Taking a Peek Inside Our Student’s Brains

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend where after a while you need to stop and ask, “how did we get on this topic?” You started talking about how your days went, but now you’re somehow discussing whether beavers or otters are better (otters, no question). The human brain is weird, it’ll make connections sometimes when we aren’t even paying attention.

And somehow as science teachers, we’re supposed to help our students train and use their brains to solve some of the worlds leading issues. Sounds like an uphill battle to me. However, there are methods to opening up our brains and making our thinking visible. These strategies are called MTV (making thinking visible) strategies and they are perfect for a science classroom.

Why are MTVs helpful in a science classroom?

Well, I’m sure they’re helpful in any other classroom. However, they are especially useful in a science classroom because content isn’t always the most important part of a science class.

Yes, a lot of the information we teach in our science classes is important and the students may use it later in life. However, all of our students will undoubtedly use things like critical thinking and problem solving at some point in their life. I argue that those skills are the most important part of science classrooms. In order to see how our students are progressing in their problem solving and critical thinking skills we need to see inside their heads. These MTV strategies help us do that.

Here is the author of the book Making Thinking Visible, explaining why it is so important to document students’ thinking.

Strategy #1: Headlines!

This strategy is relatively simple, but it’s a great way to gain insight into what students are thinking in terms of the core of what they’re learning.

The Headlines strategy takes place after a learning experience has finished, that can be the end of a unit or a field trip or even watching a movie. After the experience, have the students take some time and consider what they to be at the core of what they just learned. Have the students write down a single sentence that encompasses that main idea succinctly and digestibly. Next students will share their “headlines” and through discussion the class will find commonalities among all the headlines.

Once the discussion is done I suggest taking their headlines and posting them all over the walls of the classroom. This will allow students to look at them and consider what they’ve learned at anytime for the rest of the year.

Strategy #2: Tug-of-War

This next strategy is great for skills like assessing evidence and supporting arguments.

Students will be faced with two opposing sides of an argument. There are plenty of different arguments for science, and even arguments that have been answered could work like is the Earth round. The class is divided into two teams and each team is assigned a side of the argument. The teams find evidence that support their side of the argument, then, they put evidence up on some board that everyone can see. The students on each team decide what their best evidence is and place it near the center of the board as “tugs.” The activity ends with the class discussing which side had better arguments.

Not only are the students working collaboratively, but they are making arguments and assessing evidence in a way that is constructive. These are the types of skills that can be translated to any field of study.

Strategy #3: I used to thing…, Now I think

This final strategy is great for getting an idea for how students’ thinking has grown and what they’ve learned.

It’s very simple. Using the two sentence stems in the name of the strategy, the students write two sentences to help reflect upon a topic they just learned. So after a unit or the like, the students will write one sentence that starts with “I used to think…” and another that starts with “Now I think.”

This helps us as teachers and students get insight into how well we tackled misconceptions in the class. It also helps us get a picture of the steps the student took to get to the knowledge they now currently have.

These three strategies only really scratch the surface of all the possible MTV strategies. There are strategies that are more or less complex and useful in different ways. With these strategies we can really help our students be prepared for whatever field or profession they go into.

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Critical Thinking on a Visible Scale

Traditional-style classrooms today still do not emphasize the importance of metacognition as an important trait to develop. Students are taught and expected to be able to perform “x” task or be able to recite “y”, but these types of classrooms fail to inspire students to develop as better learners in the long run. Research on the education field have shown that the growth of a student is positively affected by actively challenging their ability to critically think through inquiry-based projects and open-ended activities.

One way to nurture an environment that allows for “open-endedness” and scientific inquiry requires us, the (future) teachers, to encourage MAKING THINKING VISIBLE (MTV). These methods invite the student to develop, display, and verbalize their thought processes. Similar to practicing free-throws on the basketball court in order to improve your accuracy, we must allow our students to practice thinking about how they approach critical thinking in order to nurture their growth as lifelong-students.

Obtained from: https://www.hollyclark.org/2020/03/15/visible-thinking-routines-for-remotelearning/

3 MTV Strategies That Will Promote Inquiry in a Science Classroom:

1. ) Connect-Extend-Challenge

This strategy encourages students to access their background knowledge in order to help them better understand and expand upon the information that will be presented to them. Being able to identify challenges to the learning process also helps you identify your own limits and work towards improving on your weaknesses as a student.

2. ) The Micro Lab Protocol

Source: https://thinkingpathwayz.weebly.com/microlabprotocol.html

Students often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information traditional classrooms try to bank into their minds or feel too anxious to participate in assessing their knowledge in front of the whole class. The micro lab protocol allows students to have meaningful discussions and display what they know in a smaller group while allowing them time to digest the information on their own. This strategy is also an efficient way to allow for equal participation of every student and allow for every student to develop their own voice in discussions

3. ) The Explanation Game

Source: https://thinkingpathwayz.weebly.com/explanationgame.html

The explanation game is a great way for your students to practice assessing qualitative data in order to explain a scenario or object similar to how scientists observe and explain unknown phenomena. Students are encouraged to look at a situation in parts and build up a strong, well-explained argument on what is happening based on the relationship between those parts.

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Making Thinking Visible: How Students can Share what’s Going on in Their Heads

Teaching is tough. Teaching without feedback from students is even more difficult. One way to help students share what’s in their minds is by making their thinking visible. There are tons of strategies to make thinking visible, here I’ll be talking about three.


Chalk Talk

The main premise of a chalk talk is students are able to participate by physically writing their thoughts (ideas or questions) and drawing connections to what others wrote. You start off with some prompts which can be a phrase related to the topic, but questions tend to work best, and either individually or in small groups, students can go around writing their ideas on the poster that the prompts are on. Facilitation by the teacher can really help here by giving examples of how they can respond (by connecting ideas, elaborating on others’, asking questions…). Then, each group/person goes back to where they started and they read out loud what’s written and try to notice any connections emerging.

Chalk talks are great for uncovering any prior knowledge students may have about a topic that you’re introducing and give you an idea of what they’re wondering about. I think this would be fantastic for talking about ideas that the students may be somewhat familiar with but maybe not in the sense talked about in class, for example, “what are your thoughts on having multiple temperature scales (Fahrenheit, Celcius, Kelvin…)”

Connect – Extend – Challenge

Especially in science, so much knowledge is built from previous learning. Even though we, as teachers, know this, many students still understand ideas bit-by-bit because of how they were taught. Connect-extend-challenge helps students not only draw connections between ideas and topics but also how this new information challenges what they already know. You want to be sure to preface this by inviting students to be mindful of how what they’re about to learn may connect with what they already know. After a lesson/video/exhibit/any information-rich activity, allow students to write any connections individually before group discussion. From there, prompt students to probe deeper and identify how their ideas have broadened and extended. Any challenges that came to their heads while drawing these connections should be written down as well. Once all this is down, students can share with partners or small groups, being sure to give reasons behind what they wrote down. Students or the teacher can collect these connections, extensions, and challenges and display them to make the whole class’s thinking visible.

I think this is great later in the year when students are more familiar and comfortable with the language of the topic. I think the challenges brought up could make for good inquiry investigations so the students can take control of their learning and find the answer themselves rather than just being fed the answer by the teacher all the time (if there is one).

Micro Lab Protocol

Communication is essential for people no matter their profession, and being able to productively listen and share ideas is necessary. The micro lab protocol allows for students to share their ideas and listen to others. As seen in the video below, in groups of 3, students take turns sharing their ideas about a topic while the other group members just listen. Once everyone has gone, students can then talk together and ask for clarification, questions, and especially make connections to what others said. As a class, students can then share what they found.

I think this is especially useful for a class that tends to go off-topic because each student only gets a certain amount of time when they’re talking and no one else should be in their group. It’s also important to build up to this by starting with a shorter time for each student, but as they get comfortable talking in groups and articulating their thoughts, the time can be extended. Giving students practice on how to present their own ideas and connect to others is very helpful for when they go into the workforce. In the video above, the teacher used this strategy to prepare for a test, but I think I would use it to give students the opportunity to discuss productively for a solution, for example, how to best design a lab procedure to answer a question like “why does it take longer for saltwater to boil compared to pure water?”

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Making Student’s Thinking Visible

Why are MTV strategies so important to implement in our science classrooms?

  • Learn more about students/ build deeper connections
  • Pick the brain of our students
  • Allow students to relate concepts to their life, in a way that making learning more meaningful for them
  • Foster a culture where all perspectives are needed
  • Heighten learning for all
  • Allows students to connect with one another & build relationships
  • Allows people to think through science phenomena in a new light
  • Can spark the inquiry process and authentic questioning
  • Can provide a platform or starting point thats sparks meaningful discussion
  • Provides the teacher with insight to inform decision based around instruction and assessment

In this video below, Jesse Richardson talks about the discrepancy between being told what to think versus being taught how to think. I think he has a very refreshing take on many conversations we have had a class. I noticed connections from “Drive” and previous texts we have engaged with like scientific literacy, creativity, engaging students, etc.

MTV Strategy #1: Step Inside

What is “Step Inside”?

Just like it sounds, we ask our students to step inside the shoes of someone/something/ some situation or place that allows for a new lens to see or consider different points of views on various phenomena.

How can Step Inside be used in the science classroom?

Did I just hear someone say meet the scientist?!?! Meet the Scientist would be a perfect way to ask our students to really step inside the brain of a scientist of their choosing. Meet the Scientist could go many different ways, like a larger project, or we can shorten it up and make it work for a class period by asking students to role play and to talk and answer questions as if it was the scientist.

Another idea: Maybe you and your students are doing an environmental justice lesson, let’s say. In this instance, we could ask students to step in different roles (ex: community member, politician, a family who lives next to a polluting factory, etc.) and have students give their perspectives on various issues from their perspective. This could allow students to think about certain issues from a more holistic approach.

MTV Strategy #2: Connect – Extend – Challenge

This is a great strategy to use after your students engage with some sort of text such as a reading, video, presentation, etc. This is a really great thinking tool to allow students relate concepts from earlier in the course, or outside classes and other life experiences to the course content. This allows students to see the fluidity nature of thought and how perspectives and questions students didn’t even know they had can shift when presented with new material. This strategy allows us teachers to see evolution is student thinking. Powerful stuff!

MTV Strategy #3: The Explanation Game

This is a great strategy to use to get students to further explore and make sense of something or some object that they already have some sort of knowledge about. The best way to think about this strategy is to think about an example that could be used with students:

Say you present this object to your students…now have your students look closely at the object by making close observations and drawing explanations based on what they see and prior experiences with the object (with the use of logic, reasoning skills, application skills, etc.). The main goal here is to get students to see how different parts function (in this example with a microscope) and build a greater understanding regarding the relationship of various parts to the whole object.

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Making Thinking Visible for Budding Scientists

By now we all know that traditional lecture style teaching and learning just simply does not work for most students! When we do not provide students with a chance to be active and the ones in charge of their own learning, we are doing them a great disservice! Educational research suggests again and again that students must be actively exercising their ability to think, problem solve, and inquire to retain information and grow as learners.

Fortunately, the book Making Thinking Visible has outlined a variety of ways to promote active student learning and understanding for all learners (Ritchhart, Church, Morrison, 2011). In this blog, I will outline three that can be used for learners specifically in the science classroom:


1. The 4 C’s (Ritchhart et al. 2011, p. 140)

The 4 C’s is one strategy that can help the budding scientists in your classroom successfully make their thinking visible by making reading content more comprehensible. The 4 C’s stand for Connections (how does it relate to the student), Challenge (what should be challenged or questioned about the text), Content (what is worth remembering), and Changes (what changes/differences are suggested/promoted in this text).

As students read a text and progress through the 4 C’s, they will be challenged to draw similarities to their own lives, challenge their own thinking as well as the “thinking” behind the text, and see what their learning through new lenses.

2. Circle of Viewpoints

Another strategy that can be employed in the science classroom is the Circle of Viewpoints. This strategy could be particularly useful for identifying scientific or pseudoscientific sources in the science classroom because its aim is to identify and evaluate various perspectives on issues. It is an essential skill for students to be able to change their lenses of thinking and learning to be able to investigate reliable and non-reliable science. The circle of viewpoints will ultimately provide students with a deeper, more complete understanding of a topic.

3. The Explanation Game

What better way to get your budding scientists engaged in their learning than to make it a game?! The explanation game is one final strategy that can be utilized in the science classroom to help students breakdown new information by looking at the individual parts of an object or system deeply and asking oneself questions that may help explain the object as a whole. One way I’d like to personally use the Explanation Game in my future classroom is to have students choose different things that they would like to examine, have them research and evaluate those things, and then form groups to share their findings. This gives students more autonomy and a sense of purpose to be able to teach their peers about their findings.

There are so many more to be used and when used strategically, these strategies can allow students to truly blossom into independent learners and budding scientists.

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Science Teachers Want their “MTV”!

Science teachers want their MTV! And we aren’t taking about Music Television; We’re talking about Making Thinking Visible. “Making Thinking Visible” in the classroom is more than just providing students with worksheets or graphics to organize their thoughts. Making Thinking Visible is an educational ideal that aims to engage learners, develop understanding, support thinking, and promote student independence with their ideas and thoughts. In a science classroom, making thinking visible is an essential practice to encourage students to think critically in a structured manner. There are three ways that Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison encourage thinking visibly: “unpacking thinking,” “putting thinking at the center of the educational enterprise,” and “using thinking routines”. In this blog post, I will outline all of these practices from Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison’s Making Thinking Visible and give examples of how each can be carried out in the classroom!

Unpacking Thinking:

Unpacking thinking is one of the first strategies that Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison mention to make thinking visible. In order to “unpack thinking” it is imperative students ponder about the act of critical thinking itself. They need to be comfortable with the effort that it takes to think critically. Making concept maps for particular concepts helps students to think critically about the topic at hand. There are 6 integral “thinking moves” that should be outlined in these concept maps:

  1. Observing closely and describing what’s there
  2. Building explanations and interpretations
  3. Reasoning with evidence
  4. Making connections
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions

Using concept maps to address these 6 thinking exercises will help to make out students’ thinking visible . They will have a better understanding of the concepts at hand and organize their thinking in a visual way!

Putting Thinking at the Center of the Educational Enterprise:

In order for students gain developed critical thinking skills, the art of just “thinking” and analyzing concepts should be prioritized in the classroom, especially in science. Allowing students to analyze what they are learning will help them to understand the concept on a deeper level, which is crucial in the science classroom when dealing with processes and their causes. One way we can encourage prioritizing critical thinking in the classroom is by modeling an interest in ideas. For example, teachers can pose a question to their class that even he or she does not know the answer to. This is a powerful tactic, especially in the science classroom because it shows students that there will always be questions that we can not answer or have to really think about. We are always learning, and asking an authentic question during a class discussion is a way to make students’ and teachers’ thinking visible. They help promote class inquiry and discovery which allows learning to be framed as a complex and communal activity.

Establishing Thinking Routines:

A thinking routine is a fantastic resource to help facilitate visible thinking. Coming up with a prior plan to structure our thoughts is beneficial because it will allow both students and teachers to think about a topic with prior knowledge and a general grasp on the concept. Different thinking plans or routines can be used by both teachers and students, but in a science classroom, teachers can use these guidelines to create thinking routines for both them and their students:

  • Introducing and Exploring the Topic
  • Synthesizing and organizing the information gathered on the topic
  • Digging deeper into the topic

These three guidelines help frame how teachers present a lesson and how students will be able to perceive the information that they are learning. Thinking routines are a great skill to develop not only in a scientific-based inquiry class, but really for any educational setting.

https://twitter.com/laurenvscience/status/1359633381680627714
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The Importance of MTV in the Classroom

I know what you may be thinking, “MTV in the classroom? I don’t know how shows like The Hills, Jersey Shore, or Catfish can be important for my student’s education.” 

Well…

I agree! What I’m talking about when I refer to MTV is a set of strategies that Make Thinking Visible. Using MTV strategies in the classroom are so important because they can aid both students and teachers.

Source: https://medium.com/@abhishekdesai/making-thinking-visible-in-an-organisation-d8f55f73a962

These are some of the numerous MTV strategies that you can employ in your classroom!

MTV Strategies Aid Students Because They…

  • Can allow for student recall of past information.
  • Give students the ability to actively participate in their learning.
  • Can allow for student idea synthesis.
  • Give students an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of information.
  • Can allow for students to explore new concepts/ideas.
  • Give students the ability to organize their thoughts and knowledge.
Source: https://www.teachhub.com/classroom-management/2019/09/30-ways-to-arrange-students-for-group-work/

MTV Strategies Help Teachers Because They…

  • Give educators the opportunity to see student misunderstandings or misconceptions.
  • Provide student-driven activity and engagement

3 Specific MTV Strategies That Can Be Used in the Classroom…

1. The Explanation Game

Purpose: Aid students in building CAUSAL explanations for why something is the way it is and the purposes and reasons of its function (Ritchhart et. al., 101).

Execution

  • Give students a picture or object that they may already know what it is. 
  • Point students in the direction of parts of the picture or objects they may not yet know/understand. 
  • Have students work in teams to name features that they noticed with the object/image.
  • Have students explain the features that they have previously named. 
  • Have students give reasonings to why their explanations are reasonable.
  • Give students time to generate alternative explanations to the features they initially reported.
Source: https://youtu.be/joxls5lZyVo
See The Explanation Game in action with this video! Dr. Ron Stout discusses both the execution of this strategy as well as giving examples.

Classroom Activity (for a Physics Classroom):

  • State Standard: P.W.1: Wave properties
    • Give students a small demonstration or video of waves hitting a surface. 
    • Once the students have had time to observe what is occurring, given them prompting to begin The Explanation Game for the phenomena they see occurring. 
    • The students should understand the liquid medium and the barrier. 
  • Educators could use this as an engagement activity for their students to lead into a lesson on wave properties and energy.
Source: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/121-behaviour-of-waves

2. The Micro Lab Protocol

Purpose: Help students engage with ideas, ensuring all student voices are heard before delving deeper into a topic. (Ritchhart et. al., 148).

Execution:

  • Students should be divided into groups of 3. The educator should be considered the time keeper. 
  • Assign each student in a group, either 1, 2, or 3. This will be their speaking order. There should be a particular note made to students that no one is to be talking within the specified round except for the assigned speaker. 
  • All 3 rounds should be completed within 5 to 10 minutes – so the time should be kept as such. Between each round the educator should call for group silence of about 20 to 30 seconds before the next round (i.e. next speaker) can begin. 
  • After all speakers have shared their thoughts, the groups should be allowed to freely discuss their ideas. The activity should take approximately 5 to 10 minutes. 
  • Following the group discussion should be a full classroom discussion reflecting on the student’s thinking.
Source: https://youtu.be/VsGsPqVhM1A
Mary Guggenberger provides an excellent example of The Micro Lab Protocol that was lead during a faculty meeting for elementary teachers!

Classroom Activity (for a Physical Science Classroom):

  • State Standard: PS.FM.1: Motion
  • Students should be given a small “quiz” of motion problems related to displacement, velocity, and acceleration. 
    • The quiz should not be taken as a graded assignment, rather the students should be paired into groups of 3 and should be walked through The Micro Lab Protocol to discuss challenges they faced, reasons for the challenges, or problems they could not figure out. 
    • Once the students come back together in the big group, the class should discuss why they may have faced those challenges. 
  • Educators could use this as an informal assessment (evaluation) activity.
Source: https://twitter.com/melissalbyrd

3. Circle of Viewpoints

Purpose: Aid students in identifying and considering different and diverse perspectives on topics, events, or issues. The ultimate purpose of this strategy is to aid students in gaining more broad/complete understanding of a topic, issue, or event (Ritchhart et. al., 171).

Execution

  • The educator will be helping in mediation of this strategy.
  • Students should be given materials to examine involving a particular topic, issue, or event. Students should be prompted to take note of the overall topic, their observations, initial conclusions, and their reasoning. 
  • The educator should then call for students to give their decision on what the topic/issue/event is.
  • The class should then generate a list of viewpoints, objects, themes, and features of the topic. 
    • The educator should record these viewpoints around the topic in a circle.
  • The class should choose viewpoints they would like to explore further and be placed into groups to discuss. 
    • Groups should be prompted to embody the viewpoint they chose to explore and describe the topic from the perspective. 
    • Groups should then be prompted to share what a person/group that has that particular viewpoint might question or be curious about with the topic. 
  • The class should then come back together and share the different perspectives and the main thoughts/differences of the viewpoints noted.

Some blogs that discuss MTV…

https://blogs.cisco.com/education/how-making-thinking-visible-helps-teachers-and-students

https://www.inquisitive.com/blog/2019/03/27/visible-thinking/h

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., and Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. Jossey-Bass.

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Science Teaching 2.0: Visible Thinking in Learning and Teaching

https://www.tasisportugal.org/academics/visible-thinking

Usually, thinking is an internal process that is invisible to both students and teachers. And yet, thinking is at the core of learning. So, what does it mean to think and why should thinking be made visible? A student, Maeve Zamuner, shares her perspective on making thinking visible in the TEDx presentation below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IuEUIMan7g

Making thinking visible is important to both students and teachers in several ways.

For students, visible thinking is useful for developing the skills to clearly identify problems, consider alternate ideas and solutions, and creatively solve problems that collectively deepen content learning (TASIS Portugal, n.d.).

For teachers, making thinking visible allows teachers a window into what students understand and how they are understanding it, provides evidence of students’ insights and misconceptions, and creates opportunities to enhance student engagement and exploration of ideas (Ritchhart et al., 2011).

As teachers, we must create opportunities for thinking that will take student learning to the next level. Three routines and strategies that provide students with the opportunity to make thinking visible include the Explanation Game, the 4C’s, and Circle of Viewpoints.

Routine for Introducing and Exploring Ideas: The Explanation Game

This MTV strategy helps students generate causal explanations for an object or occurrence by looking closely at its features and details. In this routine, students focus more on the parts than the whole. Here’s how to utilize The Explanation Game for introducing and exploring ideas:

  • Set up: draw students’ attention to an object you want them to better understand.
  • Name it: name a feature or aspect you notice on the object.
  • Explain it: what could it be, what role or function might it serve, why might it be there?
  • Give reasons: what makes you say that or why do you think it happened that way?
  • Generate alternatives: what else could it be and what makes you say that?

(Ritchhart et al., 2011).

Routine for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas: The 4C’s

The 4 C’s is an MTV strategy that encourages students to go beyond the first impressions and contend with information read in a text in a purposeful and structed way. To guide students in synthesizing and organizing ideas, use the 4C’s:

  • Set up: students read the selected text either before or during the session. List the 4C’s in a place visible to students to indicate that it is the framework for the discussion.
  • Connections: what connections to you draw between the text and your own life or other learning?
  • Challenge: what ideas, positions, or assumptions do you want to challenge or argue with in the text?
  • Concepts: what key concepts or ideas do you think are important and worth holding on to from the text? Changes: what changes in attitudes, thinking, or action are suggested by the text, either for you or others?

(Ritchhart et al., 2011).

Routine for Digging Deeper into Ideas: Circle of Viewpoints

Using the Circle of Viewpoints, students can identify different perspectives that could be present in or affected by what was read, heard, or seen. These perspectives are recorded around an issue or event at the center, where one of the perspectives is further explored using the prompts below to dig deeper into the ideas:

  • I am thinking of [name of event/issue] from the point of view of…
  • I think… [describe the topic from your viewpoint. Be an actor – take on the character of your viewpoint]. Because… [explain reasoning]
  • A question/concern I have from this viewpoint is…

(Ritchhart et al., 2011).

References

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible. Jossy-Bass, A Wiley Imprint. TASIS Portugal. (n.d.). Visible Thinking. https://www.tasisportugal.org/academics/visible-thinking

TASIS Portugal. (n.d.). Visible Thinking. https://www.tasisportugal.org/academics/visible-thinking

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A Note to the Teacher: Making Thinking Visible in the Science Classroom

In the science classroom, we want to make our students’ thoughts visible. “Making Thinking Visible” by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison is a great resource to utilize within your classroom. Throughout the book, you will find ways that promote engagement, understanding, and independence for all your students.

Image obtained from https://medium.com/@abhishekdesai/making-thinking-visible-in-an-organisation-d8f55f73a962

Making thinking visible (MTV) in the science classroom is vital because it allows students to unpack their thinking in ways they may not have thought about before.

“To develop understanding of a subject area, one has to engage in authentic intellectual activity. That means solving problems, making decisions, and developing new understanding using the methods and tools of the discipline.”

– Ritchhart, Church, & Morrison

Three Specific MTV Strategies to Utilize in a Science Classroom

1. Chalk Talk

  • Chalk Talk is a great way for students to have a silent conversation. Oftentimes, we find that there is not enough time in a class period for each student to share all their thoughts and ideas. Utilizing the MTV strategy, Chalk Talk, allows for each student to elaborate in their own way and build on their understanding. Students not only respond to the prompt, but they have the opportunity to respond to one another as well.

STEPS: Set up->Present the prompt->Circulate->Facilitate->Share the thinking

  • Check at the video below for how to use Chalk Talk in your classroom efficiently!

2. The Micro Lab Protocol

  • The Micro Lab Protocol is a fun strategy to use for students to first reflect individually then in triads. Utilizing this strategy makes sure all student voices are heard prior to the focused discussion on the topic. The Micro Lab Protocol ensures equal participation from students and ample time for reflection.

STEPS: Set up->Share->Call for silence->Do rounds 2&3->Commence discussion->Share the thinking

  • Check out the reference sheet below for an idea how you would incorporate The Micro Lab Protocol in your classroom!

3. Step Inside

  • Stepping Inside is a strategy where students embody a character or object within the event or situation you are analyzing. The goal is for students to take on their specific point of view. This strategy allows for a deeper understanding for the students as well as more of an appreciation for the event or situation.

STEPS: Set up->Ask, “What can this person or thing see, observe, or notice?” ->Ask, “What might the person or thing know about, understand, or believe?”->Ask, “What might the person or thing care about?”->Ask, “What might this person or thing wonder about or question?”->Share the thinking

  • Check out this link to TeachersPayTeachers for a free Step Inside worksheet! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Step-Inside-CCSS-RL33-2501140
https://twitter.com/B_P_W_/status/1359328942117781504?s=20

Links to similar blogs:

  • https://www.ronritchhart.com/blog
  • https://www.inquisitive.com/blog/2019/03/27/visible-thinking/
  • http://langwitches.org/blog/2013/11/22/visible-thinking-routines-for-blogging/
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Engage in the Science Classroom (on a budget!)

As an aspiring teacher, one of the things that weighs most heavily on my mind is how I will be able to keep my students interested. Keeping students engaged and attentive has been been a concern of teachers since the start of education. As time and technology change, teachers need to be able to change and adapt with it. A lot of the time, this can come with an added cost in the classroom as well, for example, the advancement of smart boards or laptops in classrooms. Keeping up with the times is an important aspect for teachers to keep their students engaged, but how can we do this in a cost effective manner? In this post I will outline 5 different FREE resources that science teachers can use in their classrooms to keep their students informed AND interested!

1. Brain Teasers, Riddles, and Warm Ups!

To help get students in the mood to learn and participate, teachers can start their class off with a fun brain teaser, riddle, or other kind of warm up! These warm ups can be related to science or the specific topic that is being covered in class. Many of my classes have used warm up techniques like this, for example, creating a class playlist, Friday science jokes, and brain teasers have all been used to warm us up and make us more excited for class! I really like this engagement technique because it not only eases students into the lesson for the day, but it also makes them feel more comfortable to participate in class as well! Participation is a huge aspect of engagement and how much the students will take away from the lesson.

2. Free Science Apps!

There are so many different apps that students can utilize to help them stay engaged in class. There’s the obvious Kahoot and Quizlet apps, but there are also so many that can be used during class that will help keep students’ attention. One app that I’d particularly like to mention is the app Zooniverse. It is an app powered by volunteers who create a large database of all different topics for students to use as a research medium. It will allow students to relate what they are learning to real world issues that are occurring and figure out how curriculum affects their daily lives. Zooniverse is a great resource for individual research, group projects, web-searches, and more!

3. Homemade Games!

No matter what age level, all students seem to respond well to playing games in the class room. In a science classroom, there are so many different opportunities for games that many people don’t realize! One of my personal favorite ideas is playing a Periodic Table Guess Who or Battleship game; students use the elements of the periodic table and their knowledge about the properties of these elements to play a game of “Guess Who” to determine which element another classmate has chosen. This is just one example of many of the fun science-related games that can be utilized in the classroom. No matter the level, there is always a fun game that can relate to the content being taught!

4. Demonstrations/Home Experiments

Demonstrations and experiments are also great ways to keep students interested in what they are learning. Especially in times like these with the global pandemic stealing some of the hands-on activities allowed in the classrooms, demonstrations and at-home experiments are great resources to allow students to still get that hands-on feel with out their hands having to touch anything in class! Demonstrations in the science classroom are so helpful to help students visually see the things they are learning about; they also have a way of sticking with students! I will always remember when we were learning about exothermic reactions in AP Chemistry and my teacher did a demonstration in class where she lit methane soap bubbles on fire in the palm of her hand! Demonstrations are an important way in which teachers can engage their students if done correctly. At home experiments are also effective in helping hands-on learners. If students are given instructions on an easy experiment to perform at home and then prompted to communicate their results with others, this is activity is a much more engaging activity for students rather than just reading about a particular subject.

5. Memes!

Science memes are another fantastic way to relate to students and keep them engaged. Everyone loves memes! In one of my past classes, my Biology teacher offered extra credit if we created our own memes that relate to the particular unit we were on. She would print all of them out and put them on her walls in the classroom; her whole classroom was covered in biology memes! It is such a fun and exciting way to engage students. It allows them to show what they know about a particular subject that they are learning and create a twist on it! Students are able to show a bit of their humor while still learning the content necessary.

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