Are you in the habit of thinking?

In order to be in the habit of thinking it is believed that we need to be immersed in an environment where thinking is visible, modelled, valued and given time.

The ‘Culture of Thinking’ developed by Harvard University encourages students to experience school as a place where thinking is valued and given time. It seeks to engage them in rich opportunities for thinking in their day-to-day classroom experience. The approach encourages the modelling of thinking in the form of seeing teachers and peers as fellow thinkers. It also ensures that the environment is full with the documentation of thinking. This approach is known as Visible Thinking.

Visit the Harvard University Visible Thinking website and you’ll find the full range of routines and a full explanation of the ideals.

Visible Thinking espouses a series of Learning Routines that are utilised under the umbrella of four ideals: Fairness, Understanding, Truth and Creativity. The Learning Routines are a series of simple steps or short questions that can be used across all aspects of the school curriculum. I have personally found them to very effective in engaging Gifted and Talented learners in advanced thinking building upon the standard curriculum that we are required to teach. The use of these routines took the level of engagement, thinking and investigation beyond the basics.

One of my favourite routines is Circle of Viewpoints.

Quite simply the students brainstorm a list of different perspectives to look at an issue, event, time or place. Then they use this script to explore it.

I am thinking of … the topic…

From the point of view of … the viewpoint you’ve chosen

I think … describe the topic from your viewpoint. Be an actor – take on the character of your viewpoint

A question I have from this viewpoint is … ask a question from this viewpoint

To conclude the activity ask the students to reflect and ask:
What new ideas do you have about the topic that you didn’t have before? What new questions do you have?

I successfully used this particular routine with Year 7 Students who were studying the context of Shakespeare’s life. After researching and learning about the different levels of society in England at that time the students each chose one of those groups to view the premiere of Shakespeare’s latest play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ from. After watching the DVD performance of the play the students had to explore the play from the point of view of their chosen class / social standing. The quality of their responses, their insights into the play and the understanding they showed of social class in England at the time was outstanding. An excellent result from a very simple routine.

This routine could be applied to any learning area. For example, look at the process of photosynthesis from the point of view of the Sun. Or examine the French Revolution from the point of view of Javert in Les Miserables. Once the students have written or discussed their chosen viewpoint it could create a great debate to stage a conversation between two students representing different points of view.

Just by introducing this simple routine into your lesson you can quickly and easily engage your students in high level, visible thinking. You can ensure that your students develop the habit of thinking by doing something like this. Try one… just one and let me know how it goes. Send me a message and I am happy to share some of the resources I personally developed to use Visible Thinking from Harvard in my classrooms.

It’s worth a try to get your students in the habit of thinking.


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