Today I’m continuing the Professional Development series about how principals, school leaders, and teachers can implement thinking routines in schools. This article outlines how educators can use the Compass PointsThinking Routine to engage students in visible thinking.
Here is a brief synopsis of the text: Beginning at Harvard's Project Zero, Visible Thinking is a research-based approach to teaching students' thinking skills. Visible Thinking is about teaching students thinking "routines" to improve thinking and comprehension abilities. By making thinking visible students can discuss and reflect on their own thinking, as well as, the thinking of their peers. Through reflective thinking and discourse, deeper understanding of the topic or subject should increase.
To learn more about how I got started using Making Thinking Visible, read the first article in this professional development series.
How Teachers Can Use Visible Thinking Routines
If you are a teacher, each individual visible thinking routine will help your students deepen their comprehension. The book divides the “thinking routines” into three categories:
1. Routines for Introducing and Exploring Ideas
2. Routines for Synthesizing and Organizing Ideas
3. Routines for Digging Deeper into Ideas
There are 21 “thinking routines” suggested in the book, with seven in each of the three categories. Every month I will highlight a visible thinking routine from Making Thinking Visible and how I have used it with my classes.
How Principals Can Use Visible Thinking Routines
If you are a principal, this text would be a great choice for a school-wide professional book study and/or a staff development project. Not only would you provide your staff with an invaluable resource, you will most likely increase the level of thinking within the student body. Here's how it will benefit you personally:
As you do school walk-throughs or observations, Making Thinking Visible will give you something to target as you enter classrooms.
By focusing on the “thinking routines” you should find that your teachers observations are easier, because the staff will know what is expected of them.
It will also help you provide feedback to your staff as you focus specifically on the “thinking routines.”
Thinking Routine of the Month: Compass Points
The purpose of the Compass Points Thinking Routine is for learners to consider a topic from different perspectives. This routine will help students explore the various sides of an idea before taking a stand and expressing an opinon. Its focus is on the 'decision' making process. Compass Points has students exploring the pluses and minuses about the topic to decide areas where more information is needed, rather than just having students make a pro and con chart about a topic. By having students figure out what excites them, worries them and what information they need to collect about a topic they can then 'decide' on how to proceed with the steps necessary for gathering the information.
Compass Points can be used in a variety of ways. Most often it is used when there is a problem or different points of view around a particular topic. It is not for debating, but instead looking at a topic and exploring all its propositions.
Introducing the Compass Points Thinking Routine to Students
This is how the Compass Points Thinking Routine works:
Think about the topic, proposal or question by answering the question(s) at each compass point.
E- Excitements. What excites you about the topic? What is the upside?
W- Worries. What worries you about the topic? What is the downside?
N- Needs. What do you need to know or find out about this topic?
S- Stance, Steps, or Suggestions. What is your current stance on the topic? What should your next steps be to evaluate the topic? What suggestions do you have at this point?
Compass Points Worksheet
The book suggests teachers hang four pieces of poster paper (one for each compass point) up in the classroom, and then students are given sticky notes to write their answers to the questions on each compass point. I also like to give my students a Compass Points worksheet to help students organize their thinking before putting their thoughts on the chart paper.