Look to Learn


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:

  1. a computer,
  2. a data projector,
  3. at least one interesting Web resource and
  4. an open-ended question or “Thinking Prompt”

Let’s assume you can organize the computer and data projector so what follows is help with the Web resources and the questions.

Web Resources

To facilitate use of the strategy, a separate Look to Learn Web site has been set up with examples that you can use in the classroom or for insporation.  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.

Example Resources


Interactive / Web

Artworks & Images

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).
  • Dan Cagle’s collection of political cartoons
  • 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.

Look to Learn Bookmark Group on Diigo


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.

Thinking Routines

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

  1. are explicit;
  2. have few steps (typically 2 – 3);
  3. are instrumental (designed solely to scaffold thinking);
  4. are used repeatedly;
  5. work across a variety of disciplines; and
  6. 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.


  1. What do you see?
  2. What do you think about that?
  3. What does it make you wonder?


  1. Make a claim about the topic
  2. Identify support for your claim
  3. Ask a question related to your claim


  1. 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?


  1. What’s going on here?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?

8 thoughts on “Look to Learn”

  1. There is so much here to explore, many students would be able to come up with further suggestions for these look and learn sites. Developing thinking routines will be the key to effectivly using these resources in the class room.


How about sharing your thoughts?