Making Thinking Visible

How 2 Promote Enggmnt, Undrstndng & Indpndnce for All Lrnrs


Ron Ritchhart

Mark Church

Karen Morrison

Essential Question

How can classrooms become places of intellectual stimulation? A place where learning is viewed NOT in test scores but rather in the development of individuals who can THINK, PLAN, CREATE, QUESTION, and ENGAGE independently?


Harvard's Project Zero

A strategy called Visible Thinking began within Harvard's Project Zero. This strategy develops students' thinking dispositions, while simultaneously deepening their understanding of the topics they study.

What is it? Visible Thinking is a varied collection of practices, including thinking routines. These are small sets of questions or a short sequence of steps, as well as the documentation of student thinking.

What is it NOT? A fixed, non-flexible sequence of lessons

Truly UNDERSTANDING requires "Thinking Moves"

Six Thinking Moves:

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

Using these six "thinking moves", we can positively link thinking about a topic and the mastery and understanding of that topic. More importantly, when we make these moves VISUAL, it leads to better understanding.

Making the Invisible VISIBLE

Project Zero Asked STUDENTS!

What is thinking?

4th grade response: "If someone asks me to spell something, I put a picture of that word in my head and spell it. I always have a mental picture in my head. I compare things to what I already know."

6th grade response: "Understanding words and sentences; pictures; details, I ask myself questions; try to answer the question; thinking logically; don't get caught up in things that aren't relevant."

10th grade response: "Remembering; analyzing; using past experiences in present experiences; visualizing; categorizing; creativity; intelligence; finding similarities; comparing and contrasting"

How Do We, as Teachers, Make the Invisible Visible?


1) Questioning: Asks questions that push students and will model our interest in the ideas being explored

2) Model an Interest in Ideas: Ask authentic questions (questions you may NOT know the to!); this creates an environment rich in intellectual engagement

3) Construct Understanding: Use questions that move past knowledge but focus on allowing students to CONNECT ideas, visualize

4) Facilitate and Clarify Thinking: "What makes you say that?" This allows teachers to better understand student thought.

5) Listening: We must ask the question "what makes you say that?" Then, we must LISTEN to the response. This develops active listeners.

6) Documenting: Record class investigations on whiteboard, photograph student work. Capture the moment in time where we can SEE students move into true understanding.

WE do this using the 21 THINKING ROUTINES prescribed in this book!


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Each routine is laid out individually in the book. I could have spent pages and pages on each! It gives student samples, the purpose of the routine, steps for success, possible uses and variations and assessment ideas!