Getting Students to Think Outside the Box

We are always looking for ways to get students to think outside the box and to expand on their thoughts.  My gifted education supervisor gave us the book, Making Thinking Visible, in hopes that we’d use some of the routines in the classroom.  I’ll be the first to say that I immediately thought of this as just ANOTHER thing to do, but quickly changed my mind when I opened this book.

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 8.14.12 PMI’m not much of a reader, so I randomly picked what I thought was  one of the shortest routines and started reading.  This was a routine called, Step-Inside.  This allows students to step inside the shoes of a character or object from a book, passage, picture, or poem.  This is a wonderful routine to use when you want students to open up their thinking and look at things from a different point of view.

I used this with my first graders.  We were already in the middle of a study on the book, Charlotte’s Web, and Step Inside worked perfectly.  I gave my students some academic choice by allowing them to choose if they wanted to “step inside” Zuckerman’s barn as Wilbur or as Charlotte.  At this point they were given Post-It notes with the chosen name to use for answering the proposed questions.

  • What does Charlotte/Wilbur see, feel, notice in the barn?
  • What might she/he know, understand, or believe?  Why?
  • What might she/he are deeply about?
  • What might she/he wonder about or question?

StepInside

Notice the keyword is “might” in each question.  This is because we don’t truly know what anyone or anything else is feeling.

After all the questions were answered we went back through each question and discussed the student responses.  This thinking routine helps students explore perspectives and develop empathy.

Our next step is to use what we learned from this thinking routine and create a writing piece from the point of view  as our chosen character.  They, of course, will be writing in first person.  The sentence starters I will be giving them are:

  • Hello there, I’m Wilbur______________________________.
  • Salutations, I’m Charlotte __________________________.

This activity really requires students to think outside the box and look at things from a different perspective.  So far, I’ve been really impressed with the depth my first graders have gone to really “become” their character.  I can only imagine how they will grow the more we explore this thinking routine.

Have you used any Visible Thinking Routines in your classroom?

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