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OHASSTA Nov 2014 final

Journal of the Ontario History and Social Science Teachers' Association Book Review Stefano Fornazzari Making Thinking Visible Seldom does a book generate as much buzz in education circles as Making Thinking Visible has. The book is part of Harvard University’s Project Zero, which attempts to facilitate a new, structured approach to teaching thinking across the k-12 continuum. As witnessed by the popularity on social media, the web and media outlets, the thinking routines outlined in this book have gained considerable traction in Australia and the United States where some school districts are aligning their pedagogical priorities and professional development accordingly. Book sales and Internet chatter north of the border in the last few years suggest that Canadian educators are also taking note. Making Thinking Visible is a collection of classroom activities that promote critical thinking at all grade levels and across subjects. The majority of the text focuses on thinking routines, which like classroom management or taking attendance are daily procedures that drive the culture of the learning environment. The thinking routines consist of brief activities adaptable to any classroom in the k-12 continuum that structure and scaffold students’ thinking. The authors suggest that once introduced to thinking and reflecting through continual, repeated practice, students will be able to transfer those skills to other learning experiences across grade levels and subject areas, and ultimately support lifelong learning. By using thinking routines, students are more engaged and independent learners, as they are less dependent on teacher-centered approaches and more self-assured thinkers, and thus learners. Teachers then, play the role of facilitator, and are not the primary factor in learning, but rather act as a guide to assist students in their own metacognitive journey. Thus, the focus of the book is twofold: to introduce students (and their teachers) to effective routines that generate thinking and discussion, and, to allow students to reflect collaboratively on how they thought, making their thinking more visible and transparent to them and their classmates. The power of the activities lies in their simplicity: the description of the activity is clear and succinct, not exceeding two hundred words in length. The authors are more interested in the student conversations than in complex, nuanced descriptions of the activities for educators. The activities are snapshots ready to be implemented in a variety of different ways in the classroom, from introducing a unit to effective consolidation of learning. Some of the activities such as I used to think, Now I think may be familiar to teachers who have experimented with stem starters to generate critical thinking. Not unlike the exemplary work being done at The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2 ), the objective of the activities is to embed higher order thinking and student engagement into daily classroom practices. Many if not all the activities lend themselves to the exploration of Historical Thinking Concepts such as Step Inside (Historical Perspectives) and Circle of Viewpoints (Historical Perspectives and Ethical Dimensions). For example, there is an intriguing activity where students use CSI: Color, Symbol, Image to explore Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. Activities such as The Micro Lab Protocol, Sentence-Phrase-Word, Tug-of-War, and See-Think-Wonder may be of particular interest to history teachers as they lend themselves to work with Primary Source Evidence. Connect-Extend-Challenge is another example of an activity that could be effective in social sciences and history courses, from locally developed to Advanced Placement. Recently, my grade 11 students engaged in rich conversations using The Explanation Game as a point of departure for examining Primary Source Evidence. Their enthusiasm has motivated me to experiment using other activities such as Compass Points in order to approach controversial topics in American history. Coupled with Peter Seixas and Tom Morton’s The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts, this book offers an abundance of tasks that could spark student interest in RAPPORT FALL 2014 15 RAPPORT FALL 201415