A Teacher Thinking Visibly

See, Think, Wonder

See, Think, Wonder Back in February, I signed up to take the Making Thinking Visible course offered through Harvard Project Zero. I had seen the teachers in the elementary school at YIS go through the class and heard how they felt it improved teaching and learning in their classroom. I thought that Making Thinking Visible would be a set of teaching routines that would help ensure that I no longer got the blank stares I was used to seeing when I ask “Everyone understand?”  I also thought that the team of teachers was made up of people I wanted to learn with. (the amazing Kim, Simon, and Frank make up the indomitable Team Kangaesaseru* ) And really, I wondered how the routines would change my teaching and my students learning.

10X2: Describe 10 things you have observed. Then do it again.LookingX10 (I’m going to cheat and only do it once)

1. My students are incredible thinkers. By using the routines, every single students gets to show what they understand and what questions they have.  And the routines are non-evaluative and low-stakes, so my kids are really open to showing their thinking.

2. The routines get easier for both me and my students each time we do them. I’m constantly referring to the booklet**, but as a class we’re figuring them out.

3. It really, really helps that other people are doing the course. The students are practicing the routines across many classes. Hopefully we are starting to build a culture of understanding across the school.  Also, seeing how eight teachers are using the routines is inspiring.

4. Being a student is hard work. As part of the course, my team is constantly trying to figure out what expectations our teacher has, how are we going to get it done on time, and how to balance it with all the other things going on in our lives. It’s tough and it’s good to remember that.

5. My class is zippier. The routines are quick. I can do multiple routines in a class depending on what concept I want my students to focus on. With these routines, my students are constantly moving, changing directions, and thinking about different aspects of the concepts we are studying in class. Time goes fast.

My walls are covered

My walls are covered

6. My classroom looks crazy. Their learning is visiphotoble everywhere. On butcher paper. On post-it notes. There are papers on top of papers on all walls. Other students, other teachers, and parents can see what is going on in my class and we’re talking about it.

7. Paper is good. A lot of the learning is becoming visible using paper and pen. It’s a quick way to see what they are learning. If I really need it, I’m taking a picture so we can use it again.

8.GoogleDocs/Surveys/Wallwisher/Tech is good. Graphic Organizers with the Thinking Routines are fantastic. Wallwishers where students post their understanding is the perfect way to show their thinking. I’ve sent out a Google Survey asking students to submit Headlines. When pedagogy changes, technology can follow.

9. I want to use the new iPad mini to capture learning. School has given me a new iPad mini to pilot*** and I’m trying to figure out how to use it to show student learning. Yesterday, I used YouTube Capture to record students practicing a Thinking Routine, uploaded to YouTube and linked in my blog in less than five minutes.

I think there are lots of similar quick, easy, and effective ways to capture my students thinking visibly. And I want to find out what they are.

10. The Thinking Routines is about the process of student learning, not the perfect final projects. This is a very, very good thing.

I used to think….Now I think

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 9.03.11 PM

I used to think, Visible Thinking would be quick little tricks that would make my teaching a little more varied and that it would be interesting to learn about. Now I think that though none of the ideas are revolutionary, they are helping me understand what I can do to help every single one of my students, in every grade level. Now I think, I am on my way to being a better teacher.


*The course is online and I may have been a little crazy to sign up. I’ve learned a lot, but I feel there is a lot to say about distance learning after this experience. The best part has been working with my team, Team Kangaesaseru. Kangaesaseru means “to think” in Japanese.

**This fantastic booklet (from which I stole the visuals used in this post) was made by Frank and it’s my go-to for this course.

***Way more on this later.

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in Humanities, Technology, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to A Teacher Thinking Visibly

  1. I’ve used these thinking routines in my classes off and on this past year. I find that having the students actually write and reflect first using these routines leads to much better discussions in class, and students can actually see their own learning. This post was a great reminder for me!

    • I think it’s some really great routines, but I have to conscientiously remember to use them. I hope one day it’ll just be natural but not quite there yet. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Rebekah,

    “Visible Thinking” looks like an interesting reminder/extension of best practices to help students develop metacognitive awareness of their own learning, as well as to make explicit some of the big ideas that underlie the subjects they study. I look forward to your further posts on your experience with this course. Do you think that the strategies and concepts developed in this course would be of interest to a high school English teacher? Have you taken other classes through WIDE World, and do you feel this and other programs are worth the expense in time, money, and energy?

    … I’d really like to hear about your experiences with the Visible Learning course in particular and WIDE World in general. Perhaps we can discuss it at break during our next COETAIL meeting…

    Aaron P.

  3. Aaron-
    Thanks for the comment. I really think Visible Thinking has some great ideas that can be used in many many courses and at all levels. And I’m more than happy to talk about the WIDE experience. It’s been interesting to do after COETAIL, that’s for sure.

  4. Beth Diaz says:

    Most of the teachers at my school, Presbyterian Day School, in Memphis, Tennessee, have attended Project Zero at Harvard. We are using thinking routines school -wide and find them to be a fantastic way to build a culture of thinking in a classroom and even in a school. I enjoyed your post very much! I took a few online courses at WIDE World and really loved it . I look forward to more from you on visible thinking! Thanks!

  5. Pingback: See Think Wonder: Digital Literacy and Visible Thinking | Rebekah Madrid

  6. Thanks for the link to the Thinking Visual text; Project Zero is brilliant. I came across this idea in a Socrative blog – this is a new formative assessment testing app made by teachers for teachers. I very much like the concepts you shared here, and will read the text at more leisure. Your point about the procedures getting quicker after the kids got used to the approach helps quiet my mind; often we drop things before they get a chance to gel.

  7. Komal Warman says:


    As i was browsing through the most effectively done blogs, the Title ‘A Teacher Thinking Visibly’ caught my eyes and also the sub heading ‘See, Think. Wonder. This is something the Librarian who I work with often uses. Since it is the most effective way to have students TUNED IN than TURNED ON, I too have started using this phrase. It is shear delight, then, to see students responses and eagerness to learning.

    I also liked the Vocabulary, Zippier, Crazy, as that depicts learning and being focussed.

    At my previous school where I worked, I’d often say ‘Things spoiled means things used’. (Things are the books, noise level that is due to discussions, post it notes on the books…)

    The video that you have posted to have a hands on experience with iPad is great, showing Thinking visible. I might use that app for one of my projects.

    • I love the phrase “Things spoiled means things used” What a great image of what a classroom should look like. Thanks for stopping by…let me know how it works in your classroom.

  8. ron brooke says:

    Many of the routines are presented as language arts, fine arts, math and history routines. Are their any that are oriented more toward the sciences? I’m adapting as I go along, but I’d appreciate knowing if there’s anything out there already, rather than re-inventing….

    • Because I’m a humanities teacher, my examples come from this classroom setting. But I know that they can be used to great effect in a science class. Several science teachers (12th grade physics and middle school science) at my school took the course and found it an effective way to assess learning quickly. A lot of the observation routines can work well in science. Take the booklet I’ve linked to in this post and try them out in your classroom. Let me know if I can help in any way. And thanks for stopping by!

  9. Pingback: Throwing Ideas Out There: Design Thinking and Professional Development | Rebekah Madrid

  10. Pingback: » Great examples from the classroom showing visible… Langwitches Twitter Feed

  11. mmongardi says:

    Hi Rebekah,

    I love anything that pushes/pulls/nudges students into a more metacognitive sphere. Of course, that is only the beginning of the journey. I am excited to learn more about what you are doing.

  12. Hi Rebekah, as an enthusiastic convert of CoT and MTV for many years I am wondering if you would give me permission to share this in my FB MTV group?

  13. Pingback: Making Thinking Visible | sonya terborg

  14. Pingback: Visible Thinking: Not Just for Little Kids | Rebekah Madrid

  15. Kristy says:

    Hi Rebekah, thank you for sharing! I attended a conference last year and had the privilege of hearing Ron Ritchhart present. I know I only got a small snapshot of what would be offered through the course (maybe my next goal after COETAIL), but what I was able to implement from his talk with my G1 and K students has been impactful. We use the “I see, I think, I wonder” all the time. I was also challenged to really think about the kinds of questions I was posing in the classroom that would spark student thinking. “What makes you say that?” has become an important one for me. I snagged the link for your booklet and feel inspired again because of your post. At the end of the day, I want my students to be deep thinkers and problem solvers who can explain and justify their thinking. What better way than to ensure we are providing opportunities and strategies enable them to do just that!

  16. Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?
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  17. Neil Hinrichsen says:

    Hi Rebekah check out the Post-It app for the iPad, will let you capture & rearrange all your Post-It stickers with one snap – brilliant!

    I’m also looking at using this with RealtimeBoard, a great online whiteboard

    • I’m a little obsessed with that app. I’ve also got it so it can put the post-its into a google spreadsheet, which is almost magical. And means I have way less post-it’s falling everywhere!

  18. Hello!
    I love the visible thinking routines but I noticed one of your comments is how I feel too, that unless you use them regularly it is not natural to use them – at first. I find sometimes I get stuck using the same ones over and over too because I feel ‘comfortable. Time to step out of the comfort box!

    Have you checked out Explain Everything? It’s an app on the iPad and you can upload video or a picture or just a few words and the students create their own copy and record their thinking based on your prompt. I was thinking of trying to use it with a visible thinking routine such as “I used to think… Now I think…” if you record students’ thinking at the beginning of a unit and at the end they don’t have the chance to say “I already knew that” because they have to re-visit their recording! Ha.

    Thanks for sharing all the pictures- love the thinking visible all over your classroom.

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