess What’s in Your Teacher’s Head?

Week 3- Introduction to Thinking Routines

Week 4- Introductions for the Beginning of Lessons (Or Units!)

 I look forward to returning with my personal thoughts on each one and how they were in action! If you have used any of these thinking routines in the classroom, please feel free to comment on your personal thoughts of them!

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