Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

An Easy Finish

I'm pretty excited about the Cyber Monday & Tuesday sale on TPT! I have a long wish list prepared because 28% off is too good to pass up. 

I'm also excited about my newest products, all built around metacognition, problem solving, and student talk.  I've used all of these in my teaching.  My students have loved each and every one of them. Enjoy!

Teach on, Friends! And, enjoy race to the finish for Christmas vacation! Tracy @


Making Thinking Visible: See, Think & Wonder

I used to be a long-distance runner.  One of those people who wouldn't drink more than two beers on a Friday night because I had an early morning training run (usually 10 + miles) in the morning.  Many marathons, races, and injuries later, I am a walker and hiker. 

I walk an historic neighborhood close to my house.  Out of necessity, I walk either at night or early morning. My dog, Gracie and I, hoof it through the same routes day after day after day.  There is something comforting about the routine of seeing the same strangers leaving for work at 6 a.m. or returning at night...seeing the warm glow of a lamp in the same window each evening...the same neighborhood dogs heralding our passing by everyday. The familiarity of my route enables me to observe and notice things that I might have overlooked the first time along.  

That's the beauty of many of the thinking strategies in Making Thinking Visible and the practice of conducting CLOSE Reads in the classroom...the familiarity one gains with a text helps the observer go deeper. My last post, I wrote about how I used the CSI strategy to wrap up novel studies with my guided reading groups.  This week, I used "See-Think-Wonder" (STW) to begin novels with new reading groups. The purpose of STW is to engage students in looking closely at an image or object.  I zeroed in on this strategy because we were in the "looking at the cover of the book and talking" stage of our small group discussions.  This thinking move focuses on the importance of observation and uses the observation as a foundation for thinking and interpretation.  

I created a triangle-shaped graphic organizer with each corner labeled either "See, " "Think," or "Wonder."  I gave each of my students this organizer before I began modeling how to use it on a poster-sized version.  Here's what I did:

(I showed the cover of Because of Winn Dixie, a former mentor text from a previous unit). Friends, I'm going to hang out here at the top of my triangle where it says, "See."  I'm going to name what I see.  I see a girl and a dog.  I see what looks like a dirt road.  I see a lot of gold or yellow on the cover illustration.  I see the title of the book. I encourage students to add to my observations, correcting them when they fall out of observing and begin telling their thoughts.  I write all observations on my organizer for them to see.
Now I'm going to go to the left corner of my triangle where it says "Think."  I'm going to say what I think about my observations.  I think the dog belongs to the girl.  I think they live in the  country because the road doesn't look paved.  I thought Winn Dixie was a grocery store down south (Students add their thoughts).  I write down all of our thoughts.
Lastly, I'm going to look at "Wonder," the final angle of my triangle.  I have some wonderings about my observations that I'm going to record on this angle.  For example, why is there so much gold or yellow on the cover?  What happened at the Winn Dixie?  Where are the girl and dog going?  Etc.

After modeling this strategy, I asked students to work together with partners in the small group to do the same thing for the cover of their new books (City of Ember & Digory the Dragon Slayer).  After students worked with partners, we came back together as a whole group and discussed each corner of the STW triangle.  

I was very happy with how this thinking move went.  It was the first time I've used it for this purpose.  Previously, I've used it for reading diagrams in nonfiction text, graphs in math or nonfiction text, and illustrations in picture books.  It reminded me of doing CLOSE reads with my students because we "read" the cover illustrations on the books three times, each time delving deeper into the meaning of the illustration and title.  In fact, the next Close read I do with my students, I will be combining the two (See, Think & Wonder and close reading). 

To see the organizers I developed as well as the fabulous Close Read bundle I use from Rainbow City Learning, click the pictures below. 
                                                        In the meantime, teach on my friends!


If your interested in reading more about metacognition, check these links out:


Making Thinking Visible & The Characteristics of 21st Century Learners

Happy Monday, Teaching Friends. I'm hoping MY Monday is better than my last two Mondays were as they were bad enough to make a saint swear!  This morning, I still have metacognition on my mind. Last week, I wrote about using the 3-2-1 strategy in my math workshop.  I used another powerful strategy later on in my teaching week: CSI.  This little tool is powerful because it allows students to talk through their thinking, as well as gives the teacher a "formative assessment view" into students' reading comprehension. In addition, it develops, as do all the strategies in Making Thinking Visible, students' ability to think creatively and critically, communicate and collaborate with others, and create, evaluate and utilize information.

CSI: Color, Symbol, Image
The purpose of the CSI strategy is for students to summarize their reading or capture the heart of a big idea.  Through its use, students learn how to make visual connections to their thinking.  It begins as a nonverbal routine.  
My guided reading groups were wrapping a novel at the end of last week.   I zoomed in on the CSI strategy in order to discuss theme with them.  One group was finishing Wolf Shadows by Mary Casanova, while another group was finishing How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.  We had been talking about possible themes for a few days when I introduced the assignment.  I used our mentor text Because of Winn Dixie (whole group workshop lessons) by Kate DiCamillo to model the thinking move. Here's a snapshot of how it went:
T: Colors can have many different meanings for different people.  For example, when I think of the color black, I think of extreme sadness or hopelessness.  What do you think of?
S: I think of scary stuff because scary movies always happen when it's night outside.
S:  Yeah, I think about something dying.   Like when my grandma died, everyone wore black to the funeral.
T: So black is an unhappy color for many of us, it sounds like.  If you were going to assign a color to the book Because of Winn Dixie, knowing what you know about Opal and the other characters as well as the theme of that novel, what color would you pick to represent the book?
S:  I'd choose pink because pink is a friendly color and she makes a lot of friends in the book.  She's not lonely anymore.
S: I'd choose yellow, like those lemon drops, because the book is bitter and sweet at the same time.
T: What do you mean by that?
S:Well, it's sweet because Opal makes friends and her dad starts to pay attention to her finally.  But it's bitter because the problem of her mom missing isn't solved.  Opal still misses her mom.
S:Yeah. Good idea.
At this point, I went on to ask them to think about their novels in the same way: What color would they choose to represent the "essence" of their novel?  I introduced a peace sign organizer that I had created for this purpose.  We then talked about symbols...what they are and how they are used in our everyday lives.  Some symbols we discussed were: The American flag...freedom: dove...peace;; an X O for kisses and hugs, etc.   I explained that I wanted them to also try to come up with a symbol for their book and record it on the organizer.
Finally, we talked about image.  One student said that a rain cloud with the sun poking out behind would be a good image for Because of Winn Dixie because real life is both rain and sun.  I asked them to think about what image they might sketch to represent the essence of their novel. Then, I sent them on their way to do their thinking. 

The next day, we reconvened.  Students began talking with a chat buddy, showing their CSI wheels to each other and describing their color, symbol, and image choices.  It was interesting to listen to students because I heard some unexpected "stuff."  For example, students had a pretty easy time assigning a color to their novels.  They were able to explain their choices, using the text for evidence.  They really focused on the overall mood of their book.  They were able to explain their sketches, too, although these tended to be illustrations about the book and not a sketch that represents the essence of the book.  For example, see the pictures and captions below:
This student sketched a house because this was the need of Georgina in How to Steal a Dog.  The student did not think of the house as something that symbolizes safety, warmth, family, or a sense of belonging.   He simply saw it as what the character wanted in the story.

This student drew a car because it was Georgina's home in How to Steal a Dog.  The student was able to explain the importance of the car but had difficulty explaining why this picture was THE picture to represent the essence of the novel.

The Wolf Shadows reading group, which is a higher level reading group, was able to think and talk about symbols with greater ease.  This was really interesting to watch.  I wonder what would happen if I were to bring the two groups together...if the How to Steal a Dog group's understanding of symbolic representation would be changed?

This student is from my Wolf Shadows (higher) group.  He explained his wolf symbol as representing the choices we make in life...that we're free like the wolf to make our own choices, but that they have consequences!

This student is an "outlier" in our classroom.  His thinking and drawings show it. Focus in on the symbol on the top right of his organizer.  He created this symbol like a family crest, and it shows three characters' varying viewpoints on wolves in the novel.  He included a smiley face, an angry face, and a neutral face.  He explained each face, relating them to the characters and citing evidence from the text.

This activity was a great first step into thinking about symbolism in text.  The CSI thinking move allowed students to create nonverbal representations of their thinking and then share their thinking orally.  It gives me a "leaping off the comprehension cliff" point with my students for next time.  Give it a try in your own classroom.  If you do, please let me know how it goes!  Be sure to stay tuned for my next adventure into Making Thinking Visible!

                                                                   Until then, teach on , my friends!

If you're interested in this graphic organizer, you can check it out below.  Just click the pictures!


Making Thinking Visible: A Journey Into Metacognition, Part 2

Greetings friends!  Yesterday I wrote my "Ten on the 10th" post because I've committed to doing so.  Today, I'm writing about my new learning on metacognition.  As I discussed in previous blog posts (see and, I've been studying metacognition for the past five years, but it has only been in the last two years that I've really "buckled down" and gotten busy. 

Last year, after hearing chapter and verse about my professional goal, my administrator gave me a copy of this book:
I've read it, attended a short professional development on it, and watched the videos on its cd attached to the back cover. This week, I rolled up my sleeves and got down to business.

Let me set the scene...

It's the beginning of the day- math workshop, and my students were gathered on the carpet for a number corner lesson.  After we discussed slides, flips, and turns on the calendar, we turned our attention to the "Number of the Day" discussion which is focused on angle measurements this month. 

But this day was different because we were trying a new thinking move from Making Thinking Visible called "3-2-1."  I gave each student three colored post-its.  On the first post-it, I asked students to think about the word/concept of angle and to write down three words that popped into their brains.  After doing this, students placed their post-its on the chart paper.

Next, I asked students to write two questions that came to mind when they thought of the word or concept of angle.  They used their second post-it for this, placing it on the chart paper.

Finally, I asked students to take the their third post-it and write one simile (or metaphor) about the word angle.
The final product looked like this:
The results were interesting.  Most of my students wrote the words acute, obtuse, and right. However, there were three outliers that didn't.  They wrote these words: Vertices, protractor, degrees, measurement, intersection, and rays.  Those students talked a great deal about their thinking and why they chose those words.  This was a great snapshot for me as to where my students are in their math vocabulary development.  For some students, new words were explored during this part of the session. 
The two question part of this thinking exercise reminded us of the "W" on a K-W-L chart.  Students asked question like, "Are there only three types of angles or are there more?" and "Why do we measure angles in degrees?"  After sharing their questions with each other, they made the decision to use some of their independent reading time to research some of the questions on the internet and report back.  Some of their questions they will explore in math workshop lessons.
Finally, we shared our similes.  Did you know that an angle is like the corner of a book? Did you know that an angle is like the arms of a clock?  I LOVED this part of the strategy because it demanded that students look around their environment and compare!  Compare and contrast...our brains learn best when we make connections, don't they? 
This was an excellent first attempt at utilizing a thinking move from Making Thinking Visible.  This week, I used this at the beginning of our geometry unit.  I want to try using this as a review at the end of a unit, too. 

My next thinking move with  my students is to use a strategy called CSI!  We'll be using it to discuss THEMES in our novels...stay tuned and teach on my friends!

 If you're interested in the monthly Number of the Day activities we discuss each morning to "get our metacognition on" check these out below.
To see other great book recommendations, click this picture!

It's time! 10 on the 10th...With a Twist!

Greetings! My best intentions fell short this month, but I will make up for it.  I have so much new learning that I'm excited about! But first...Tonight is November 10th and  it's time for ten snapshots of my world on the 10th of the month. I'm linking up with Rachel from The Classroom Game Nook ( to share. This month, simply click on each picture to hear my inner sound track for the past month of my life.  The piano teacher in me couldn't resist!

Click here!
If you'd like to see what else I've been up to over the last month, be sure to check out the links below.  Simply click on the pictures!  And, in the meantime, Teach on, my friends!