Visible thinking activities

Activities for the classroom: Exploring claims and perspectives, and evaluating evidence.

The following activities can be adapted for use in the classroom and at home with young people of all ages to explore claims and perspectives and evaluate evidence.  

For further information and more Visible Thinking Routines visit PZ's Thinking Routines Toolbox | Project Zero

Facts or fiction
A routine to increase awareness of what to consider when exploring the ‘truth’ of something 

This routine is designed to explore the complexity of ‘truth’. It encourages deeper exploration, perspective taking, seeking supporting evidence, and analysis to uncover the core and accuracy of information. The routine can be helpful to show students that images or information presented are not always truthful accounts of events or may represent a particular perspective.  

Reference: PZ's Thinking Routines Toolbox | Project Zero (harvard.edu) 

Lesson activity 

1. Select a news item, image or event happening currently.  

2. Ask the students to analyze it using the following questions: 

  • What do you perceive is being conveyed by this? 
  • Who would decide to convey this message? Why? 
  • How else could this be interpreted
  • What do you believe is true in this? What makes you think that? 

Click here to see how this might look when studying through crisis (below) 

Lesson example 

1. Ask students to view this image (Accessed 16 March 2022). 

2. Ask the students to analyze it using the following questions: 

  • What do you perceive is being conveyed by this? 
  • Who would decide to convey this message? Why? 
  • How else could this be interpreted
  • What do you believe is true in this? What makes you think that? 

The KWHLAQ chart
Reflecting on the learning process  

A KWHLAQ chart is a teaching tool that puts the student at the centre of inquiry-based learning. It helps students to organize thoughts and ideas, before, during, and after a learning activity. The students could use it to scaffold their prior learning to enable them to proceed further in their inquiry process. The questions they can ask are: 

  • K: What do I know
  • W: What do I want to know? 
  • H: How do I find out? 
  • L: What have I learnt
  • A: What action will I take? 
  • Q: What new questions do I have? 

Reference: https://www.groupmap.com/map-templates/kwhlaq 

Lesson activity 

Choose a topic for the KWHLAQ activity and define the objective and the scope of the activity. Discuss how the students will benefit from learning about the topic and why it is important. Introduce information, concepts, and questions/prompts that could help students as they undertake the inquiry process. 

Click here to see how this might look when studying through crisis (below) 

Lesson example   

  1. Provide the students with the following topic area: War in Ukraine 

a. The objective of the lesson: to gauge your (the students’) understanding of the current war in Ukraine. 

b. Provide the students with the following questions to help them engage with the topic: 

  • K: What do I know
  • W: What do I want to know? 
  • H: How do I find out? 
  • L: What have I learnt
  • A: What action will I take? 
  • Q: What new questions do I have? 
  1. Have students work in small groups to compare their responses. 
  2. Jointly decide on the areas of exploration students want to undertake based on the outcomes of the KWHLAQ activity. 

Compass Points
A routine for examining propositions  

This visible thinking routine helps students develop an idea or proposition and eventually evaluate it. This routine works well to explore various perspectives or sides of a proposition or idea prior to taking a stand or expressing an opinion on it. 

Reference: PZ's Thinking Routines Toolbox | Project Zero (harvard.edu)  

Lesson activity   

  1. Provide the whole class with an idea or proposition 
  2. Ask the students to respond to the idea or proposition using the four compass points:

a. E = Engage  

What engages you about this idea or proposition? What’s the upside? 

b. W = Worrisome  

What do you find worrisome about this idea or proposition? What’s the downside? 

c. N = Need to Know  

What else do you need to know or find out about this idea or proposition? What additional information would help you to evaluate things? 

d. S = Stance or Suggestion for Moving Forward  

What is your current stance or opinion on the idea or proposition? How might you move forward in your evaluation of this idea or proposition? 

Note: This routine should be initially modelled with the whole group and responses recorded for the entire class to see. This enables students to build on each other’s ideas. The teacher can record responses using the directions of a compass to provide a visual anchor. That is, the teacher can draw a compass in the centre of the board and then record responses corresponding to the appropriate direction: E, W, N, or S. It is usually easiest for students to begin with what is exciting or positive about the idea or proposition and then move to worrisome and need to know. Students can be asked to write down their individual stance or suggestion for moving forward after the initial group discussion. The students can be asked to make an initial judgement or evaluation of the idea or proposition before doing the compass points and then asked how their thinking has changed after discussion using the compass points routine. 

Click here to see how this might look when studying through crisis (below) 

Lesson example   

  1. Provide the whole class with the article titled ‘Ukraine at war’ https://www.economist.com/ukraine-crisis (Accessed 15 March 2022) 
  2. Ask the students to read and respond to the article using the four compass points

a)     E = Engage  

What engages you about the content in the article? What’s the upside?    

b)    W = Worrisome  

What do you find worrisome about the content in the article? What’s the downside? 

c)    N = Need to Know  

What else do you need to know or find out that is not provided in the article? What additional information would help you to evaluate things? 

d)   S = Stance or Suggestion for Moving Forward  

What is your current stance or opinion regarding the war in Ukraine? How might you move forward in your evaluation of the content in the article?