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Fall Blog Series - Part 6

Fall Blog Series!

Week Six

By Kimberley Hackman

As we head further into the fall season and beyond the “back to school” phase, this is the perfect time to replenish our gifted educational resource base! The fall months are often when we are finishing gifted assessments, introducing parents to the world of gifted, and even assisting teachers with gifted differentiation. Each post in this Fall Blog Series will touch on an important topic that is hopefully relevant to your environment, and can be implemented right away!

Topic: Top TEN Thinking Routines recommended by Harvard University and FREE resources to differentiate instruction!

To Ponder: “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” - Albert Einstein


Harvard has done the research and evidence points to TEN thinking routines to deepen students’ thinking! Their Thinking Routines Toolbox is an incredible resource for parents and teachers … and it is FREE!!

Project Zero’s Mission

Project Zero’s mission is to “understand and nurture human potentials –such as learning, thinking, ethics, intelligence and creativity –in all human beings… Today Project Zero is an intellectual wellspring, nourishing inquiry into the complexity of human potentials and exploring sustainable ways to support them across multiple and diverse cultural contexts. Anchored in the arts and humanities, and with a commitment to melding theory and practice, we continue to work toward more enlightened educational processes and systems that support learners, individually and in community, to thrive in, reflect on, contribute to, and change the world in which they will live.”

A thinking routine is a set of questions or a brief sequence of steps used to scaffold and support student thinking. PZ researchers designed thinking routines to deepen students’ thinking and to help make that thinking “visible.” Thinking routines help to reveal students’ thinking to the teacher and also help students themselves to notice and name particular “thinking moves,” making those moves more available and useful to them in other contexts.

According to Project Zero, Visible Thinking is a “flexible and systematic research-based conceptual framework, which aims to integrate the development of students' thinking with content learning across subject matters…It has since expanded its focus to include an emphasis on thinking through art and the role of cultural forces.”

Watch a video on Visible Thinking here: PZ Thinking Routines on Vimeo

Project Zero has defined 10 Types of Thinking, each with links to PDFs on how to scaffold this type of thinking with students. The PDF is organized with information on the purpose, application, and how to launch it.

CORE THINKING ROUTINES are a great place to start for beginners. These are simple routines applicable across disciplines, topics, and age groups, and can be used at multiple points throughout a learning experience or unit of study.

Let’s look at one example on their website of a Core Thinking Routine

Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage? This routine helps students connect new ideas to those they know and encourages them to reflect upon how they have extended their thinking as a result of what they are learning about or experiencing.

Application: When and where can I use it? Use this routine when you want students to make explicit connections to something previously learned or experienced. Since it is designed to help students process new information actively, it works well as the conclusion to lessons in which students have been reading, watching videos, or otherwise taking in new information. Another approach is to use the routine to close the discussion of a topic or unit of study in order to help students synthesize the information. Some questions you might consider in your planning: Are there connections to be made between this content and what students already know? Will students be engaging with new information that they might find challenging?

Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine? This routine works well with the whole class, in small groups, or individually. If you are using it in a group discussion, ask students to share their thoughts. As you process each step of the routine, document their comments either in a public space for all to see or in your own notes. If students are working individually, they could document their responses in a journal or in a way that can be displayed in class.

Other types of Visible Thinking include:


Sample Lesson

See, Think, Me, We: A Routine for Connecting to the Bigger Picture

After reading the book The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, we will focus on the artwork of Kadir Nelson. He is a 2020 Caldecott Medal winner, a two-time Caldecott Medal Honor in 2007 and 2008, and Coretta Scott King Award winner and honor artist.

Art: Family Tree by Kadir Nelson


A Viewing Move is a collection of strategies for sustaining and deepening the process of close looking. Using one of the Viewing Moves, students will ‘Make a List’ by noticing as much as they can independently. The teacher will ask them to notice the environment the work is in, the setting, the colors, the characters. This is an extension of the Viewing Move ‘Notice Yourself.’ Then working with a partner they will share their list and add to it in ‘List – Pair - Share.’


As a class, students will share their thoughts as the teacher directs the discussion by asking questions such as “What is going on in the work? What might the artist be trying to show? What makes you say that?”


The teacher will ask students to make personal connections to Kadir Nelson’s art. Beginning with a writing activity, students will ‘THINK-WRITE-SHARE’ and then discuss as a whole class. The teacher will use Dialogue Moves such as ‘Connect, Build on, Ask questions, and Name.’ These Dialogue Moves help students connect their point of view to Kadir Nelson’s artwork. Students will be challenged to support their thinking by answering questions such as “Can you say more about that? What was that like for you? What makes you say that?


In the final step, students will make connections bigger than their own personal stories. As a class, we will connect the art to ideas beyond our classroom. Particular focus will be on larger themes of human experience. The teacher continues to use Dialogue Moves to challenge students to new perspectives. The move ‘Find New POVs’ and ‘Push Beyond’ can be helpful to encourage students to listen to others’ perspectives and build-on to support those new POVs with evidence and creative ideas of their own.

Art: After the Storm by Kadir Nelson

Additional Resources:

Creating Cultures of Thinking

To Extend:

Has anyone used these Thinking Routines before? Were they helpful? What differences did you notice in the quality of conversations and connections made in the learning taking place?

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