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Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners

ISBN: 978-0-470-91551-6
320 pages
May 2011, Jossey-Bass
Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners (047091551X) cover image


A proven program for enhancing students' thinking and comprehension abilities

Visible Thinking is a research-based approach to teaching thinking, begun at Harvard's Project Zero, that develops students' thinking dispositions, while at the same time deepening their understanding of the topics they study.  Rather than a set of fixed lessons, Visible Thinking is a varied collection of practices, including thinking routines?small sets of questions or a short sequence of steps?as well as the documentation of student thinking. Using this process thinking becomes visible as the students' different viewpoints are expressed, documented, discussed and reflected upon.

  • Helps direct student thinking and structure classroom discussion
  • Can be applied with students at all grade levels and in all content areas
  • Includes easy-to-implement classroom strategies

The book also comes with a DVD of video clips featuring Visible Thinking in practice in different classrooms.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables ix

DVD Contents xi

Foreword xiii

Preface xvii

Acknowledgments xxi

About the Authors xxv

PART ONE Some Thinking About Thinking 1

ONE Unpacking Thinking 3

Beyond Bloom 6

Beyond Memorization, Work, and Activity 8

A Map of Thinking Involved in Understanding 11

Other Kinds of Thinking 14

Uncovering Students' Thinking About Thinking 15

TWO Putting Thinking at the Center of the Educational Enterprise 23

How Does Visibility Serve Both Learning and Teaching? 27

How Can We Make the Invisible Visible? 30

PART TWO Using Thinking Routines to Make Thinking Visible 41

THREE Introduction to Thinking Routines 43

ThreeWays of Looking at Thinking Routines 45

How Are the Thinking Routines Organized? 49

FOUR Routines for Introducing and Exploring Ideas 53

See-Think-Wonder 55

Zoom In 64

Think-Puzzle-Explore 71

Chalk Talk 78

3-2-1 Bridge 86

Compass Points 93

The Explanation Game 101

FIVE Routines for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas 109

Headlines 111

CSI: Color, Symbol, Image 119

Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate: Concept Maps 125

Connect-Extend-Challenge 132

The 4C's 140

The Micro Lab Protocol 147

I Used to Think. . . , Now I Think . . . 154

SIX Routines for Digging Deeper into Ideas 163

What Makes You Say That? 165

Circle of Viewpoints 171

Step Inside 178

Red Light, Yellow Light 185

Claim-Support-Question 191

Tug-of-War 199

Sentence-Phrase-Word 207

PART THREE Bringing the Power of Visible Thinking to Life 215

SEVEN Creating a Place Where Thinking Is Valued, Visible, and Actively Promoted 217

Making Room for Reflection 222

Making Time for Our Own Learning 229

The Making of an Elaborated Conversation 234

The Forces That Shape Culture 240

EIGHT Notes from the Field 247

The Challenges of Making Thinking Visible in a Mathematics Class and Beyond: The Case of Mark Church 250

Content + Routines + Students = A Culture of Thinking: The Case of Sharonne Blum 256

What These Cases Reveal About the Use of Routines 261

Stages of Development in the Use of Thinking Routines 262

Common Pitfalls and Struggles 267

In Conclusion 272

References 275

Index 281

How to Use the DVD 293

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Author Information

Ron Ritchhart, Ed.D. is a senior researcher at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is the author of Intellectual Character from Jossey-Bass.

Mark Church is the Learning, Assessment, and Instructional Resource Supervisor for the Traverse City Area Public Schools in Michigan.

Karin Morrison is director of The Development Centre at Independent Schools Victoria, Australia and instructor for the WIDE World online course, Making Thinking Visible, at Harvard.

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Press Release

June 01, 2011
Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners

“There is a worldwide movement afoot to make the development of the intellect a priority for education in the twenty-first century.  This book will become a landmark in that journey,” Arthur L. Costa, Ed.D, California State University, Sacramento; coauthor, Habits of Mind series


San Francisco, CA – Research shows that most people are not aware of the strategies involved in their own thinking, which can negatively impact learning and lead to less self-direction and engagement.   That is why drawing students’ attention to both what and how they think is so crucial in the process of learning.  MAKING THINKING VISIBLE: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners (Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint; April 2011; $29.95; Cloth; ISBN: 978-0-470-91551-6), provides a research-based, proven program for enhancing students’ thinking and comprehension abilities, helping them to go deeper into ideas.

Using accessible, easy-to-integrate, classroom-tested strategies developed by Harvard Graduate School of Education's famed Project Zero, Making Thinking Visible shows teachers how to unlock their students’ true learning potential.  Rather than providing a set of fixed lessons, the book outlines an approach usinga varied collection of practices that includes:

  • Thinking routines to scaffold and support students’ thinking
  • Effective questioning techniques
  • Developing a group culture that supports thinking
  • Documentation of student thinking

“Our hope with this book is to help teachers show their students how to take the intangible, or thought process, into the tangible and verbal.  That way they can better understand how they learn, which is a skill that will benefit them  in every aspect of their life, and will serve them well into their adulthood,” says author Ron Ritchhart, Ed.D

Making Thinking Visible utilizes strategies and practices from the Visible Thinking and Cultures of Thinking research and development projects conducted by Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Using these practices, educators can create places where thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular day-to-day experience of all learners.   Learning is a consequence of thinking and must the center of educational practice.

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