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. (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.
6. My classroom looks crazy. Their learning is visible 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
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.