Introduction to Thinking Routines

Visible Thinking makes extensive use of learning routines that are thinking rich. These routines are simple structures, for example a set of questions or a short sequence of steps, that can be used across various grade levels and content. What makes them routines, versus merely strategies, is that they get used over and over again in the classroom so that they become part of the fabric of classroom' culture. The routines become the ways in which students go about the process of learning.

Thinking routines form the core of the Visible Thinking program. What makes these routines work to promote the development of a students thinking and the classroom culture are that each routine:

  • Is goal oriented in that it targets specific types of thinking
  • Gets used over and over again in the classroom
  • Consists of only a few steps
  • Is easy to learn and teach
  • Is easy to support when students are engaged in the routine
  • Can be used across a variety of context
  • Can be used by the group or by the individual

Routines are really just patterns of action that can be integrated and used in a variety of contexts. You might even use more than one routine in teaching a single lesson. Thus, you shouldn't think about the routine as taking time away from anything else you are doing, they should actually enhance what you are trying to do in the classroom.

Focus on Integration with Existing Content

Because the module consists mostly of routines, it is necessary for the teacher to bring appropriate content to the routine. Because of their simple nature, the routines do not need to be taught but can simply be used as a means of investigating and working with existing subject matter. Nonetheless, when teachers first introduce a routine he or she may choose to do so with one of the suggested topics or a topic that may not be a regular part of students' study. For example, the "What makes you say that?" routine might be introduced with an engaging picture or photograph, though later a teacher might want to use it with a poem, artifact, or scientific experiment. With all of the routines, teachers will need to think about what topics are most appropriate for their introduction and continued use.