‘Making Thinking Visible’ – an invaluable teacher resource

One of my favourite books this year has been ‘Making Thinking Visible’ by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison. This book is an invaluable resource for any teacher wanting to understand and incorporate thinking routines into their classroom practice.

There are some great and detailed reviews for this book, including this one by Katie Gordon. Here is what I consider to be the most important take-home messages:

The book extends and complements the resources created as part of Harvard’s Project Zero and the Cultures of Thinking project by providing practical insight into the power of thinking routines. This book is conversational, easy to read, logically sequenced and most importantly, it is very practical. The first section unpacks the concept of ‘thinking’ – a ubiquitous concept that can actually be quite difficult to pin down. The second section, which forms the bulk of the book, explains how to use thinking routines by providing over 20 examples that are useful for exploring, synthesising and digging deeper into ideas. The last section deals with how we can shape cultures of thinking in our own schools and classrooms.

The key premise of the book is that if we make student thinking visible, we gain insight into what they understand but, more importantly, how they understand it. This provides us as teachers with the information we need to design activities that will then take this thinking to the next level and support them to better understand important concepts. Furthermore, making thinking visible serves to “demystify the thinking and learning process” and model how students should go about learning, thinking and engaging with ideas, thus developing the valuable skill of metacognition.

Engaging with this book has demonstrated to me how a set of effective classroom practices, and accompanying metalanguage, can be the catalyst for transformational action. For best results, teachers should work the language of the thinking routines into their classroom practice. Rather than seeing the thinking routines as ‘classroom activities’, teachers should see them as a way to change the questioning, language and thinking that takes place in the classroom, until they are a natural part of classroom interactions, this transforming the thinking that takes place.

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