What is Visible Thinking?

Visible thinking asks students to demonstrate thinking in a tangible way. Sure, we’ve all been told to “show our work” in maths class. However, Visible Thinking takes this idea further by creating scaffolds and graphic organisers that help students to put their ideas down on paper.  Visible Thinking is most closely linked with Mr. Ron Ritchhart. 

Ron Ritchhart's Visible Thinking

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ron Ritchhart when he was invited to our school for a learning conference on visible thinking. Though it was many years ago, the positive effects on his visit are still very evident.  In fact, when my son does his maths homework with me, he’ll scratch equations up and down the margins of the paper, all the while singing under his breath, “I’m making my thinking visible… I’m making my thinking visible!”

What does Visible Thinking look like in the music classroom?

This are some notes taken in my grade 10 music class. The task was to perform a jazz piece as a soloist or as part of a small ensemble. The student decided to teach himself the piano using Synthesia tutorials on YouTube – thus, he didn’t know which chords he was playing. The guitarist was sitting with us as we were working through her chords and writing them on the only sheet music available, which belonged to the violinist. The violinist, meanwhile, wasn’t going to be playing the melody line so he needed the chords as well. He was playing all the roots, which was creating a really blocky sound. We needed to chat about ^1 ^3 and ^5 and how to use chord tones to make really smooth lines. The violinist needed to add fills at the ends of phrases. At any rate, there were five of us huddled around the piano, with instruments out, scratching notes, trying, playing, making new notes, drawing arrows, etc. Afterwards, I scanned the document and sent it to everyone to include in their process journal.