Making Thinking Visible – Final Thoughts

About a month ago I was searching the library database for a book recommended by a fellow blogger. Our library didn’t have it, but Making Thinking Visible came up in the list. The phrase ‘Making Thinking Visible’ was thrown around a lot this past year at my school, and I never really knew what people were talking about. I do incorporate some think-pair-shares and writing with my students so assumed that I was probably more or less doing it. When I saw this title, I thought I could read the first chapter or two to be in the know. Much to my surprise, I’ve spent a month reading, re-reading, taking notes, and blogging about this book. I’ve really enjoyed this time to more deeply consider the acts of thinking and understanding and how to make these acts visible in my classroom. Below are a few quotes that really struck me.

  • Work and activity are not synonymous with learning
  • When classrooms are about activity or work, teachers tend to focus on what they want the students to do in order to complete the assignments. These physical steps and actions can be identified, but the thinking component is missing. When this happens the learning is likely to be missing as well.
  • …curiosity and questioning propel learning
  • …with the learner at the center of the educational enterprise, rather than at the end, our role as teachers shifts from the delivery of information to fostering students’ engagement with ideas. Instead of covering the curriculum and judging our success by how much content we get through, we must learn to identify the key concepts with which we want our students to engage, struggle, questions, explore, and ultimately build understanding. When there is something important and worthwhile to think about and a reason to think deeply, our students experience the kind of learning that has a lasting impact and powerful influence not only in the short term but also in the long haul. They not only learn; they learn how to learn
  • In using facilitative questions, the teacher’s goal is to try and understand students’ thinking, to get inside their heads and make their thinking visible. Again, it is switching the paradigm of teaching from trying to transmit what is in our heads to our students and toward trying to get what is in students’ heads into our own so that we can provide responsive instruction that will advance learning
  • How can we make the invisible visible? Questioning; Modeling an Interest in Ideas; Constructing Understanding; Facilitating and Clarifying Thinking; Listening; Documenting
  • Culture of Thinking: places where a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members.
  • Thinking routines are procedures that provide framework for focusing attention on specific thinking moves that help build understanding.



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