Teaching Tips

Visible Thinking routine: What makes you say that?

During the first week of class, I had my students participate in a Visible Thinking Routine that we have continued to refer back to while discussing our assumptions and biases.  This lesson was a great way to build community with my students, learn more about them, and differentiate the class for my visual learners.   Here is my lesson plan:

Often we see or view objects, people, or ideas with our perspectives, influences, or points of view.  While this is an important part of us, we need to be aware of our biases, whether they stem from our family, background, politics, education, etc.  Sometimes we are not aware of how we understand, see, or view something. For this thinking routine, students will focus on their perspective and how their experiences impact this perspective

For 8-10 mins, have students observe a painting or picture.  In their notebooks or on a piece of paper, have answer these two questions: What’s going on?  What do you see that makes you say that? Give students ample time to write down their observations.

Once the students have had some time to look at the visual representation (see painting below as an example), have them share out their ideas.   If a student says he or she sees something, ask them to tell you what was observed and what makes them say that. By modeling this aloud to the students, you’re reinforcing how to look for claims (the conclusion they’re drawing from the picture) and evidences (specifics from the picture).  Once you feel the students have shared enough, then have them reflect on the activity: How does your perspective or personal experiences impact your observations? What did you notice or observe from this activity? Provide time for students to share their realizations to one another.

When I completed this activity with my students, I discovered this helped my students practice claims and evidences, learn to get to know one another, and help them be aware of their biases or assumptions.  


  • Good to build claims and evidences
  • Helps support or promote community engagement
  • Remember not to use value judgments when students share ideas; lead them back to the questions: What’s going on?  What do you see that makes you say that?
  • You can provide a graphic organizer to help students organize their thoughts:
What’s going on?

What do you see that makes you say that?


Amor A Todas Hodas by Simon Silva

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