We have just had some great INSET on ‘Visible Thinking Routines’.  To be honest, I thought this was going to be some complicated and difficult ‘new’ way of teaching things (apologies for my skepticism) but as the session went on I came to realize that yes, it was something new for me to think about and do but it wasn’t at all complicated. In fact, many of the ideas used I already use myself anyway: the INSET session just helped me to formalise things.

So, what are visible thinking routines?

Simply, they are using routines and documentation to deepen students’ understanding.

And, as they are routines, they are things that you can and should factor into your lesson planning. A simple set of questions and strategies to make students learning more visible so that they come more engaged in the lessons.

And if they are more engaged, they will learn and understand things better.

This YouTube clip explains more:

Here are some ideas you could try out in class:

1, Think – Puzzle – Explore

‘Acids and Bases’: these are the trigger words, although it could be anything!

Ask: What do I know? 

What questions do you have? 

What does this topic make you want to explore?

2, Circle of Viewpoints

  1. I AM THINKING OF…the topic…FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF…the viewpoint you’ve chosen.
  1. I THINK…describe the topic from your viewpoint. Be an actor take on the character of your viewpoint.
  1. A QUESTION I HAVE FROM THIS VIEWPOINT IS…ask a question from this viewpoint.

For example, try this using the Electromagnetic spectrum as the topic and get students to explain things  from the point of view of Ultraviolet radiation

3, Headlines

Write a headline for this topic or issue that summarises and captures a key aspect that you feel is significant and important.

Try using a theme such as ‘factors affecting the product discharged during electrolysis’.

4, CSI: Color, Symbol, Image

  • Choose a colour that you think best represents the essence of that idea.
  • Create a symbol that you think best represents the essence of that idea.
  • Sketch an image that you think best captures the essence of that idea.

What would you choose for the topic ‘Ideal Gases’?

I found a great PowerPoint here that contains many many more visible thinking routines than I have shown here in addition to those I have copied from it above. You can find the PowerPoint here:


So, has this article made you think? Do you use visible thinking routines in your lessons or is this something you are going to work at?

If you do use any routines (especially routines that have not been mentioned above), please let us know and share them below.