Thinking Routines

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Critical thinking is an important skill at the heart of Project Based Learning, and so we need to provide youth with opportunities and strategies for thinking critically.  You may be familiar with the K-W-L chart, but here are some other “thinking routines” that may help your youth to think deeply during the course of a project.  (Thanks to Suzie Boss of the Buck Institute for Education’s National Faculty for sharing these with us.)

1.  Think-Pair-Share:  when asking questions of the class, give youth the opportunity to “Think-Pair-Share.”  Youth have the opportunity to come up with their own ideas, then chat with a partner, and finally share their ideas with the whole group.

2.  Two Questions:  Ask youth 1. What’s going on here?, and 2. What do you see that makes you say so?  (Credit:  David Perkins and Artful Learning)

3.  The Perfect Brainstorm:  This process has 4 steps- 1. Defer judgment, 2. Encourage wild ideas (the more, the better), 3. Stay focused on the topic, and 4. Build on the ideas of others  (Credit:  Tim Brown, Change by Design)

4.  Focus Group:  1.  Each person represents a particular perspective (or is assigned a character), 2. Everyone addresses a specific question, 3. There is no single right answer, 4. Each person’s opinion matters equally

5.  Headline:  Write a newspaper style headline that 1. captures the essence of your project now, and 2. predicts the future impact of your project

6.  K-W-L chart:  Create a three-column chart and ask youth to brainstorm around these questions:  What do I Know?  What do I Want to Know (or Wonder)?  What did I Learn (at the end of the project)?

Some of these techniques, such as the K-W-L chart, work particularly well during the project design phase when trying to narrow or refine a Driving Question (What do I Want to know?).  Other strategies, such as Two Questions, work well later, during the investigative phase of a project.  Try a working a few of these strategies into your projects to give youth the opportunity to practice thinking routines.

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