One of the best ways for students of every age to develop greater cognitive sophistication is to join in a shared looking activity with at least one facilitating adult. As infants, children sat in our laps as we read picture books together. Today we can foster critical thinking by engaging students in regular experiences of “Learning to Look.” All it takes is:
- a computer,
- a data projector,
- at least one interesting Web resource and
- an open-ended question or “Thinking Routine”
Let’s assume you can organise the computer and data projector so what follows is help with the Web resources and the questions.
The Web is great for enhancing and extending learning in schools. Tom March thinks this promotes “aNew3Rs,” Real, Rich and Relevant learning. Here is a selection of compelling Web resources.
- Running the Numbers: an American Self Portrait, by Chris Jordan, photographic artist – An amazing collection of photographs that capture rampant consumerism and waste.
- The Miniature Earth, presented by Lucco Designs – This flash animation / video presents some facts about the world as if it were a village of 100 people.
- An Inconvenient Truth – UK Website (watch the movie trailer)
- Hiroshima Day BBs – Ben (of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) demonstrates the size of the US nuclear arsenal.
- Is Wal-Mart Good for America? – watch the full Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) program by sections
- The Merchants of Cool – another PBS special, this one focused on how youth are targeted by the advertising industry.
- Living Old – another PBS special focused on the impact of our aging population.
Sites for Repeated Visits
- Tag Galaxy – see what the world thinks in pictures
- Video on Demand – watch ABC news shows like 4 Corners, Chasers War, Rage and Lateline as well as clips from the past 24 hours.
- EdPod – great audio podcasts from most of the programs on the ABC in Australia.
- Pictures of the Week – from Time Magazine – Use this feature regularly to keep up with current events as well as challenge each other to interpret the message and perspective of the photos.
- Sydney Morning Herald Daily Snapshot – Similar to the Time feature above, but on a daily basis and less about the news and more about culture and the unusual. Question: What would a space traveller decide life was like on earth from today’s photos?
- Scratch Media! – Australian Political Cartoons from David Pope (better known by his signature Heinrich Hinze).
- 10×10 – Every hour, 10×10 collects the 100 words and pictures that matter most on a global scale, and presents them as a single image, taken to encapsulate that moment in time.
Often it is enough to simply ask students the two questions suggested by Professor Perkins: ‘What’s going on here?’ and ‘What do you see that makes you say so?’ Students’ might comment based on learning compelling new information, sensing injustice, seeing humour or any number of reactions. The facilitating teacher’s main role is to help students look carefully and closely at the resource. If it’s a movie, you might go through it again, stopping at key places students’ identify. Sometimes, you can “zoom-in” as specific aspects of an image. One strategy that usually works is to begin simply with “Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?” This challenges viewers to look beyond the surface and venture a hypothesis. For more detailed approaches, use the links below.
Resources to facilitate Looking Critically
- The Intelligent Eye – outstanding questions from David Perkins, in his book by the same name.
- Socratic Questioning Stems – from ChangingMinds.org
- “Seeing Questions” – a fine series of questions intended for the visual arts, but which could also apply to photography.
The main idea behind Thinking Routines is that it’s not enough for students to learn “critical thinking strategies,” but research from the Visible Thinking group at Harvard’s Project Zero has found that students also need to develop the disposition to engage in such a process. One approach is to promote a culture of questioning and thinking in the daily life of the classroom. To quote from a recent paper:
The effective schools research has shown that teachers establish housekeeping, management, and discourse routines earlier in the school and that this establishment is important in the long-term smooth running of classrooms. Teachers that fail to establish routines may struggle to keep their classes focused and orderly. Just as it is important for teachers to focus students’ behavior so that classrooms can run smoothly and students can learn, teachers also need tools for structuring and scaffolding students’ mental behavior. In brief, Thinking Routines:n
- are explicit;
- have few steps (typically 2 – 3);
- are instrumental (designed solely to scaffold thinking);
- are used repeatedly;
- work across a variety of disciplines; and
- promote both group and individual practice
from Thinking Routines: Establishing Patterns of Thinking in the Classroom,” a paper prepared for the AERA Conference, April 2006 by Ritchhart, Palmer, Church, & Tishman
Below are four Thinking Routines that could be used frequently.
- What do you see?
- What do you think about that?
- What does it make you wonder?
- Make a claim about the topic
- Identify support for your claim
- Ask a question related to your claim
- If you were to write a headline for this topic or issue right now that captures the most important aspect to keep in mind, what would that headline be?
WHAT MAKES YOU SAY THAT?
- What’s going on here?
- What do you see that makes you say that?