In November 2013, I attended an amazing conference with the focus of developing effective feedback practices to improving student learning. Ron Ritchhart, one of the keynote presenters, shared his research on visible thinking routines. Visible Thinking is a research-based approach to teaching with the aim of developing students’ thinking abilities while deepening their understanding of the learning goals. With visible thinking routines, learning is no longer just content-driven; students’ thinking processes during learning become visible to teachers and the students. As a participant in Ritchhart’s workshops, I was fascinated by his research on developing students’ thinking skills through these different thinking routines. As a teacher, my question was, “What modifications and scaffolding would I need to incorporate to use these routines with students of low language fluency?” Although Ritchhart’s research had involved EAL students, in his demonstration videos, the students’ language abilities seemed quite high. I wanted to know how I would adapt and scaffold these thinking routines for students who had minimal English fluency.
Peeling the Fruit
Working with a colleague, we decided to try the “Peeling the Fruit” routine, but we soon realized using this entire routine in one lesson was much too ambitious. This routine is designed to help students think about a text, moving their thinking from literal understandings to inferential. After trying the strategy in class and reflecting upon our experiences, we decided that using the entire routine would be more appropriate towards the end of the year, after we had scaffolded the language and thinking process for each section of the routine throughout the year. This would give the students a chance to become comfortable with each part of the routine and better able to move through the routine. Because students were both unfamiliar with the routine and the different levels of thinking involved, they need more support with each part before we could use the entire routine.
See – Think – Wonder
My colleague and I found this routine to be extremely effective for moving students’ thinking from literal to inferential. We had students working in partners with a visually stimulating picture and they enjoyed describing what they saw and then making hypotheses about the image. We used this routine as a pre-reading tool to access students’ prior knowledge and direct their thinking to make connections between weather, mood, and setting in a story.
CSI – Colour – Symbol – Image
CSI is a thinking routine that asks students to look at a concept or theme and represent it in three forms – color, symbol, and image. After we spending several classes working with two poems, my colleagues and I asked the students to use CSI for one of two poems. We wanted to use this routine to see the level of their understanding. Prior to having students use this thinking protocol, we scaffolded the idea of representing and discussed the difference between symbol and image.