Visible Thinking Routines in an ESL classroom

Visible Thinking Routines in an ESL classroom

Not much has been said about the role of visible thinking in ESL pedagogy.  Visible thinking routines prove to be challenging for English language learners because they have limited abilities to express themselves and their thinking. I believe that visible thinking routines definitely belong in an ESL classroom. However, ESL teachers should be aware that such routines can cause a lot of distress to ELLs and should therefore be explicit when helping students understand the principles of visible thinking routines. An ESL teacher has to spend more time modeling and making students practice visible thinking terms and expressions.

A very helpful tool is a list of sentence starters that can be pasted in students’ learning journals or plaIMG_5233ced in the middle of a table. Students can look at the list any time.

Another very important step is to practice the routines in class. My favorite routine is “I see, think, wonder”. Even beginning ELLs are able to understand the three words and they can participate easily. I start with this routine at the beginning of the school year by showing student sentences in many different languages and asking them what they see, think and wonder about…This activity always creates an interesting discussion, especially when I make sure to include my students’ mother tongue languages. They suddenly become experts and are eager to share with others.


There are many other visible thinking routines out there… I was lucky enough to be part of a great learning experience during the WIDE World Course called Making Thinking Visible that provided me with a booklet introducing many different routines and giving useful tips on how to incorporate them. I truly recommend this course as a valuable professional development experience.

Later on, I will share different routine examples and how I implement them in my classroom. Bear with me!





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