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:

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. 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 blog at  “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

 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 

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.



Jun 03

Anne Martinez Uses Modified Zoom-In Routine in Grade 3 Social Studies

Notice how Anne Martinez modified the Zoom-In routine so it fit the purpose of the lesson and helped students realize the intended outcomes.  Also notice how Mx. Martinez scaffold and questioned students to help them do concise thinking and provide evidence for their conclusions.

Anne Martinez and Students use Modified Zoom-In

Grade 3 Social Studies

Pine Knob Elementary, Clarkston  4.2.14   

Pine Knob Elementary Background Information: Pine Knob is a Title I school with 500 students, an experienced staff and strong MEAP scores.  There are 19 classrooms with an average of three sections for each grade level.  Special education and resource room staff and students are involved in CoT as classrooms and through mainstreaming.  Pine Knob has two Title I teachers and aides for reading and math.

Modified Zoom-In Routine:  As designed, this routine has three steps where learners observe more of the same image as they Zoom-In closer.   In this third-grade classroom, Anne Martinez decided to show students ten different images that gave different clues to help them construct a theory about how life was changing for Native Americans when the French arrived in Michigan.  Each image added significantly to the meaning of the previous images and challenged students to think in new ways.  This process enabled them to understand that it is okay to change their thinking, and it is important to be open-minded and flexible in one’s thinking.  Students acted as detectives as they constructed meaning individually and collectively.

 Lesson Goal:  Develop a theory or hypothesis about how life was changing for the Native Americans in Michigan around the year 1620 with the arrival of the French.

 Prior to tour lesson:  Students were familiar with Zoom-In and had used it in other  grades.  The class is currently studying a unit on Michigan history where they use primary and secondary sources of information.  They apply historical thinking skills to study Native Americans in Michigan, exploration and early settlers.   They are about to wrap up their study of Native Americans and shift the focus to the French arriving in Michigan and the beginning of the fur trade.

In preparation for using this modified Zoom-In routine, Anne Martinez selected 10 different pictures that would provide increasingly more information about the changes Native Americans were experiencing.  She also prepared a Zoom-In template (see the section on student responses) that would help guide student thinking using this modified routine.

During the tour lesson/What the teacher did:  Students were seated on the carpet as Mrs. Martinez introduced the lesson.   She told students the focus of the lesson was on the question:  “How does life change for Native Americans around 1620?”  She informed them that they would be using a modified Zoom-In routine that would help them think about what came next in Michigan history.  She checked to make sure all students were familiar with Zoom-In.   To activate prior knowledge, she reminded students that up to this time, Native Americans had a simple life and asked students to give evidence of this.  Next, she told students that the lives of the Native Americans were going to suddenly change, but she was not going to tell them what the changes would be.  They were going to discover this as they used Zoom-In to guide their thinking and deepen their understanding.

To help students understand the modified Zoom-In, she likened the ten different images to different pieces of a puzzle.  She demonstrated by holding up several different pieces of a puzzle (one piece at a time) and asking what they saw.  Then she asked them to think about putting the pieces together and guess what the full picture of the puzzle might be.   Students made suggestions about different animals and then she showed the picture of a dog and cat.

Next, Ms. Martinez began to show the picture clues allowing enough time for students to view  and think about each.  She told students to use the template and write down what they noticed and what they think is happening in the picture.  (See student responses below)  She emphasized the importance of the second part, e.g. their thinking about what is happening.   As students worked, she walked around the classroom helping students clarify their thinking and responses by asking questions like:   “Who do you mean by people?  Where did they come from?  What still does not make sense after seeing this image?

 Examples of what students did and said to show thinking and understanding:


How has life changed for Native Americans in Michigan?

What happened around the year 1620?

What do you see or notice? Student Responses:  What are you thinking?
Image # 1: Several Native Americans talking with wigwam in background. All gathering for a meetingThey are eating a meal.
Images # 2-4:  Beaver Pelts drying on nets They killed too many other animals so they have to use something different for clothes.It is getting cold so they need more pelts.
Images # 5-7:  Pot boiling, gun, axe Settlers brought these.Started trading pelts for these items.Using these things for survival.
Images # 8-9:  Fur top hat, Well-dressed colonial woman with fur cape and purse. Settlers traded items for pelts. They used the pelts to make the purse, cape and hat.
Image # 10 A trading post with Indians and Settlers looking and talking about pelts Native Americans are trading pelts for things the settlers brought.
What do you think you know about what happened around the year 1620?(In this section, each student will construct his/her own theory about what is happening at this time.  Students were instructed to put together their thinking about all 10 images.)
What questions/wonderings do you still have?  What is not making sense for you?   (Student responses to this will help the teacher identify misconceptions and gaps in understanding.  This is important information for instruction that follows this lesson.)

 After the Lesson/Q&A with Anne Martinez: All observers were impressed with the thinking and student engagement in the task. They expressed appreciation to Ms. Martinez for sharing her lesson and classroom for this purpose.   The following is a summary of the discussion that followed:

Q:  Have your students had their field trip to Lansing?

A:  No.  This class will be taking the third-grade field trip to Lansing soon.  This will be the first year that students will have this kind of background for understanding the Native American part of that trip.

Q:  There is definitely a thinking culture in your classroom.  Do you do VT all the time?

A:  Yes and No.  When I started using the routines, I used them most of the time.  This was one way to become acquainted with them  and use them as designed.  When I became more comfortable, I started to combine them to meet my instructional purposes.  I asked:  “What thinking do I want?”   Inquiry becomes messier as a lesson evolves and I keep seeing more ways to modify a routine so I get the thinking that is at the heart of the lesson.

Q:  When you started using VT, did you focus on certain routines and how did you make it purposeful?

A:  As a school we decided to all do See-Think-Wonder and participate in the Making Thinking Visible book talk.  That is the way we began.  Even now I have not done all the routines.  It is a good idea to focus on two or three when you start.  At Pine Knob the expectation is that the routines and the language is being used.  You will find that inquiry can be messy at times but the routines help to give it structure.  We also use our walls and displays to teach.

Q:  What did you learn about your students today by using Zoom-In?

A:  I could identify misconceptions that will need to be addressed.  I also recognized that some students were struggling at the end to synthesize all ten clues into a theory of their own.  They tended to think about just one picture at a time.  I will do a mini lesson on the fur trade to help them put this all together.

Q:  How do you grade the work?

A:  I will not give the work they did today a grade.  This is formative and its purpose is to give me information to inform my instruction.  I will give them feedback on their work.

Q:  Do you ever use the routines as an assessment?

A:  Yes.  For example, I have used CSI when doing a character study.

Your comments and/or questions are ways of showing appreciation to  Ms. Martinez and her students for sharing this lesson with you.






Apr 30

Laura Duff Applies Sentence-Phrase-Word in Middle School ELA

Laura Duff and Students Apply Sentence-Phrase-Word

Grade 6 ELA, Reuther Middle School

Rochester Hills   (3-25-14) 

 Visual Thinking Routine:  Sentence-Phrase-Word was modified to Sentence-Word and applied to begin a unit on Personal Narratives.   The purpose of this routine is to help learners engage with and make meaning from text with a particular focus on capturing the essence of the text or “what speaks to you.”  The power of the routine lies in the discussion of why a particular word, phrase or sentence stood out for each student.   Learners are asked to justify their choices and in doing so they set the foundation for considering themes, predictions, implications and conclusions.

 Goal of Lesson or Unit & Teaching Points:  Students will determine the structure and characteristics of a personal narrative.

  • Answer the question:  What is a personal narrative?
  • Interact with a text from a primary source as one form of informational text.
  • Use text support to make inferences about the structure and characteristics of a personal narrative.
  • Participate in Sentence-Word thinking to capture the heart and focus of the main idea of the text.
  • Work with a partner or small group to discuss the choice of each by finding or providing supporting details.

 Before the CoT Tour Lesson:  This lesson was an introduction to the unit on writing a personal narrative.  Students had used this routine before and were comfortable using it.

During the CoT Tour Lesson: Students were seated in groups of 4 or 5 at tables and each had a copy of two informational handouts/articles on personal narratives: 1) “Tips for Writing a Personal Narrative” and 2) “Writing Well—Life Line:  Personal Narratives.”  The first handout gave examples and suggested a process for writing a personal story.  The second contained information about the purpose and audience, structure, methods, dialogue, point of view, tense and tone of the writing.  Each student also had a Sentence-Word template. (See next section for an example)

Ms. Duff instructed the students to work independently while reading the two articles and finding the sentence and word that stood out for each of them.  She pointed out the importance of defending their choices using the  “WHY” section of the template.  After a designated amount of time, she asked students to share their choices and reasons with members of their group.  She gave each group two sticky notes and instructed them to come to consensus on a Sentence and Word.   As students worked, she circulated among the groups and asked questions like “What makes you chose that?”  “What focus or vantage point does that word/sentence give you?”   “I wonder what it means to write in a reflective mode.”

As groups completed this part of the task, she asked representatives to bring notebooks and notes to the workshop center at the front of the room and post their group choices on a chart.  Next, Ms. Duff posted the question:  “How can we define a personal narrative?” and a class discussion ensued using the information on the chart.   Students made inferences like “It is nonfiction writing about your own life.” “It is writing in the first person.” ,  “You write  your own ideas about you.”  “You write in a reflective mode.”

Example of template and student-chosen key sentences with supporting sentences or ideas that captured the heart of the informational text.

Sentence—Phrase—Word   Text Title/Pages __________________________________
SentenceIdentify a sentence from the text that is meaningful to you and helped you gain deeper understanding. Examples of Responses: 

1. Let the reader see, hear, smell, feel, and taste the experience directly.


2. Show, Don’t Tell.


Showing is harder than telling.


3.  The three most common structures are:  chronological approach, flashback sequence and reflective mode.





WordIdentify a word from the text that has either captured your attention or struck you as powerful. Examples of Responses: 

1. Relate


2. Capture


3. Experience


4. Flashback/sequence


Why did you choose this sentence?

  1. Makes the story more interesting and suspenseful.
  2. Tells you what you have to do for the reader to understand your narrative.
  3. It is important how you put the paragraphs together.







Why did you choose this word? 1. You are trying to relate a part of your life. 

2. You need to capture interest.


3. You are telling about an experience.


4.  You are thinking back over your life experiences and relating them.

After the Lesson:   After digging through their sentence-word observations to construct a definition of “narrative text”, we linked the new information to our prior knowledge.   Specifically, we thought about how plot structure and theme correlated to narrative texts.  Just as the definition was student generated, so were their connections to prior knowledge.

In the following days the students wrote their own personal narratives.

Please leave a comment, suggestion or question for Laura Duff.

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