Oct 29

Mallory Molnar uses CSI in Art at Way Elementary

Fourth-Grade Art Students Use Color, Symbol, Image Routine

Mallory Molnar, Teacher, Way Elementary

 Bloomfield Hills Schools  (10.21.14)

VT Routine:  Color, Symbol, Image (CSI):  Usually the purpose of this routine is to capture the heart of what students have learned.  However, in this art class it is being used as a starting block for making connections to what students value and incorporating that into the design of a mask.  More specifically the routine provides a structure for:

  • Representing essential ideas and themes in non-verbal ways.
  •  Engaging students in connecting something new to something they already know by identifying similarities and making comparisons.
  • Enhancing comprehension and laying a foundation for engaging in metaphorical thinking in later grades.

Before the lesson:  This art class meets once a week for 45 minutes.  Students have already built the base of their masks out of plaster and are now planning their designs going through a series of steps.  They are familiar with CSI and will now focus on the symbol aspect of the routine.  Ms. Molnar states:  “I have taught this lesson before and found that using just the symbol portion really helps students to focus on this aspect and allows their thinking to go much deeper.”

At Way Elementary, all classes have posted through-lines developed by teams of teachers.  Teachers help students connect learning across units and content areas to their through-lines.  The following were posted in this art classroom:

  • Why do people create art?
  • Why is reflection an important part of the art process?

As an observer, I also noticed the following sign:  The EARTH without ART is just “EH”.

During the lesson:  With students seated on the carpet in close proximity to the teacher and each other, Ms. Molnar guided a discussion on how masks are/have been used in different communities/countries.  Students noted that the symbols on the masks often represented the values of the people in the community.  Ms. Molnar gave students planning sheets to plan the design for their masks.  She instructed them to take the following steps in making the design:

  1. Use the symbol only part of the CSI routine and design a symbol that represents a characteristic of community.  To emphasize creative thinking, Ms. Molnar emphasized that the symbol must be one that the student had not previously seen used for this purpose.
  2. In the space provided on the planning sheet, write a defense for why your symbol represents community.
  3. Have your symbol and defense approved by me. (Ms. Molnar circulated among students as they worked and approved products as students were ready.)
  4. Begin to design your mask and incorporate your symbol into your design.

As an observer, I (Jean Schmeichel) circulated among students as they worked at tables. They exhibited a high level of engagement and on task behavior throughout the lesson.  They definitely were interested in their work.  As I listened in to side conversations, I realized that they were talking about their work.  The following is an example of one side conversation of three students.   Student # 1 suggested to # 2 that her drawing was not a symbol but rather an image.  They disagreed at first and then # 3 joined in to remind them that a symbol was not like a picture showing specific objects and things.  They discussed how she could “abstract” her drawing and make it a symbol.  She followed through.

As students began working, symbols and written statements of defense varied.

  • One student created a symbol comprised of small circles connected by arrows and arranged into one larger circle 0->0->….  In the center of the larger circle was a box filled with paper litter.  A statement from her defense read:  “People in community help each other by recycling litter.”
  • Another student made a rectangle box with a wavy line at the top very smooth line at the bottom.  When I asked him to explain, he said:  “Our two high schools were in an unhealty rivalry.  In my symbol, the uneven top part shows the rivalry and the bottom part shows the smoothness when they came together as one community.  The squiggles on each side represent each H.S. and their rivalry.  The circle in the middle of the box represents their coming together.
  • Triangle of Rays in Mask Design











  • A third student used his understanding of mathematics and created a triangle made up of three rays.  He said:  “Just like rays can intersect, people in communities intersect when they meet with each other.” This student began to incorporate his symbol into the design of his mask. Look for the triangles made of rays in the draft design above.

Since these students only meet for art one class period a week, this project will continue the following week.  Ms. Molnar asked the students to think about their symbols and draft designs and assured them they could make any desired changes next week.

 After the Lesson:  Visitors to Ms. Molnar’s class included art, music, PE and media teachers.  We met with her to debrief.   Among many other complimentary comments, it was noted that she addressed a variety of styles of learning.   The following are examples of the Q & A session:

Q:  How often do you see the students?

 A:  I see grades K-3 80 minutes a week, but I only see grade 4 students for 55 minutes due to other things in their schedule.

Q:  How do you decide when to use a routine and how often do you use them?

A:  You build the routine into your instruction where it fits with the intended outcome.  For instance I am using the “symbol” part of the CSI routine to introduce design to the students.  I want to stress the process of creating and how important reflection is to this process.  One of our through-lines is:   “Why is reflection an important part of the art process?”

 Q:  How do you differentiate your instruction to meet the needs of those students who know the routine and those who do not?

A:  In the beginning, you do a lot of modeling.  I have a couple of new students who are not familiar, so I have to model more for them.  This kind of teaching changes how you talk to students.

Q:  Do you have the time?  Do you know if PE and music use VT routines?

A: Routines usually take longer than I think, but for good reason. The students are really engaged in discussions and their participation in the project.  Their thinking also goes a lot deeper, which in turn improves the end result.  PE teachers have used routines to uncover the complexities of different sports.   Music has used the I used to think; now I think when listening to different types of music or created symbols to represent different aspects of music like legato and staccato.

Q:  Did you give students very many examples of symbols and masks?

A:  I try not to give them too many examples since I want them to engage in the creative process and create their own. If I show them examples, they tend to just use those and not create one that means something to them. This is why I told them they could not use a symbol they had already seen on a mask or representing a community.  We talked about masks around the world and how they are used to represent what individuals and communities value.  Then I asked them to create a mask and integrate their symbol for community.

Thank you to Mallory Molnar and the fourth-grade students for sharing their teaching and learning with us.  We learned from our observations and enjoyed our visit to their art classroom.



















After lesson
























What did the students do that showed thinking and understanding?

Oct 23


Culture of Thinking (CoT) Way Elementary Tour

October 21, 2014,

Background Information:  About seven years ago, Way Elementary, with the leadership of Adam Scher, Principal, initiated Making Thinking Visible in Oakland County.  To begin the process, Way Elementary approved two teachers and Adam to travel to Saginaw to participate in a professional development with Ron Ritchhart who demonstrated one of the Visible Thinking routines.  They immediately saw the power and value of this instructional approach and brought it back to their School Improvement Team (SIT).  The team agreed that this would be their approach to meeting the “new initiative” requirement of the district.  The SIT team discussed how to proceed and what to focus on at each stage of implementation.

A key feature in promoting continuous Cultures of Thinking growth at Way is to have all teachers submit analytical reflections each month.  This provides them with a structure for generating insights into their work and for personal accountability.  In their reflections, they look at student work and their own work through the lenses of the eight cultural forces.  The following are examples of insights generated from the reflections:

  • The Visible Thinking approach to teaching and learning does not take additional time but rather replaces what one has been doing.
  • Using this approach helps facilitate combining curriculum standards where appropriate.
  •  Using the Thinking Visible tools and developing a Culture of Thinking  (CoT) requires a reallocation of how the curriculum is delivered to deepen student learning.
  •  A noticeable change is in the learning language and attitudes of students.  They are more respectful of one another’s contributions, make efforts to connect with the ideas of others and want to add on to and expand the insights of each other.
  • This instructional approach demands active participation on the part of all learners. This is about creating a richer learning experience for students; it is not about test scores.
  • In a Culture of Thinking, the emphasis is on reasoning with evidence and not about praising the right answer and moving on.
  • When you ask questions like “How did you come up with that idea,” you find out if students understand and what kind of thinking they are doing. 


Adam Scher, Principal and Jenny Rossi, VT Coordinator, introduced the visitors to the Way Elementary journey by sharing highlights similar to those found in the background section above.   They shared a picture of an iceberg to give a visual representation of the relationship of the Visual Thinking Routines to a Culture of Thinking (CoT).  Adam explained that the small part of the iceberg above the water represents the routines, which are important but a small part of a CoT.  The major work is done with and by the teachers, but it is equally important for administrators to be part of this learning.

Adam and Jenny used the Peel The Fruit Protocol to help explain how Way Elementary thinks about developing a culture of thinking.  This protocol can be found on Ron Ritchhart’s website or in the book:  Making Thinking Visible. The following is a summary of their presentation.

On the skin are the routines.  Routines take more time than worksheets and many other traditional activities.  We make time for thinking by considering the value of the routines and eliminating other things we have done to get to the same goal.  Ask what using the routines accomplishes better than what has have used in the past?  .    The structure and pace of instruction changes.   Ask what kind of thinking we want to capture?  Which routine will help us get there?  What materials will we use?   When using the routines, we need real ambiguity in the issues presented.  How will we generate thinking while giving appropriate support for the students?

Adam gave an example of the importance of instructional language.  He shared that he visited K-1 classrooms and asked, “What does it mean to feed an idea?”   The students gave surface responses.  Then he changed the word “does” to “could” and asked what else could it mean?  Changing the wording, opened up thinking.   These young students gave deeper thinking responses, e.g. we grow when we are fed so ideas will grow when we feed them.  Adam reminded visitors that the thinking is there with students, but it is up to the adults to find the language that will release it.

The pulp of the fruit=going deeper:  The Making Thinking Visible routines are structures to support instruction in a culture of thinking and this is the instructional approach at Way.  To make time, it is necessary to give up some traditional ways of doing things.  When designing curriculum and instruction, teachers look for connections that can be made between isolated units within and across content areas.  We learn from our failures and flops as well as our successes and grow in our ability to determine why something did or did not work.  The instructional process is more about asking questions to deepen learning than to impart information.  To avoid episodic learning, takeaways are posted in each classroom for future connections.   At Way, Instruction/learning is not about 30 minute “sitcoms.”

The core of the fruit:  Way uses the Last Protocol to look at student thinking. If we are not looking at the routines and their results on thinking, then we are not creating a culture of thinking.  We review our instructional purpose and the kind of thinking we intended and then compare this to the work of students/ results.

Our framework for curriculum and instruction builds from learning targets to understanding goals to connecting to through lines/ big picture.  Teachers at eachgrade level develop through-lines and post them in their classrooms.  They help students tie learning from across content areas to the grade level through-line.  For example, in kindergarten the through-line is:  How does it work?   Other through-lines address patterns, change and similar concepts. We learned from our students that it is important to use language they can read and understand.   As the curriculum changes or teachers find that a through-line is not working, they revise it

Adam and Jenny ended the opening session by reminding the visitors that you have to believe in this way of doing things to be successful at it.  They shared the following quote by Helen Keller:  “No Pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”

Next, visitors walked the walls and viewed postings of student thinking throughout the school.  Parents, students and staff accept that the walls are not decorated with attractive bulletin boards but rather are indicators of student thinking which at times can be messy.  The following are excerpts from examples of the depth of thinking by 4th graders who were studying the three branches of government.  They were asked to link/develop a metaphor using an experience from their daily lives for the way the legislative branch works.  # 1:  ”It is like birds because they are always arguing and bickering about stuff.”   # 2:  ”It is like a pencil because the lead write the law, the eraser can get rid of the law and the body protects the law when in place.  The bill can die in the Senate or the House, but if it is good, it stays sharp like the point of the pencil.”  # 3: ” It is like a soccer game because congress members are the players and the president is the goalie.  Congress tries to make a law, like players trying to make a goal, and the president signs the law like the goalie lets the ball in.  If he vetoes the law, he blocks it and congress has to try again like players trying to score again.”

Following this, visitors were placed into groups and observed the routines in action in the classrooms.  For a vignette on using CSI in the art classroom, see the post to this blog on Ms. Mallory Moinar’s 4th grade art class.








Sep 25

School Tours Evolving: How to Create a Customized Tour

CoT School Tours Growing and Evolving 

Scenario on Creating a Customized Tour

Feedback indicates that our school tours help to promote growth and understanding among professionals in how to use the routines in the context of creating a culture of thinking.   It has become necessary to differentiate the tours to meet the varying needs of schools since some are at the beginning of the process and others are ready to go for more depth and complexity.   Therefore, this year we are offering three different kinds of tours :  Traditional, Lab, and Customized.  A definition of each of these and how to sign up can be found on the School Tour Page of this blog.

Creating a Customized Tour

The following is a scenario describing the steps in the development of a customized tour between Brandon Middle School and Reuther Middle School, Rochester.

Step 1:  Oakland Schools sent out the announcement in the spring and again in the fall about differentiating tours and asked for hosts and requests.   We created a School Tour Page on the CoT blog explaining the purpose of each kind of tour.

Step 2:  Schools that volunteered to host customized tours were placed on the Customized Tour page of this blog.

Step 3:  Cheryl Gambaro, Principal of Reuther Middle School, contacted me and indicated that Reuther would like to be both a guest and a host of a customized tour.  (Note:  Playing both roles is an excellent way of helping staff develop greater depth and complexity of understanding.)

Step 4:  Cheryl was able to provide specifics for a customized focus that would be most beneficial to Reuther staff:   “We would like to still see routines in action, but perhaps routines that are not as common as those highlighted in the Making Thinking Visible Book.   Instead, routines that are from the Project Zero website would be helpful and begin to expand our staff’s repertoire.”  Cheryl also indicated a willingness to share information from her staff on implementing the 8 cultural forces.

Step 5:  Based on my conversations with possible hosts, I asked Tina Chambers, Principal of Brandon Middle School, if Brandon could host/accommodate Reuther’s request. Tina gave an affirmative response.

Step 6:  I gave Tina’s contact information to Cheryl and asked them to keep me in their communication loop.  They set a date that is mutually agreeable to both.  The two principals will continue to communicate to work out the specifics so the tour is beneficial to both schools.

A special thank you to Reuther and Brandon middle schools for providing us with an excellent example of how to go about setting up a customized tour.  If you are interested in a tour of greater depth and complexity, consider contacting one of the hosts on the Customized Tour Page, or you may contact me and I will help you make connections.  Please keep me in the communication loop as I would like to attend the tours if possible.







Aug 14

Presentation at Project Zero Conference by Tina Chambers

Tina Chambers is sharing a detailed outline of her presentation at the Project Zero Conference.  If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact Tina at her email or leave them in the space provided below.

Call For Presenters: http://casieonline.org/events/pz/me/call.

Tina Chambers

Brandon School District



Title: Connecting Student Learning, Thinking Routines and Formative Assessment

Goals of Course:

  • Developing a CoT at the middle school level through:
    • Modeling Thinking Routines in PD
    • Understanding routines as a way to assess for student learning
    • Monitoring student growth using the routines

Description of Course:

Making Learning and Thinking Visible: How can visible representations of thinking and learning be used as a force for student learning? How do we document and assess student and teacher learning in order to further our own learning? How does making thinking and learning visible support effective collaborative endeavors in a variety of contexts?

This workshop will provide hands-on opportunities to see visible thinking used in conjunction with formative assessment.  Thinking routines make a student’s thinking visible, therefore providing teachers the opportunity to give student feedback and assess where a student is in his/her learning. Participants will be engaged in a variety of learning experiences to begin their own thinking about the journey of learning in the classroom. We will use thinking routines and a protocol to see how the process of formative assessment can be used not only to make student thinking visible, but to guide instruction on a daily basis.

As in the words of Tony Wagner, “We need to use assessment for learning” (www. wagner.com). Formative assessment is using the evidence to provide student feedback regarding their learning.  Thinking routines allows students to see their learning and take a deeper look at the topic. Teachers can use this visible thinking to give feedback to students and develop quality instruction for all students.  What does this look like? This can come in a variety of ways that help build a story of student learning.

We will look at teacher and student evidence to understand the journey of building a culture in the classroom. The student evidence is a way for teachers to monitor their own instruction as well as student learning. It is also a way to bring teachers together to look at student work. Using protocols developed by Ron Ritchhart, teachers can study the evidence and receive feedback for further development within their own instruction. Teachers working together to deepen their understanding are a necessity for growth in their own professional development.

For instance, In order for teachers to deepen their learning, we have looked at student work as a staff and in smaller groups to understand the thinking of our students. This has been done in Professional Learning meetings and after school in small groups. We also use thinking routines in Professional Learning to deepen our own understanding and make our own thinking visible. This helps us understand how routines work and encourages teachers to implement them into their classrooms. We can see a routine in action and see how it fits into certain lessons for exploration, deep understanding, etc. Teachers also take time in Professional Learning to share what they are doing in their own classroom with CoT.

Explain precisely how the presentation will involve the audience, what ideas will be presented, and in what order. *

(Not to exceed 250 words) 120 minutes

Time Topic
5  Introduction of self and school.
15 20 Formative Assessment – Chalk TalkDevelop and clear understanding of formative assessment and be clear that it is a way to provide feedback to students and receive feedback from students so both teacher and student develop and understand of the student’s progress and needs in his/her understanding/learning. This is not about grading.
1030 Video of teacher using routine in the classroomParticipants will be asked to notice feedback on and questioning of student thinking
1545 Discussion of what participants noticed.
1055 Example of Collection of Student Growth – See, Think, WonderThis will be done with charts, teacher journal, etc (Samples of what teachers have done to monitor students and give feedback)
1570 Sharing thoughts of Example and results of See, Think, Wonder
30100 Looking at Student Evidence over time – Last ProtocolThis will let people see how student growth can be seen in the routines
10110 Feedback/share on the Last Protocol
10120 Wrap up goals for the session and connections they have made.I used to think…. Now I think…. routine as an exit slip.

Explain the connection between the presenter(s) and Project Zero research *

(How did you come to learn about these ideas?)

I am in my third year of CoT. My learning started in Clarkston, MIchigan when Rod Rock brought Ron Ritchhart to the district for professional development. At this time, I was an assistant principal at Sashabaw Middle School and read Ritchhart’s book Intellectual Character. Then a group from our building read Making Thinking Visible.

I then took a position as the principal of Brandon Middle School in January of 2012. The teachers were excited to learn, so we did a book study of Making Thinking Visible. By spring, a group of teachers were using the routines in their classroom and we were using them in our staff professional development. We began to meet to look at student evidence and use the protocols.

That summer, several teachers attended CoT in Clarkston, Michigan and we also had a team during the second round of Ritchhart’s training through Oakland Schools. The CoT has helped us to develop a school culture that is about student learning and thinking. We now have a team participating in the Oakland Schools CoT with Ritchhart for the 2013-14 school year. It is a continuous learning journey for all of our students and us. Having the opportunity to be a part of a team that is leading a building into new territory has been exciting and I now feel it is time to share where we are in that journey with others. It has made me a better leader and learner.

Other Comments:

I feel this is a great opportunity for me to share the journey our middle school staff and students have taken and use thinking routines to model that learning. This would be exciting for me and I am pretty dynamic in my own presentation skills, so I feel confident to share with others.

Also, I have presented at the Michigan Department of Education State Conference and will be presenting at the Michigan Association for Secondary School Principals state conference.

Jun 19

Thank You For All You Do For Students

As Oakland County K-12 educators begin summer break, we would like to thank you for your dedication and contributions to developing a Culture of Thinking for ALL students.  We have moved beyond defining equity as equal opportunity or access to equity as meeting the standards.  Building a Culture of Thinking and engaging all students in the thinking routines provides a structure and system to increasing the achievement of all.

We hope you have time to relax, renew, and spend time with family and friends in the great out-doors and/or engage in favorite activities and challenges.  Stay safe and well.  To help start your summer with some humor, go to 15 funniest, punniest and cheesiest teacher jokes.

Best Wishes, Jean S.

Jun 04

Jenny Johnson Uses Hear-Think-Wonder in Music.

Hear-Think-Wonder in Third-Grade Music

Jenny Johnson, Teacher, Auburn Elementary

 Avondale Public Schools (4.22.14) 

Background Information:  Auburn Elementary is a Title I school and is in its first year as an Avondale/Oakland University Partnership school.  In this opening year, it has 80 school-of-choice students, several Oakland University students and a staff that is 50% new.  The school is being designed from the ground up and the routines are being used to help facilitate the design process with staff, the community, the Board of Education and the students.  CoT is a core foundational structure in the design of this partnership as participants work to build a culture where thinking is valued, honored and made visible.

Hear-Think-Wonder Routine:  In this music class, Hear-Think-Wonder is a modification of the See-Think-Wonder routine.   Hear, Think, Wonder emphasizes the importance of listening as the basis for the thinking and interpretation that will follow.  Placing wonder at the end of the routine ensures that learners have had time to take in new information through careful listening, thinking about and then synthesizing the new information before identifying additional wonderings.  The student wonderings open up new areas of exploration that will lead to deeper insights and understandings.

Lesson Goal:  Students will listen carefully to a piece by Aaron Copland and try to identify musical instruments and concepts using music key vocabulary across six segments of the piece.  They will also share their thinking and wonderings related to their listening.

Prior to tour lesson:  Each week in Jenny Johnson’s music classes, a different composer is featured.  A variety of music genres are represented.  The week of our tour visit, Bela Bartok was the composer of choice.  A piece by the featured composer is playing while students file into the music room. Students do a Hear-Think-Wonder  prior to the lesson of the day and a quick exchange of ideas takes place.

In preparation for the lesson of the day, Jenny Johnson selected a piece by Aaron Copland, a composer the students had become familiar with earlier in the year.  She prepared a template to help step the students through the lesson using the Hear-Think-Wonder routine.  These third-grade students were familiar with this routine.

During the lesson:

 Introduction:  Chairs were arranged in a circle and upon entering the room, students found their places in the circle.   A piece by Bela Bartok, the featured composer of the week, was playing.  After listening for a few minutes, Jenny Johnson asked, “What did you hear?”  Responses varied:

S1: A quiet kind of piano playing in a minor key.

S2:  Creepy, low notes made it sound haunted,

S3:  Sounds like music at a funeral; it is sad.

S4:  It sounded really sad when playing in the minor key.  It got very quiet.

S5:  I wonder if a harp was playing?

Teacher:  Did anyone else hear a harp?

S6:   I heard a string sound.  Maybe it was a piano.

Teacher:  Yes, pianos have strings and that is what you heard.  Harps also have strings so you heard a string sound.  What else did you hear?

S7:  I heard a crescendo.

S8:   It sounded like something you hear at a fancy restaurant.

Teacher:  Why makes you say that?

S8:  It was smooth, quiet and in minor key.

Lesson of the Day:  Jenny Johnson explained to students that they were going to engage in a new project for the lesson of the day.  They would be using the routine Hear-Think-Wonder while listening to a composer whom they had learned about earlier in the year.  After giving some clues, one of the students guessed that it was Aaron Copland.  She distributed a template that divided the listening into six segments of the piece.  (See below.)  She explained that she would be calling out the numbers as the piece played and they should write what they hear, think and wonder as time permitted.  She assured them that they would listen to the piece several times, so if they did not finish a section the first time, they would have an opportunity to return to it.  Ms. Johnson also reminded students to use their Music Word Wall to help them with music vocabulary and concepts.  After inviting students to find their best listening and learning space in the room, Ms. Johnson started the music.    Students moved through the piece as the teacher called out the numbers.

Sample of Student Responses:



Composter:  Aaron Copland

Piece:  “Simple Gifts” from Appalachian Spring

Section Hear Think Wonder
1 Harp,violin,flute This is difficult. How much time would it take to write this.
2 Fluteviolin He is happy. Is this in a rainforest?
3 TrumpetFrench horntrombone It would be hard to write music like this.
4 TrumpetCrescendo It is in a major key. Why is this so loud?
5 & 6 Whole orchestra    


After the Lesson:  Visitors commented that the students were so attentive when listening to the music.  They were all engaged and used the Word-Wall to help them listen with purpose.    Ms. Johnson shared that she was very pleased with how the students listen to music that they do not hear very often on their own.

Visitors thanked Jenny Johnson for sharing her lesson using the Hear-Think-Wonder with them.  Please leave a message or question for Jenny Johnson and students. 


Jun 04

Serena Stock Uses Step-Inside and Tug-of-War with First Graders

 First-Grade Students use Step Inside and Tug of War Routines

Serena Stock, Teacher, Auburn Elementary

 Avondale Public Schools (4.22.14)

 Background Information:  Auburn Elementary is a Title I school and is in its first year as an Avondale/Oakland University Partnership school.  In this opening year, it has 80 school-of-choice students, several Oakland University students and a staff that is 50% new.  The school is being designed from the ground up and the routines are being used to help facilitate the design process with staff, the community, the Board of Education and the students.  CoT is a core foundational structure in the design of this partnership as participants work to build a culture where thinking is valued, honored and made visible.

Step Inside Routine:  The purpose of this routine is to help students take the perspective of the character or in this case the animal they were each given.  Step Inside provides a structure for taking thinking to a deeper level and finding connections to the topic being investigated.  Students are asked to step outside the self and see things from the point of view and/or to understand the perspective of another.

Tug-of-War Routine:  The purpose of this routine is to structure student thinking so they take a stance with sound reasoning.  It is designed to help students understand the complex forces that “tug” at opposing sides of an issue.  It encourages students initially to suspend taking a side and think carefully about the reasons in support of both sides of the dilemma/issue.

 Lesson Goal:  Extend student understanding of the connections between offspring and parents by focusing on how offspring resemble their parents.

Prior to tour lesson:  In preparation for the lesson, Serena Stock found several pairs of pictures for matching parent animals and their offspring, e.g. Cat/kittens, pigs/piglets, lions/cubs, etc.   These first grade students had used Step Inside and/or Tug of War prior to this lesson.  This unit began with a focus on humans’ life cycle and offspring using the Chalk-Talk routine.  Serena says:  “I didn’t start with thinking routines initially. Instead I started with the development of my culture through changes in vocabulary and communication with my students.  Cot is more than just using routines.”

During the lesson:

 Lesson Introduction:  Students were seated on the carpet as Ms. Stock introduced the lesson.   She reminded them of their prior work on finding similarities between parents and children.  Next she introduced the topic of animal parents and offspring and showed a sampling of the pictures.  She explained that each of them would get a picture of either a parent animal or an offspring.  Ms. Stock shared with the students that they would be doing a step inside thinking routine before playing the game.  As the routine began, their task was to “step inside” and imagine being that animal parent or offspring and try to find each other/their family.  For example, the student with the picture of the adult lion would try to find the lion cub and the cub would look for the lion.  In order to consider themselves a match, they would have to identify how they were alike.

 Lesson Execution:  Serena Stock randomly distributed the pictures of a variety of animal parents and offspring. She reminded them that their task was to imagine being that animal parent or offspring and try to find each other/their family.  She assured the students that she would give them plenty of time to study their picture first.  After studying the pictures, she told students to move about and find their family. The students were highly engaged and moved about with purpose.  After they found each other, students engaged in partner Think/Pair/Share to explain to each other why they belonged to the animal family.   After partner sharing, a whole class discussion incurred. A sample of that discussion follows:

(T)Teacher:  Step into your character/animal.  How do you know that’s your parent or your offspring?  How do you know you are related?

(S)Student responses:   “We both have tails alike.”     “We are the same color.”   “We are the same animal.”

(T) See how this connects to using shape, size and colors?  When you say you are the same animal, how do you know that?  What makes you say they are the same?

(S) The offspring looks just like the grownup but they are not the same color or the same size.  They are the same animal.

(T) We have figured out that the offspring looks like the parents, they have the same number of legs and kind of tails, but the one is just smaller than the other.

 (T) Do all offspring look like their parents?  Let’s use the Tug of War routine to see what the class thinks.  (She draws a line on the chart and hands each student a sticky note.)

(T) Write on the sticky note what you think—Do all offspring look like their parents?  Give your reasons for your answer.    Then place your sticky note on the chart.

After the Lesson/Q&A with Serena Stock

 All observers were impressed with the thinking and student engagement. They expressed appreciation to Serena for sharing her lesson and classroom for this purpose.   The following is a summary of the discussion that followed:

Q:   What will follow this lesson?

A:   We are moving on to metamorphous, e.g. frogs/tadpoles and caterpillars/butterflies where the offspring do not look like the parents.  We will have a fieldtrip to a dairy farm to make connections to the world beyond school.

Q:  Which routines do you use the most?

A:  I use See-Think-Wonder each week.  We connect our theme to artwork or a holiday.  Students can find things in pictures that I overlook.   We write about these connections.

Q:  How often do you use them?

A:  I use some all the time like Think/Pair/Share and What makes you say that? I use some when they need more structure for thinking like Tug of War. Sometimes it just happens while you are in the process of teaching and learning.

Q:  Is this your first year with the routines?

A:  This is my third year.  The first time a student says something that blows you away, you are hooked on using these routines.  Students love the routines.  My first year I picked 3-4 routines, See-Think-Wonder, Tug of War, Generate-Sort-Connect, and got to know them.  These routines draw in all students and they want to listen to each other.

Please leave a comment or a question for Serena Stock and students.



Jun 04

Megan Maguire Uses Generate-Sort-Connect in M.S. Math

Generate-Sort-Connect- in Grade 6 Math

Megan Maguire,  Teacher, Van Hoosen M.S.

 Rochester Hills (4.23.14) 

 Background Information: Van Hoosen Middle School in Rochester Hills is experiencing considerable growth.  It is in its second year of developing a culture of thinking and a community of learners.  Staff members visit each other’s classrooms to see the thinking routines in action and to learn from each other.  These routines are also used in staff meetings.  Van Hoosen is collaborating with the three other middle schools to form the Think From The Middle website and to broaden the CoT community of learners across all four middle schools in Rochester Hills.

 Routine:  Generate-Sort-Connect-Extend:  Concept Maps.  Concept maps help uncover a learner’s mental models on a topic in a nonlinear way.  They also help to activate knowledge and connect ideas in a meaningful way.  This routine helps to structure the process of creating a meaningful concept map so students engage in more and better thinking about the topic.  The four steps in the process include:

  1. Generate a list of ideas that come to mind when you think about the topic.
  2. Sort your ideas according to how central they are to the topic or issue.  Place central ideas near the center of your paper.
  3. Connect ideas by drawing connecting lines between those that have something in common.  Explain and write on the line in a short sentence how the ideas in that group are connected.
  4. Extend.  Make extensions between the groups, to something that we have already studied or to something you think we will study related to these concepts.

Lesson Goal:  Students will deepen their understanding of key statistical terms by sorting and connecting them to form a concept map.

Prior to tour lesson:  The students were familiar with the steps for engaging in Generate-Sort-Connect.  Key vocabulary terms like numerical, statistical, categorical, mean, medium, mode, range, mean absolute deviation (MAD), maximum, measure of variability, outlier had been discussed and were displayed on the Promethean Board.

During the lesson:  Students were seated at tables in groups of four or five.  Ms. Maguire distributed sticky notes to each group and instructed them to write the key terms on the notes.   As a group they were asked to sort the terms into categories based on the meaning of the terms.  Each group had a large sheet of orange paper on which to make their concept map.  As groups worked, they discussed the meanings and relationships of the terms and were clarifying understanding and learning from each other.  Ms. Maguire circulated among the groups and asked questions to probe for deeper insights and understanding.  See example of product below.

After the Lesson:  Ms. Maguire writes:  “The students took a quiz the following day on these concepts.  I was very pleased with how well the students did and felt comfortable moving on to the next activity to build on these statistical concepts.”

Different groups categorized the terms in different ways.  The following is an example of the work of one group:






Jun 03

Jessica Getchell Uses See, Think, Wonder in M.S. Art

Jessica Getchell and Students use See, Think, Wonder

 Grade 6 Art Print-Making Unit

Reuther Middle School, Rochester Hills

Visible Thinking Routine:  The See, Think, Wonder Routine was applied in viewing an image of the Mona Lisa.  This was an art history and art criticism-focused lesson in the Print-Making Art Unit for grade 6 students, ultimately comparing Andy Warhol’s Marilyns with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.  

See, Think, Wonder emphasizes the importance of observation as the basis for the thinking and interpretation that will follow.  Placing wonder at the end of the routine ensures that learners have had time to take in new information through careful observation, thinking about and then synthesizing the new information before identifying additional wonderings.  The student wonderings open up new areas of exploration that will lead to deeper insights and understandings.

 Lesson Goal: 

  1. Students will understand the Mona Lisa better in terms of cultural and historical background and meaning, through observation and discussion via the See Think Wonder  Visual Thinking routine.
  2. Students will make connections between the Mona Lisa and Andy Warhol’s Marilyns, beginning to understand their similarities and differences and how printmaking and then digital media have changed the meaning of art in our time.

Before the lesson:  Students had been introduced to the basics of print-making as an art form.  Each student had a personal sketchbook for taking notes, recording thinking and making draft sketches.  All the students were familiar with the See, Think, Wonder Routine and had applied it in other classes.  Students had been introduced to the printmaking artwork of Andy Warhol, viewing his Campbell’s Soup Cans, and Marilyn prints among others.

During the lesson:  A print of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was projected on the screen.

Jessica Getchell started the lesson by asking students to open their art sketchbooks and make a See/Think/Wonder graphic for recording their thinking about the print.   Students were familiar with the template expectations for the three columns and quickly completed the task.  Ms. Getchell gave some background information on the Mona Lisa and emphasized the importance of the painting.  After telling students the original was under glass at the Le Louvre in France, she asked if any students had visited this museum.  Two students raised their hands, and one of the students shared his story.  This helped to create interest in the painting.

Next, the students were asked to individually record in their sketchbooks what they saw in the print of the painting.  This was followed by a short discussion at each table where students shared their observations and chose one of the observations to be recorded on the class wall chart.  After each group had contributed to the chart, the teacher read the observations and a short discussion followed.  This process was repeated for the think and wonder parts of the routine. (See next section for student responses.)

The lesson concluded in a discussion of possible answers to students’ questions about the Mona Lisa, pointing to the inevitable mystery and uniqueness of the world’s most famous painting. An example of Mona Lisa’s originality, and the value placed for centuries on originality and authenticity in artwork, students viewed the earliest copy of the Mona Lisa painted by a student or apprentice of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Finally, students viewed Andy Warhol’s Marilyn (1967), and their printmaking project. Ms. Getchell asked the students what is similar and different about these two iconic women and famous artworks. Mona Lisa, the wife of a wealthy merchant, could have been a type of celebrity, and she certainly is one now, because she is featured by Mr. Da Vinci. Marilyn Monroe continues to be one of the most famous celebrities ever. How much did art—painting, then printmaking and now digital media, have to do with this?

 Examples of  students responses when using the See/Think/Wonder routine in this art lesson.


See Think Wonder
Texture in the robe It is a simple portrait but very detailed.  This makes it valuable Why is this painting so valuable and fantastic?
Color shading It is a self portrait How long did it take to paint this?   When was it painted?
Sly smile The artist knew her How did she sit still so long?
Value shading She is a poor farm girl by the baggy clothes Is Mona Lisa her real name or the name the artist gave?
Ships in the background She is a queen and likes her kingdom Did Da Vinci interview her first?
Gloomy sky This is not painted from thought/mental image but rather from a real person as a model. What’s on her shoulder? Is she smiling?
Twisting road The twisting roads might be showing or representing her imagination/what she is dreaming about. Was she related to Da Vinci?

 After the tour visit/lesson follow-up.

After this lesson, students applied to their own printmaking projects what they have had learned about the value placed on original artworks, along with the value of prints, multiple copies, and mass media. Working from the original, student will value impermanence and freedom in creating their own prints from it.

Please leave comments and/or questions for Ms. Getchell and students.

Jun 03

Carnella Johnson Combines VT Strategies and Enbrighten Game in L.A. Resource Grade 6

Enbrighten Game in Grade 6 L.A. Resource

Carnella Johnson, Teacher, Van Hoosen M.S.

 Rochester Hills Public Schools (4.23.14) Draft

 Background Information: Van Hoosen Middle School in Rochester Hills is experiencing considerable growth.  It is in its second year of developing a culture of thinking and a community of learners.  Staff members visit each other’s classrooms to see the thinking routines in action and to learn from each other.  These routines are also used in staff meetings.  Van Hoosen is collaborating with the three other middle schools to form the Think From The Middle website and to broaden the CoT community of learners across all four middle schools in Rochester Hills.

Enbrighten Game Routine:  The following information is taken from the friendship circle.org blog at http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/05/13/enbrighten-a-reading-comprehension-game-for-children-with-special-needs/  “Enbrighten™ is an engaging and thought-provoking comprehension game designed to empower students with the tools necessary to approach and ultimately understand both narrative and informational text. This strategy emboldens students and teachers to establish comprehension as a process of cognition rather than something assessed by an isolated set of comprehension questions.”

“Enbrighten™ also encourages the development of metacognition, critical thinking, listening, and speaking skills within the classroom environment. It is designed to act as a supplement to any curriculum and can be used with any preexisting classroom text.”  For more information go to the Enbrighten website at http://www.saneandsavvystrategies.com

 Lesson Goal:  By combining the strategies of the Enbrighten Game and the Visible Thinking Routines, Students will develop a deeper understanding of the key ideas in the story “Raymond Runs.”

Prior to tour lesson:  The students were familiar with the steps for engaging in the Enbrighten Game and their assigned roles.  In some cases more than one student was assigned a role.  Sentence starters were attached to each role to assist the students in assuming these responsibilities:

  • Connector:  “This reminds me of……..
  • Vocabulary Master:  “It may mean……
  • Visualizer:   “I picture…..
  • Clarifier:  “Some people may be confused about…..
  • Questioner:  “I wonder……..
  • Predictor:  “I think _________ is/will ………
  • Summarizer:  “This story is about……

The performance rubric for these roles can be found at http://www.saneandsavvystrategies.com. 

During the lesson:

 The students were seated in a circle each with a copy of the story, Raymond Runs.  The teacher began reading the story as the students followed along.  At key places, the teacher stopped reading and the students, in unison, read the next word.  This helped to keep all the students engaged and moving along with the story as well as giving them a role in reading the story.  After the reading is finished, students are given time to look at the text and write down ideas and notes relative to their assigned roles.

The following are examples of student responses:

  • Connector # 1:  “This reminds me of my sister who protects me from trouble.”
  • Connector # 2:  “I am competitive and so is the character in the story.”
  • Visualizer: # 1  “I picture an adult and a child.  I see big brother Raymond and Squeeky running.”
  • Visualizer # 2:  (Draws a picture of two people running on grass)  “Sister and brother are running.”
  • Predictor # 1:  “I think/guess she is going to talk about her brother.”
  • Predictor # 2:   “I think Raymond is preparing for a Spelling Bee.”
  • Summarizer:  “The little sister is running, doing breathing exercises, watching Raymond and doing the Spelling Bee.”
  • Vocabulary Master # 1:  My word is subject.  It means on page 22 –likely to, tendency toward.
  • Vocabulary Master # 2:  My word is mind.  On page 21 it means to take care of.  My other word is prodigy:  A genius or great ability.
  • Questioner:  “I wonder how old Raymond is?”

As students played their roles, the teachers asked questions to push for greater specificity and details.


Leaving comments and/or questions for Carnella Johnson and students is one way to show appreciation to them for sharing this lesson with you.



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