Visible Thinking Routines

Project Zero, Harvard University *

This resource is under development.


"Visible Thinking makes extensive use of learning routines that are thinking rich. These routines are simple structures, for example a set of questions or a short sequence of steps, that can be used across various grade levels and content. What makes them routines, versus merely strategies, is that they get used over and over again in the classroom so that they become part of the fabric of classroom' culture. The routines become the ways in which students go about the process of learning...What makes these routines work to promote the development of a students thinking and the classroom culture are that each routine:
  • Is goal oriented in that it targets specific types of thinking
  • Gets used over and over again in the classroom
  • Consists of only a few steps
  • Is easy to learn and teach
  • Is easy to support when students are engaged in the routine
  • Can be used across a variety of context
  • Can be used by the group or by the individual

"Routines are really just patterns of action that can be integrated and used in a variety of contexts. You might even use more than one routine in teaching a single lesson. Thus, you shouldn't think about the routine as taking time away from anything else you are doing, they should actually enhance what you are trying to do in the classroom" (Source).

Learn more about Making Thinking Visible.


Core Routines

What Makes You Say That? - Interpretation with justification routine

Think Puzzle Explore - A routine that sets the stage for deeper inquiry

Think Pair Share - A routine for active reasoning and explanation

Circle of Viewpoints - A routine for exploring diverse perspectives

I used to Think... Now I think... - A routine for reflecting on how and why our thinking has changed

See Think Wonder - A routine for exploring works of art and other interesting things

Compass Points - A routine for examining propositions

Understanding Routines

Connect Extend Challenge - A routine for connecting new ideas to prior knowledge

Explanation Game - A routine for exploring causal understanding

Headlines - A routine for capturing essence

Question Starts - A routine for creating thought-provoking questions

Think Pair Share - A routine for active reasoning and explanation

Think Puzzle Explore - A routine that sets the stage for deeper inquiry

What makes you say that? - Interpretation with justification routine

3-2-1 Bridge - A routine for activating prior knowledge and making connections

Colour, Symbol, Image - A routine for distilling the essence of ideas non-verbally

Generate, Sort, Connect, Elaborate - A routine for organizing one's understanding of a topic through concept mapping

Peel the Fruit - A map for tracking and guiding understanding

Question Sorts - A routine for identifying powerful questions to guide inquiry and deepen understanding

Layers - A routine for structuring analysis of creative works

Fairness Routines

Circle of Viewpoints - A routine for exploring diverse perspectives

Here Now There Then - A routine for considering presentist attitudes and judgments

Making it fair: Now Then Later - A routine for finding actions

Reporter's Notebook - A routine for separating fact and feeling

Tug of War - A routine for exploring the complexity of dilemmas

Truth Routines

Claim Support Question - A routine for clarifying truth claims

Hot Spots - A routine noticing truth occasions

Stop Look Listen - A routine for clarifying claims and seeking sources

True for Who? - A routine for considering viewpoints on truth

Tug for Truth - A routine for exploring tensions of truth

Red Light, Yellow Light - A routine focusing students on signs of puzzles of truth

Creativity Routines

Creative Hunt - A routine for looking at parts, purposes and audiences

Creative Questions - A routine for generating and transforming questions

Does it fit? - A routine for thinking creatively about options

Options Diamond - Exploring the tensions of decision making routine

Options Explosion - A routine for creative decision making

Step Inside: Perceive, Know, Care about - A routine for getting inside perspectives

Technology Integration

See Visible Thinking Routines and Technology by Clif Mims

* All content courtesy of Project Zero at Harvard University.