Using Visible Thinking to Create Schaffer Paragraphs

Today was their first Visible Thinking Routine.  We will be doing these all year long, so this exercise is the introduction.   This first one was done on a separate sheet of paper, not in their journals.  All future See/Think/Wonder exercises will be written in their class journals.

–          After writing a proper MLA heading, students are instructed to number straight down, 1-10.  Once they have done that, they were to look carefully around the room and list TEN things they SEE in the classroom that makes them wonder about English 9.

–          Once each student had written down ten things individually, they turned to a neighbor and shared their lists.  If they happen to mention something that both have listed in common, they are to put a checkmark next to that item.  These are usually the more obvious details that simply stand out.

–          After they shared, they returned to their own desks and write down three things they THINK about English 9 based on what they SEE (these had to be in complete sentences).  They then were to write three things they WONDER about English 9 based on what they SEE (this is all about observation of details).

–          While students are writing their thinks and wonders, I gave each student one colored Post-It note, but made sure to alternate colors evenly (I used three colors: yellow for SEE, pink for THINK, and blue for WONDER in one class, then mixed them up for another).

  • For those with a yellow Post-It, they choose the most significant thing they SEE in the room from their list—just not one of the check-marked things.  I want them to try to point out something that others might not have noticed.
  • For those with pink Post-Its, I want them to write down the most significant thing they think about English 9 based on what they see.  It has to be based on evidence, not from what others have told them.
  • For those with blue Post-Its, I want them to write down the most significant thing they wonder about English 9 based on their observations.

–          When each student had filled out his/her Post-It, each held them in the air so that I could see that everyone was ready to go on (I tell them that I need to see a sea of Skittles so that we can get started).    I then had everyone with a yellow Post-It stand up next to their desk, and each in turn shared what he/she saw in the classroom.  They came to the board and stuck their Post-It under “SEE”.  After all the yellow post-its had gone, we moved on to pink and repeated the process with what they think; then blue.  This way, ALL students are required to share something.  We get 100% participation with these exercises.

Intro to VT

–          After all shared, the students had to consider what they have heard as well as revisiting their own observations from their list.  They then were asked to compose a paragraph about what they anticipate their English 9 experience might be like BASED ONLY ON THEIR OBSERVATIONS OF THE ROOM.  Anything they had to say about the upcoming course had to be based solely on their observations and not on what they may or may not have heard from former students.

 

“Chunk” Paragraph Structure Using “See/Think/Wonder” Routines

Begin with the Visible Thinking:

–          What you SEE:  (concrete details: CD) Choose specific details that will support the topic.

–          What you THINK and WONDER: (commentary: CM) These are your thoughts and questions about the topic.

 

You may write your See/Think/Wonder sentences using first person…

Turning Visible Thinking Exercises into “Chunk” paragraphs:

–          Topic Sentence: (TS) What is the focus of this paragraph?

–          CHUNKS: the ratio is 1 concrete detail (CD): 2 comments (CM).   A “chunk” is one sentence that contains a significant concrete detail followed by two sentences of commentary that further explain how the detail supports the topic; “chunks” have three sentences each.  All sentences must support the TS.  For help with staying focused on the topic, you may look back at your observations from the Visible Thinking Exercise (what you SEE).   Those are concrete details (CDs).  To finish the “chunk”, you may turn to your sentences that you wrote about what you THINK or WONDER about the topic.  These are commentary (CMs).

–          When turning Visible Thinking Exercises into paragraphs, you must remember to REMOVE all first person (“I see”, “I think”, “I wonder”) in any sentences.  I do not need to see the words I SEE, I THINK, or I WONDER in your paragraphs.  I know you see/think/wonder these things because your NAME is on the paper!

–          Concluding Sentence: (CS) End the paragraph with a final thought about the topic.

Paragraphs, then, will follow this formula:

–          TS, CD, CM, CM, CS (for a ONE CHUNK paragraph);

–          TS, CD, CM, CM, CD, CM, CM, CS (for a TWO CHUNK paragraph);

–          TS, CD, CM, CM, CD, CM, CM, CD, CM, CM, CS (for a THREE CHUNK paragraph).

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Visible Thinking: Overview

Of all the workshops and professional development I have taken over the years, I must say that the Visible Thinking workshop is by far the BEST PD I have ever taken.  Using Visible Thinking routines has changed the way I teach writing in my classes.

Visible Thinking Cover

If you have not seen this book, then get thee to an Amazon account!  It is filled with routine exercises that get all students involved, even your most reluctant participant.   Even if you only select one or two routines to use throughout the year, regular use will soon have students knowing what to expect when they see Post-It Notes and poster paper!

If you click on the book, it will take you to Visible Thinking website where you can find a wealth of free materials to get you started.

My VT routine of choice is “See/Think/Wonder,” and I use it at least once a week with all five of my classes.

This is how I consistently use “See/Think/Wonder” with my kids:

  • First, I had them bring in a journal that we could keep in class.
  • I have them open to a clean page in the journal, and then give them a topic heading for the exercise.
  • Students write the words “I see” on the next line, and then number a column 1-10.
  • I place some sort of a visual prompt on the front screen.  I have used paintings, maps, photographs, music videos, movie clips (for those exercises that also involve audio, such as a video, I have them alter the phrase at the top to “I Notice” so that they include not only what they see, but what they hear.  If I decide to simply use a piece of music or a recorded performance, then I modify the phrase to “I Hear”)
  • Students look closely and write down ten things they see (or notice, or hear) in the prompt.  In the beginning of the  year, they listed the most obvious items using little more than one word at a time.  As we continue to do the routine, students are now looking for details that others may have missed.  In the first quarter, I was satisfied with a list of nouns as their details.  Now that we are in the second quarter, I am requiring adjective/noun combinations.  In quarter three, we shall move to adjective/adjective/noun combinations (in honor of the Bard).
  • Once each has generated a list of ten items, they have to go find a compadre in the class, and the two share lists.  As they are sharing, I have them put a check mark next to items they have seen in common (these are usually the most obvious details).  I give them about five minutes to do the sharing.
  • After each person has shared with a partner, the students return to their own desks and then write “I Think” and “I Wonder” below the “I See” list.  They must then write (in a complete sentence that uses a subordinating conjunction– an explaining word) three things they THINK about what they have seen and then three things they WONDER about what they have seen (or heard).   Because I have them link their “I Think” and “I Wonder” statements to the topic provided at the beginning of the exercise, this eliminates statements like, “I think this is stupid” or “I wonder why those guys don’t get a haircut?” (that was one response to a music video).
  • While they are writing their “I Think” and “I Wonder” statements, I go around the room and give everyone a Post-It Note.  I have modified the original exercise from Making Thinking Visible to make sure that I get examples of all three statements, and I use three different colored Post-Its each time I do the routine; however, I mix up the colors from class to class so that each student doesn’t know which statement that he/she will have to share once they are done writing.  This has helped to make sure that all students complete all parts of the exercise.  If the student knew that his color was for an “I See” statement right away, then there would be little incentive for him/her to complete the “I Think” or “I Wonder” to the best of his ability (intrinsic rewards for a job well done just don’t seem to come natural to 9th graders yet…but I am working on that!).
  • As they finish their statements, I announce: “Anyone with a pretty purple Post-It, write down the most significant thing you saw that your partner didn’t see.  Anyone with a pretty pink Post-It, write down the most significant thing you think about what you have seen.  Anyone with a pretty blue Post-It, write down the most significant thing you wonder about what you have seen.  You have two minutes to fill in your Post-It Note, and when you are done, hold them in the air so that I see a sea of Skittles out there!”
  • Once they are ready, I ask those with the “I See” statements (or the pretty purple Post-Its) to stand up.  Each takes turns reading from their sticky note, and then places it on a giant sticky note poster that I have ready on the front board.  After we hear the list of things that these students saw, I repeat the process with the “I Think” and “I Wonder” Post-Its.
  • After all students have had a chance to share and place their sticky on the poster, it’s time for the writing exercise.

The English Department of the Webster Central School District has embraced the Jane Schaffer method for teaching writing, and I have found that the “See/Think/Wonder” routine lends itself perfectly to the Schaffer Method.  Basically, this is a formulated way of writing paragraphs:

1  Concrete Detail (CD) + 2 Sentences of Commentary (CMs) = 1 Chunk

Chunks are placed between a Topic Sentence (TS) and a Closing Sentence (CS) to complete a Schaffer paragraph.  While this may seem too formulaic for realistic writing, it certainly does away with the plot summaries (all CDs) and pure opinion pieces (all CMs) that many students write.  For a better idea of the Jane Schaffer Method, click the link:

Schaffer

If you look at the “See/Think/Wonder” routine, you will notice that the ten things the students see will become their Concrete Details (CDs) and what they think and wonder become their Commentary (CMs).  They have already identified the less obvious details by checking off things that other students have already noticed, so they can focus on the less obvious, yet possibly significant details that may relate to the topic.

Believe it or not, this entire process can be completed in less than an hour, including writing a solid two-chunk paragraph!  Once you get into the routine, things just move along like clockwork!

I will be sharing specific examples from both my enriched and regents classes.

English 9 Regents: Overview

This is where I will share ideas from my Regents/Consultant English 9 students.   As part of my Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), I adapted my lessons to meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).    This outline contains the following that is expected in the English 9 classroom:

READING:

  •  Extended texts in both fiction and non-fiction genres
  • Short works of world literature (short stories, poems, literary essays, etc)
  • Informational texts (informational essays, articles, blog posts, etc.)

WRITING:

  • Literary Analyses (heavy focus on evidence-based claims)
  • Expository Writing (reports)
  • Inquiry-Based Research  (using the framework of the Odell Education module- topic: “The importance of storytelling”
  • Narrative Writing (personal reflections)
  • Routine Writing (journal entries, online posting) done on a regular basis outside of the above assignments

INCORPORATED WITH READING AND WRITING:

  • analyzing content
  • citing evidence
  • studying and applying grammar
  • studying and applying higher level vocabulary
  • conducting discussions and debates
  • reporting findings

You can find the documents outlining the English Language Arts Frameworks here:

engagelogo-14

The extended units that I am teaching this year are as follows:

“Apology” by Plato  (using the Odell Evidence-Based Claims module)

Short Stories

The Odyssey attributed to Homer (abridged)

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (abridged)

Throughout the remainder of this school year, I will post classroom activities and assessments that I have used to meet the CCSS.

English 9 Enriched: Overview

This is where I will share ideas from my Enriched English 9 students.   As part of my Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), I adapted my lessons to meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).    This outline contains the following that is expected in the English 9 classroom:

READING:

  •  Extended texts in both fiction and non-fiction genres
  • Short pieces of world literature (short stories, myths, folk tales, poems, literary essays, etc)
  • Informational texts (informational essays, articles, blog posts, etc.)

WRITING:

  • Literary Analyses
  • Expository Writing (reports)
  • Inquiry-Based Research  (using the framework of the Odell Education module- topic: “The importance of storytelling”
  • Narrative writing (personal responses/reflections, short story writing, poetry writing)
  • Routine Writing (journal entries, online posting) done on a regular basis outside of the above assignments

INCORPORATED WITH READING AND WRITING:

  • analyzing content
  • citing evidence
  • studying and applying grammar
  • studying and applying higher level vocabulary
  • conducting discussions and debates
  • reporting findings

You can find the documents outlining the English Language Arts Frameworks here:

engagelogo-14

 

The extended works that I am teaching this year are as follows:

Every Bone Tells a Story by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw

The Odyssey attributed to Homer

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (tentative choice)

Throughout the remainder of this school year, I will post classroom activities and assessments that I have used to meet the CCSS.