Visible Thinking

I find it really exciting to walk into a room – even when the students and teachers are not there – and be able to get a real sense of what the students of that class are thinking about, and how they are thinking. Recently, when walking around NIST, I was really impressed by the amount of visible thinking I found, and the variety of ways that teachers are “extracting” that thinking from their students and then displaying it so that the walls do actually speak.

How wonderful for students to be immersed in their own thoughts, interacting with displays and surrounded by relevance at all times!

What visible thinking strategies have worked well for you?



  1. whatedsaid

    Many of our teachers have class blogs now and it’s exciting to see the thinking there (some are modelled on the brilliant Year 6 at NIST blog!). There is less on the walls as a result. What do you think?

    • Mr. Sam

      I see your point, Ed! However, I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. For example, I might collect my students’ initial reactions to a provocation using a visible thinking strategy, but then get them to expand on their thinking as a homework task later using the blog. I don’t often get kids feeding into the class blog during time in the classroom, to be honest, as I prefer to use it as a way to encourage students to continue thinking about things outside of school.

  2. Gareth Jacobson

    In my experience, showing children that you value their thinking opens up a whole new dimension to teaching and learning. One of the most powerful things about visible thinking for me is the way it can shape the direction of student inquiry, this is something I am encouraging teachers in my new school to explore. Similar to web 2.0 learning experiences, it can have unpredictable and amazing repercussions on the learner. For example, displaying students thinking can provoke impromptu discussions and connections that go beyond the initial activity – it is truly one of the most interactive forms of display, so in this sense it needs to be on the walls of the classroom. From a teaching perspective, it can play a significant role in formative assessment by providing a relevant and timely focus for feedback.

    • Mr. Sam

      Thanks for the comment, Gareth. You’re right about the impromptu, and often unexpected, discussions and connections that can come about purely because the students’ thinking is right there in front of you. I love the way the thinking “stays in the room” instead of disappearing into thin air!

  3. Nora

    Thank you for posting this video. It gives us a glimpse on the many great learning experiences that are happening in the school. Making thinking visible is a powerful feedback for teachers and students when used as a vehicle for extending learning and building on ideas as well as allowing for different perspectives.

    Among the visible thinking routines that we enjoy in our class is “See, think, wonder” and ‘I used to think, now I think”. The first routine is great for helping students observe, think and be able to articulate what they have in mind. It is useful to build on inquiry and extend it. The latter is great for on going reflection.

  4. James Forsythe

    Hi There,

    Love the Video. I showed it to my team down here at Phuket International Academy. I’m hoping my team buys into the concept. I know the G’2’s and their Art teacher are off to Phuket Town, a temple as well as a beach next week. They are taking with them the “See, Think, Wonder” strategy. They see this strategy as a meaningful means to make their UOI transdisiplinary.

    I’m in the middle of a UOI based on learning styles and learning needs. My walls are covered with many many wonderful thoughts. At some point I will share your video with my class, but first want to let them create their own thinking space without influence.

    Thanks so much for sharing.
    James Forsythe

    • Mr. Sam

      Hi James, thanks for your comments. The trip to phuket town sounds good. What is the central idea for those kids at the moment? I love the sound of what’s going on in your classroom. Can you take some pictures for us?

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