A routine that sets the stage for deeper inquiry

1. What do you think you know about this topic?
2. What questions or puzzles do you have?
3. What does the topic make you want to explore?
Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
This routine activates prior knowledge, generates ideas and curiosity and sets the stage for deeper inquiry.
Application: When and where can I use it?
This routine works especially well when introducing a new topic, concept or theme in the classroom. It helps students take stock of what they already know and then pushes students to identify puzzling questions or areas of interest to pursue. Teachers can get a good sense of where students are on a conceptual level and, by returning to the routine over the course of study, they can identify development and progress. The third question is useful in helping students lay the ground work for independent inquiry.
Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?
With the introduction of new topic—for example, earth, leaves, fractions, Buddhism—the class can engage in the routine together to create a group list of ideas. Between each phase of the routine, that is with each question, adequate time needs to be given for individuals to think and identify their ideas. You may even want to have students write down their individual ideas before sharing them out as a class. In some cases, you may want to have students carry out the routine individually on paper or in their heads before working on a new area.
Keep a visible record of students’ ideas. If you are working in a group, ask students to share some of their thoughts and collect a broad list of ideas about the topic on chart paper. Or students can write their individual responses on post-it notes and later add them to a class list of ideas.
Note that it is common for students to have misconceptions at this point—include them on the list so all ideas are available for consideration after further study. Students may at first list seemingly simplistic ideas and questions. Include these on the whole class list but push students to think about things that are truly puzzling or interesting to them.


Already use this Thinking Routine?

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