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English Language Arts Blog

The home of Vocab Gal and other educational experts K–12 resources

March 22, 2016 CL Teaching Strategies Pro Reads, ELA PD - Literacy, ELA PD - Thinking Routines, ELA K-5, ELA Focus - Reading, ELA Resources - Graphic Organizers, Core Literacy

Think–Puzzle–Explore Visible Thinking Routine; A Professional Development Series

Attention all principals and teachers! Today is the third post in my ongoing professional development series that highlights the 'thinking routines' from the book Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison. If you aren't familiar with my previous posts discussing this book, click here!

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: Think–Puzzle–Explore

This month I’m highlighting the Think–Puzzle–Explore visible thinking routine. This visible thinking routine stems from the well-known classroom routine KWL (Know–Want to know–Learned). Like a KWL, this thinking routine provides teachers with a snapshot of what students may already know about a topic. The difference between a Think–Puzzle–Explore routine and a KWL is that students focus more on the inquiry or the process that they might follow to obtain information about the topic or subject. In addition, the language of the visible thinking prompt encourages students to take more risks with their thinking.

Introducing the Think–Puzzle–Explore Thinking Routine

Tell your students to think about the topic or subject you have just presented. Ask them:

  • What do you think you know about this topic?

  • What questions or puzzles do you have about this topic?

  • How might you explore the puzzles we have around this topic?

A Printable Graphic Organizer



I often start a nonfiction unit or lesson with the Think–Puzzle–Explore Graphic Organizer (available for download). Usually, I give students an opportunity to independently complete the graphic organizer and then we share their results in small groups or as a class. The think section lets students collect and organize their thoughts about the topic. When we share, students then have a chance to build on each other’s ideas. The puzzle section allows students to think about what they are personally interested in learning more about that subject. The explore section gets them thinking about possible resources and ways to gather information.

I have found that this thinking routine encourages students to participate more and to take more risks in my classroom. My students are taking more ownership for their learning and the process of gathering and analyzing information. Download the Think-Puzzle-Explore Graphic Organizer to use with your students and see what a difference it can make in your classroom.






See–Think–Wonder Graphic Organizer



Zoom In Thinking Routine



Making Thinking Visible Strategies

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