What Makes You Say That?


“What makes you say that?”……4 powerful words that can change the learning culture of your classroom.

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karen Morrison is full of strategies that will allow visible thinking to become a part of your classroom culture.

Beginning with the simple phrase, “what makes you say that?”, the authors encourage educators to dig-deeper into the thinking process of their students. Imagine what we can learn about our students, by simply giving pause and asking that question?

Their advice to educators is to select a routine of visible thinking that works for them and introduce to the classroom and consistently and persistently practice it. Over time, the teacher will be able to modify the direction of the learning as needed and the students will become more independent in making their thinking visible because it is in the “thinking” that the learning occurs (David Perkins, Smart School 1992).

As the e-Learning Contact (eLC) for my Board, I was viewing the thinking routines as to how they would engage students in an uniquely online environment where classroom culture, community and visible thinking are so much more difficult to achieve. The thinking routines lend themselves to the environment well, as sound classroom practice is sound classroom practice, regardless of the environment.

Some of the strategies I thought would lend themselves to building community and visible thinking in the #vLE are:

Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate: Concept Maps (easily supported and shared using Mindomo in the vLE) p. 125

Students generate their own list of ideas and concepts and , sort the ideas and make connections to the main concept.

Compass Points (p.93)

E=Excitements (What excites you about the idea?)

W=Worries (What do you find worrisome about the idea?)

N= Needs (What else do you need to know or find out about the idea?)

S=Stance/Suggestions (What is your current stance or opinion on the idea?)

Tug-of-War (p.199)

Have students generate the reasons  (tugs) to support each end of the rope(position) on sticky notes. Students organize the arguments based on the strength of the argument/evidence on sticky notes and place along the “rope”, keeping in mind that the stronger arguments  provide the anchor for the position.

Headlines (p. 111)

Students create headlines for what they believe the main concept or key ideas about a topic are. Students must be able to succinctly summarize the key points and the various headlines generated can be grouped together, by the class as a whole, thematically. This task is quick routine to use and is easily supported by such online tools as Padlet.

The idea behind implementing the learning routines into the classroom is to transfer the learning from teacher driven to student centred. When the visible learning moves from a singular experience to a group experience it has an even more profound impact on the learning culture of a classroom. “…what we are to achieve as a group by way of problem solving, decision making, and understanding is usually far greater than what can be achieved by the individual alone.” (Ritchart, Church and Morrison, Making Thinking Visible, 220).

I recently had the opportunity to attend #eLC #Learning Days (#ltelt15) in Cornwall, ON and experience the power of collaboration. e-Learning Ontario has begun the practice of honouring our learning needs by providing us with Open Space time to meet our professional learning needs. During this session, I posed the question, “how can we make online courses more engaging?” As one eLC in one board, I don’t have all the answers, but in coming together to generate ideas and share our best practices and by making this thinking visible, we were able to support one another and hopefully improve the e-Learning experiences for all of our students. The power of collaboration is indeed, powerful.

#eLC collaboration at its finest:

photo (11)


So… the next time you are involved in a conversation and truly want to enrich your learning, start by asking, “what makes you say that?”……


“The smartest person in the room is the room”-David Weinberger


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