Last month I had the honor of working with our local NEISD librarians during a PD on one of the newer Visible Thinking Routines, “The Story Routine: Main–Side–Hidden.” Visible Thinking Routines appear frequently on my blog because I really believe in the way they help teachers to facilitate rich discussions among their students. These routines, compiled by Harvard’s Project Zero research team, are detailed in two books (see image links) and on several websites, including this one.
“The Story Routine” appears in the most recent book, The Power of Making Thinking Visible, by Ron Ritchart and Mark Church. The purpose of the routine is to analyze events, photos, stories, documents, etc… by constructing a story beyond the obvious. The routine can be applied to fiction, non-fiction, data in math, primary sources in history, and many other situations. There is even an example in the book where a counselor uses the routine with a young boy who is having trouble at home.
“The Story Routine” may have different prompts depending on the context. Some examples are:
- “What is the main message of this story?” (What does the author want you to think?)
- “What is a side message of this story?” (Maybe something not as important, but still something the author wants to get across)
- “What is a hidden theme in this story?” (Maybe something that contributes to the theme but is never actually mentioned)
- “What is the main message of this graph?” (What information does the graph give you?”)
- “What is a side message of this graph?” (Maybe how does this graph fit into a larger context?”)
- “What is a hidden message in this graph? (Maybe what are some unspoken contributing factors that could have skewed or contributed to the graph’s meaning?)
There are endless possibilities, and you can adapt it to different ages, abilities, and topics. The point is that you want students to make inferences, look at things from other perspectives, and apply a systems thinking outlook that acknowledges that nothing exists in a vacuum. Peer discussions are critical and it is also essential to accept multiple answers as long as students can support them. For those of you who use Socratic Dialogues in your classrooms, this routine would work very well. Otherwise, whole class and small group conversations can be used.
I made a few different digital templates for the PD that I did, and I thought I would share one with you here. You could certainly use it for other things besides this Visible Thinking Routine, but I designed it as a Google Slides presentation that could be used in groups in your classroom and then presented to the whole class with the fun interactivity of using a magnifying glass at the end to display the “hidden” message.
It’s impossible to explain the routine in depth in a short blog post, so I encourage you to read the unit in the book. If that isn’t feasible, Alice Vigors does a good job of offering examples here, and, of course I’d be happy to do a PD for your district or group on it;) I’ve also started a new Wakelet collection where you can find my other Visible Thinking blog posts, many of which have downloadable templates.