Creating a culture of thinkers in the classroom
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Creating a culture of thinkers in the classroom

Making thinking visible, allows students to see that thinking leads to learning. It helps them to make better connections and allows them to delve deeper into a topic. Grade 3 teacher Katharina Scherpel will tell you all about the “Creating a culture of thinkers” course she recently attended.

By Katharina Scherpel, classroom teacher 3 Blue

Ask yourselves, how do my children actually learn? And do they know why they are learning? Are they learning by receiving information or are they learning through their own curiosity?

In our school, teachers facilitate curiosity within their learners by creating an inquiry-based learning environment. Inquiry and curiosity stimulate thinking and allows students to create meaning. After attending the Project Zero: Creating Cultures of Thinkers course, I was inspired to create this culture of thinking within my classroom and grade-level. In this article, I will share some of the things that I learned from the course.

A Culture of Thinking

As an educator, I want my students to become life-long learners. To instill in them a love for learning I focus on their thinking, collaboration and understanding. By creating a culture of thinking I allow my students to develop their thinking process. This not only raises their awareness that thinking leads to learning, but it also ensures that the students develop a deeper understanding of a topic. To achieve this in my classroom, I will consistently implement visible thinking routines. By doing this I am hoping that my students will start to appreciate the journey rather than the end goal.

Making Thinking Visible

Making learners’ thinking visible and clear, allows them to make better connections. There are many practical ways to do this and one of the easiest ways is to implement visible thinking routines. Below are two examples of thinking routines that I regularly use with my class.

  1. I used to think, Now I think. For our unit on forces, the grade 3 team had a scientist visiting the school. He gave a presentation to the children. After this presentation, the students reflected on what they thought a scientist was, using the “I used to think, Now I think routine”. This allowed them to see how their perspective of what a scientist is changed after meeting with the scientist. Students now see that scientists do not necessarily have to wear white lab coats and work with chemicals in order to be a scientist.
  2. Peel the Fruit. To help learners create a deeper understanding of a unit over the course of some weeks, you can use the “Peel the Fruit” model. We started using this model in grade 3 blue as a display for our forces unit. In the outer layer, learners note down their current knowledge of the topic, in the second layer, the students note down any of their wonderings and questions. The third layer is the largest layer and allows learners to write down answers to their questions and wonderings and make connections. Finally, the students write down the big ideas and understandings in the core of the fruit.

Role play

A simple way to allow students to be active learners and be part of their learning process is for them to take on different identities. Let them become mathematicians, scientists, artists, musicians and editors. This will help them understand the role better, take on the thinking process of, for example, a scientist and encourage them to speak the language of that role.