5 Steps to Introducing Visible Thinking Routines Into Your IB PYP Class

Regardless of the age you are teaching, integrating Visible Thinking Routines into any IB PYP classroom can significantly enhance student engagement and learning outcomes. Today, Im bringing you five effective ways to introduce Visible Thinking Routines (VTRs) into your classroom that I have found to be most effective:

  1. Begin with a Foundation:
  • Before diving into Visible Thinking Routines, establish a positive and open classroom culture where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. This sense of community enables a feeling of security and that there is a partnership to the learning.
  • Ensure that your students have a fundamental awareness of their metacognition and what it means to BE an inquirer and a thinker, underlining this is a practical way to bring these attributes to life; what it looks-sounds-feels and acts like. I ALWAYS begin the school year with a focus on Thinking Skills, specifically the sub-skill of Reflection, which includes metacognitive awareness. Read more here.)
  • Engage them in discussions about thinking processes and the importance of BEING reflective; sharing the form, function and connection of reflecting on their learning. Visible thinking routines see think wonder ibpyp Diving deeper with the IB PYP thinking skills through See Think Wonder
  1. Introduce VTRs Gradually:
  • Introducing VTRs gradually can help students become familiar with the routines and their purpose. Start with simple routines like "See-Think-Wonder" or "I Notice, I Wonder" to observe and analyse an image, artefact or short text. (you can find out more about the art of the provocation in this article.)
  • Make it a routine!  Whichever VTR you opt to begin with, use it over and over and over again until it literally becomes a routine. There's no need to dive into multiple routines all at once. You want to go deep with whichever routine you opt for, aiming for the children to holly understand it and ultimately to use it independently to amplify their self-guided learning.
  • Highlight the ATL sub-skills that are involved in the VTR youre putting into practice. Example:  Does it include Research Skills - observing, formulating questions, hypothesising? Perhaps Communication Skills - exchanging information, justifying opinions etc?
  • Gradually progress to more complex routines, allowing students to build their metacognitive skills step by step. This incremental approach helps students feel more confident and comfortable with the process.
  1. Model Visible Thinking:

As the teacher-facilitator, model Visible Thinking Routines during class discussions or when solving problems. Walk through the process of thinking aloud, making your thought process visible to the students. This modeling helps students understand how to use VTRs effectively and encourages them to adopt the same thinking strategies in their learning journey. Developing metacognitive awareness and comprehension skills for PYP 3- 5

  1. Integrate VTRs into Your Learning Experiences:
  • Incorporate Visible Thinking Routines seamlessly into your inquiry-based learning experiences. For example, after an exploration phase, use a routine like "Think-Pair-Share" to encourage students to reflect on their findings and share their thoughts with a partner.
  • When formulating research questions, use "Question Starts" to guide students in generating thoughtful and open-ended inquiries. By weaving VTRs into the inquiry process, students will naturally develop metacognitive skills as they explore and investigate topics of interest.
  • Identify the ATL skills being used throughout the learning experience, connecting the skill to the VTR.
  1. Provide Frequent Opportunities for Reflection:
  • Reflection is a vital aspect of the inquiry process and within the practice of Visible Thinking Routines. Set aside dedicated time for students to reflect on their learning experiences regularly.
  • Consider implementing routines like "I Used to Think... But Now I Think...," where students revisit their initial ideas and document how their thinking has evolved throughout the learning journey.
  • Encourage them to play an active part in documenting their progress and of adding to their learning journals or digital portfolios to track their reflections, making their growth and progress visible over time.

Introducing Visible Thinking Routines into an IB PYP, inquiry-based learning classroom can significantly enrich the learning experience for students. By gradually introducing and integrating VTRs, modeling visible thinking, and fostering a reflective learning environment, we are empowering our students to become more metacognitive, critical, and independent thinkers. These practices not only support the development of inquiry and thinking skills but also cultivate a positive and engaging classroom culture, nurturing that lifelong love for learning. You can learn more about visible thinking through Project Zero's website where they share their toolbox of routines.  Do let me know which of the many VTRs that you love and use with your students. There are so many right ways to do what we do. :) And if you'd like another perspective besides mine, take a look at Jahnavi's article where she shares her experience implementing VTRs in her PYP3 in India. 


P.S. If youre new or newish to student-led inquiry, take a look at the professional development tools that I offer to get you off to a confident and fast start. Essentials for Inquiry is my professional development course, offering a comprehensive, online course.


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