May 13

Through My Eyes with CSI

While on a CoT tour at Bemis Elementary, I watched on as Gayle Spiteri, grade 2 teacher used the CSI routine in language arts lesson.  This is a summary of my visit.


Grade 2 Language Arts

Gayle Spiteri, Bemis Elementary

Routine:   CSI (Color, Symbol, Image) applied in a language arts read-aloud experience using the story Through My Eyes, a book about Ruby Bridges.   Ruby Nell Bridges Hall is known as the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South. She attended William Frantz Elementary School at 3811 North Galvez Street, New Orleans, LA.

Teaching Points:

  • Engage in a thinking experience that compliments and/or lays a foundation for the routines of See, Think, Wonder (describing, interpreting and wondering) & Step Inside (step into a position and take the perspective of another character/person).
  • Identify and determine the essential ideas and themes from the text by watching and listening.
  • Represent essential ideas and themes in non-verbal ways using CSI  (a color, a symbol and an image).
  • Provide a structure to engage students in connecting something new to something they already know by identifying similarities and making comparisons.
  • Enhance comprehension and lay a foundation for engaging in metaphorical thinking in later grades.

Prior to tour visit:  Students were learning about the Civil Rights Movement.  They were familiar with the CSI Routine that asks students to think of three big ideas and important themes from the reading.  Next, each student is asked to represent the essence of his/her chosen big ideas by using a color, a symbol and an image.  As students create and share these non-verbal representations, they engage in synthesis thinking and deepen their understanding and comprehension of the text.

During the tour visit:  The students were seated on a carpet and listened while the teacher read the story.  During the reading, the teacher modeled the CSI routine with the whole group before they began their independent work.  She asked the students to focus on Ruby’s experience in the story and had them recount some of them. Then she asked students to think of a color that would represent her experiences.  Examples of responses included “orange for bravery”, “red for being happy, etc.  The teacher followed up with “What makes you think she was brave or happy?  She then asked students to close their eyes and think of an image that captured Ruby’s experience in the story.  She invited all the students to “hold up your camera and take a picture of your image.”  Since symbols are abstract for second-grade students, the teacher showed them some examples.  She scaffold their learning by giving them a sheet with a variety of symbols from which they could pick to symbolize Ruby’s experience.   The students returned to their seats to complete a worksheet with CSI boxes and space to write, “what makes me think that” after each box.

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

When talking with the students about their work, they revealed insights and thinking that went beyond the obvious.  Two examples of this deeper thinking are as follows:  1) One student chose “red” for his color because it showed that she was happy on the outside but sad on the inside.  He explained that she was happy because she got to go to the school close to her home but she was sad because all the other kids left when she came to the school. 2) Another student drew a picture of Ruby with her hands in a prayer position by a green object (I thought it was a gem or stone). When I asked him to tell me about his image, he said Ruby was praying by a bush and forgiving those who had been mean to her.  Students found the symbol sheet to be very useful.  Their explanations of why they chose a particular symbol, like the color and image reasoning, showed that they were connecting Ruby’s feelings and experiences to something they already knew, e.g. their own feelings and experiences.  They were able to Step Inside her world for a few brief moments and see things from her point of view.

Examples of what the teacher did and said to show thinking and understanding:  The teacher’s use of “What makes you think that” resulted in deeper thinking and learning on the part of the students. After probing one student’s contributions, she said, “I can see your thinking”, e.g. communicating that the students was making his thinking visible.  Helping students to imagine themselves using a camera to take a picture of their image made this part of the routine more concrete for second graders.  Providing the students with the page of symbols was a great way to scaffold them at this age since symbols are abstract in nature and not a concept that is in their daily experience.  She also required the student to complete the color and symbol sections before the image section.  She had learned that unless they completed the color and symbol sections first, they would get very involved in the drawing of the image/picture and run out of time to complete all three parts.

Post-Visit Conversation: The observing teachers asked what other routines the demonstration teacher had found appropriate for second graders. They wanted to know what she had used and how she had implemented them.  She shared that she used the Step Inside routine to get students ready of CSI.  She used this in a weather unit and an author unit.  She also found the 10X2 and See-Think-Wonder routines appropriate and had used them in social studies and science. There was consensus in the group that the CSI routine helps student-learning progress from the concrete to semi-abstract to abstract and moves student thinking from information to comprehension to the generating of deeper insights.  Modeling by the teacher helped to build the academic confidence of students who may have been more hesitant to try new things or risk new learning.



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  1. Jean

    I agree. We know that we only deepen our learning through reflection. This is true for children and adults. We need to structure time for students and for ourselves to reflect. Thanks for sharing this insight.

  2. Jodee

    I wanted to thank you for posting the second grade thinking routine. We need more examples of how they are used in lower ele. I am a leader of CoT in my building and lower elementary is often requesting and searching for more examples of how teachers use the routines in lessons. Thanks!

  3. Jen McElya

    I really liked how the teacher in this lesson helped students work through how to complete a CSI. The idea of writing “what makes you say that?” at the bottom of the CSI will be very helpful too. I have not tried using a symbol sheet for children to choose from yet. I think that I will give it a try and see how it impacts how they answer the question for symbol. Thanks!!!

  4. Mary Reed

    Thank you for sharing this example of the CSI thinking routine used in the Ruby Bridges language arts lesson. I’d like to hear more examples of what the teacher did to elicit thinking and understanding from the students, in addition to asking “What makes you say that?” and acknowledging the student’s contributions by saying, “I can see your thinking.”

  5. Madeline

    As a fellow 2nd grade teacher, I appreciated reading about how other routines helped prepare the children to go from concrete to abstract thinking. It appeared that the instructor used other routines in sequence, is that correct? This was a detailed lesson and easily adaptable to other forms of literature. Thank you.

  6. DeeVee

    It is interesting to see how teachers are implementing Thinking Routines during their lessons. This teacher effectively used questions to elicit thinking from the students and modeled the behavior she expected. Using language to reinforce when a student is making their thinking visible will help the student continue to engage in deeper thinking.

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