picture of hand taking notes on a piece of paper
Critical Thinking, Depth and Complexity, K-12

+1 Routine for Retrieval Practice

Are you ready to try something that requires ZERO preparation in your classroom, something that scientific studies have shown will help your students to retain information? It’s called, “Retrieval Practice,” and you can read a fascinating article about it on Cult of Pedagogy, or listen to the podcast also linked on that page. Dr. Pooja Agarwal explains how retrieval practice works and its benefits. You can also go to Dr. Agarwal’s website for more resources here.

Here’s the thing: you’re probably already doing retrieval practice in your classroom. Quizzes, flashcards, study guides, etc… are all ways we ask students to remember something they learned. One problem is that we are usually using these as assessments (retrieval practice should never be graded, but feedback is good) instead of learning strategies. Another issue is that we are often “feeding” students the information instead of asking them to produce it. Also, we don’t do enough of it in spaced out intervals to help solidify the learning.

Here is the key reason effective retrieval practice works, according to the Retrieval Practice Guide which you can download from Dr. Agarwal’s site: “Struggling to learn – through the act of ‘practicing’ what you know and recalling information – is much more effective than re-reading, taking notes, or listening to lectures. Slower, effortful retrieval leads to long-term learning. In contrast, fast, easy strategies only lead to short-term learning.”

So, today I wanted to share one Visible Thinking Routine that will help you to do retrieval practice. It’s called the +1 Routine, and appears in The Power of Making Thinking Visible, by Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church.

Next time you are showing a video, giving a presentation, or just delivering a lesson, refrain from asking the students to take notes during that time. Instead, ask your students to do the following steps afterward. All they need is a blank piece of paper (or notebook page) and a writing utensil. Have them write their name at the top.

This routine has several benefits. First, students are encouraged to be present during the video, lesson, etc… instead of trying to multi-task by listening and writing at the same time. Second, this is a “slower” and “more effortful” way to recall information, so it has a better chance of ending up in their long-term memory. Third, they are collaborating, so they can take advantage of the “hive mind.” And finally, this is an opportunity to clear up misconceptions.

You can use this as an exit ticket (no grade, though) after the lesson, but it’s also important to space it out, repeating the exercise a few times over the next month or so leading to a summative assessment.

I recently tried this routine at a teacher workshop, and several teachers said they plan to use it with their own students. (By the way, sketch notes are encouraged, which really appeals to some of the creative students.) We giggled (in a nice, supportive way — let’s just say that I introduced the SDG’s, not STD’s) at some of the misconceptions, and it was such a great way, that took 15 minutes max, to close out the session.

For more on Visible Thinking Routines, I highly encourage you to purchase The Power of Making Thinking Visible, visit the Toolbox from Harvard’s Project Zero, and/or visit my Wakelet Collection of other blog posts and free templates.

3-12, Language Arts

Main Side Hidden Digital Template

In The Power of Making Thinking Visible (2020), Ron Ritchart and Mark Church detail what they call, “The Story Routine: Main, Side, Hidden.” I love how this routine really encourages inferencing and systems thinking because students not only discuss the main idea of the image or text they are analyzing, but the routine promotes critical thinking as the students delve deeper into connections and what may be directly and indirectly affecting what appears to be the obvious story. With appropriate scaffolding, the routine can be used with any grade level and any subject (though it may be a stretch to use it in math), though this digital template is best for 3rd grade and up.

I talked about this routine in detail in a post in March, and shared one of the templates I made for a PD on this routine for librarians. This summer, though, I happened to see a template from the one and only Paula at Slides Mania that would work perfectly for this routine. So, I asked her permission to use the template and share it with you. You can find her original template, “Top Secret,” here. (Please go to her link if you want to download the template for anything other than “The Story Routine.”) And here is a link to the version I modified to be used with “The Story Routine.”

Click here to access your copy of The Story Routine: Main, Side, Hidden Template

I have been collecting all of my resources for digital templates for Visible Thinking Routines in this Wakelet in case you want to see what I’ve posted in the past. If you’re not familiar with Visible Thinking Routines, I definitely recommend reading the book (also the first one in the series), visiting the website, and some of the other links I have in the Google Slides presentation.

The most important thing to remember, in my view, is that these routines are designed to encourage deeper thinking through discussion so, although some of us provide digital resources, they should not be done in isolation. The routines are also what I like to call, “self-differentiating activities” because, by default, they allow students to bring their own individual strengths to the conversations and feel valued.

So, bottom line – more value to the students with less prep time for the teachers. Win/win!

Books, Critical Thinking, K-12, Student Response

The Story Routine: Main–Side–Hidden

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.

Tug of War Thinking Routine
Critical Thinking, K-12, Teaching Tools

Tug of War

I want to start today’s post by thanking the NEISD GT teachers who attended yesterday’s after-school training. Many of them came even though they then needed to go back to other campuses to attend PTA meetings. Despite the extra long work day, their enthusiasm and cooperation were amazing. Yesterday’s session was, “Frameworks for Facilitating Deeper Discussions and Learning,” which you can read about on my Professional Development page.

One of the Visible Thinking Routines we practiced yesterday was “Tug of War.” We used an example from the original Making Thinking Visible book by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. In the “Picture of Practice” for this routine, Clair Taglauer, an 8th grade teacher from Traverse City, Michigan, describes how she used “Tug of War” with her students when they began reading The Giver. This is a book used with 5th graders by many of the GT teachers in my former district. The Giver, by Lois Lowry, describes a dystopian society where as much as possible is “the same” to avoid conflict. Taglauer asked her students to think about the concept of an ideal society from the two opposing sides represented in the book: sameness and diversity. With this routine, students generate arguments that support each side, and then post them along a rope. A key part of the second step is placement of the ideas along the rope. Instead of just hanging them on each side, groups also determine the strength of each argument and rank them so that what they believe to be the strongest supporting statements for each side are at the opposite ends of the rope, growing increasingly weaker toward the middle.

“Tug of War” helps students to not only look at more than one side of a dilemma, but also to note the varying layers of complexities and justify their arguments. It’s a good routine to use whenever it seems like students are jumping to conclusions, and you can have multiple ropes coming together at one point if there are several sides to consider.

You can see one example of the “Tug of War” the GT teachers did yesterday below. (Note for those of you not from Texas: HEB is our beloved grocery store!) You can learn more about this Visible Thinking Routine by reading the book I mentioned above, visiting the Project Zero website, or clicking here for some videos and a downloadable template. I’m working on a Wakelet collection of resources for Thinking Routines, but in the meantime you can click here to see some other posts that I’ve done about them.

Tug of War Visible Thinking Routine
“Tug of War” Visible Thinking Routine using The Giver
3-12, Teaching Tools

3-2-1 Bridge Slides Activity

Like last week’s “Peel the Fruit” activity adapted from Harvard’s Project Zero, 3-2-1 Bridge is another Visible Thinking Routine that I’ve used with my students to elicit deeper introspection and understanding of a topic. You can see my initial post on the routine here. 3-2-1 Bridge is similar to a K-W-L chart, but it requires higher order thinking. Students are given a topic, and write down 3 words it initially makes them think of, then two questions, and 1 simile or metaphor to describe it. After learning more, they go through this process again, and make a “bridge” connection between their first impressions and their later ones. You can see examples of how this routine can be used in the classroom on this website created by Alice Vigors.

For online learning, you could use the Slides activity I am sharing. I considered a few ways to use this. You could use slides 2-4 for backgrounds on a Google Jamboard for collaborative work or in a PearDeck or Nearpod presentation (once before they learn about the topic, and then after – with the addition of slide 5). Alternatively, you could take out slides 2-5, and then assign the activity to individual students or pairs to work on together. Either way, I think that it is good to do the reflection questions because metacognition is so important when using these routines.

If you are interested in more interactive slides activities, try visiting this post, and if you want more Visible Thinking Routines on Slides, be sure to visit the Peel the Fruit Slides Activity post.

K-12, Language Arts, Social Studies, Student Response, Teaching Tools

Peel the Fruit

UPDATE 9/29/2020: Here is a link to a post with a Google Slides Template for online learning using this routine.  The post also includes a link to a post by Dr. Catlin Tucker with 5 other Thinking Routine Templates.

“Peel the Fruit” is a Visible Thinking Routine from Project Zero.  I have mentioned some of the other thinking routines on this blog in the past (CSI, 3-2-1 Bridge) that have been very effective in my classroom for encouraging students to think deeper.  More recently, I wrote about how the Smithsonian Learning Lab uses Thinking Routines to examine art.  I have never used “Peel the Fruit” before, but it seems like it would be particularly useful for older students to use for examining news stories right now or for younger students to think more deeply about a picture book they are reading.

In the “Peel the Fruit” routine, students start by making observations about the “surface” of their subject, and go through six more steps to discover the implications beneath what appears to be obvious.  You can see an example of this being used with a text on this page created by Alice Vigors. (There is also a template that you can download.)

Ron Ritchart, who has a book coming out in May 2020, and is one of Harvard’s Project Zero researchers, has included a different graphic by Paviter Singh that might be more appropriate for older students on his blog.  Ron also offers a link to this document created by Carol Geneix and Jaime Chao-Mignano at Washington International School, that suggests online tools that can be used with each of the Project Zero Thinking Routines.

“Peel the Fruit” would be an excellent way to encourage curiosity and critical thinking about an image, Tweet, news article, headline, or literary work.  If students have never done the routine before, it would be helpful to model the process before asking them to complete it independently.

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Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay