Saturday, February 27, 2010

Visible Thinking

Visible Thinking is a terrific teaching resource from Harvard University promoting the use of activities called Thinking Routines to develop students' higher-level thinking skills. Language is, of course, a manifestation of thinking, so all of the Thinking Routines promote language skill development. The routines are game-like, structured discussions (if you are familiar with KWL charts, these are basically Thinking Routines) that take place around a topic or visual context (e.g. a YouTube video, map, or picture) and lead students toward operating on higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. I often would turn to a Thinking Routines activity when I found something visually interesting, such as a book cover, and wanted to use it to elicit language within a session. A good example is the "Headlines" Routine:

"This routine draws on the idea of newspaper-type headlines as a vehicle for summing up and capturing the essence of an event, idea, concept, topic, etc. The routine asks one core question:
1. If you were to write a headline for this topic or issue right now that captured the most important aspect that should be remembered, what would that headline be?"

This article on the blog Infinite Thinking Machine provides more examples of how Thinking Routines can be used in relation to YouTube videos, such as this one:

Language Lens
  • Thinking Routines are great discussion structures when you are working at the discourse level with students.
  • The prompts in each routine are often related to the classic "main idea and details" type of goal, but also move students toward higher level thinking.
  • The elements within each routine generally link together in ways that foster complex sentence formulation skills.


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