The whole idea of visible thinking routines is not to generate decoration for the classroom walls or to inspire contemplation. The thinking students willingly illustrated for us is both an invitation for assessing where students are in the process of inquiry, for observing the opportunities to enrich the experience, to identify the support that needs to be given, to consider possible adjustments to the process, and to marvel at the revelations we might come across. Needless to say, observing and studying the ideas collected during the thinking routine is a time consuming process, but it is a walk all inquiry lovers should be willing to do, because the retributions are priceless.
At this point, though, it is worth asking how many times do students show how they are thinking and we do not see it? Likewise, I wonder, how many opportunities do we create in our tasks for students to demonstrate how they are thinking and for us to visualize it and try to find a way to support their development?
This reflection arose as students were participating in a vocabulary development activity that would serve as a bridge to observe the transformation of meaning from words, to statements, to paragraphs, to ultimately work on enriching one’s findings when doing research. As I was monitoring students’ work, I realized that one of my students (a quiet one, the one that thinks more than she says, and the one whose voice is mostly felt in writing) was working on a system to classify words to understand their function before rushing into just creating sentences- as some of her classmates would. I was pleasantly happy for her, and clearly took the opportunity to share with everyone what a good strategy she was employing.
Aware of the following stages in our inquiry, I started thinking of the things we might not notice in students’ journeys when doing research, so I decided to take some time and reflect on research skills, the ATL category that is our focus for this unit. The outcome of my reflection is this if you notice… possibly… so you might chart tool (an adaptation of Lucy Calkins writer’s workshop), in which I attempted to look at the different stages of employing one’s findings when writing a research text, and how we can take advantage of the information students reveal in their struggles and successes, in order for us to take action and enrich the experience.
Do you take the time to look at the way students are demonstrating their thinking?
Do your classes allow for opportunities to demonstrate how learners think?
Food for thought in the Year of the Monkey that begins next Sunday!