Thinking Routines

Thinking Routines

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:

  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
Go to Harvard’s Visible Thinking / Thinking Routines Web site

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?

How about sharing your thoughts?