I Used to Think..., But Now I think...
A routine for reflecting on how and why our thinking has changed

Remind students of the topic you want them to consider. It
could be the ideal itself--fairness, truth, understanding, or
creativity--or it could be the unit you are studying. Have
students write a response using each of the sentence stems:

  • I used to think...
  • But now, I think...

Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
This routine helps students to reflect on their thinking about a topic or issue and explore how and why that thinking has changed. It can be useful in consolidating new learning as students identify their new understandings, opinions, and beliefs. By examining and explaining how and why their thinking has changed, students are developing their reasoning abilities and recognizing cause and effect relationships.

Application: When and Where can it be used?
This routine can be used whenever students’ initial thoughts, opinions, or beliefs are likely to have changed as a result of instruction or experience. For instance, after reading new
information, watching a film, listening to a speaker, experiencing something new, having a class discussion, at the end of a unit of study, and so on.

Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?
Explain to students that the purpose of this activity is to help them reflect on their thinking
about the topic and to identify how their ideas have changed over time. For instance:

When we began this study of ________, you all had some initial ideas about it and what it was all about. In just a few sentences, I want to write what it is that you used to think about
_________. Take a minute to think back and then write down your response to “ I used to

Now, I want you to think about how your ideas about __________ have changed as a result of what we’ve been studying/doing/discussing. Again in just a few sentences write down what you now think about ___________. Start your sentences with, “But now, I think…”

Have students share and explain their shifts in thinking. Initially it is good to do this as a whole group so that you can probe students’ thinking and push them to explain. Once students become accustomed to explaining their thinking, students can share with one another in small groups or pairs.