Monday, March 10, 2014

Color, Symbol, Image

Our ecosystem unit came to a close with a culminating assessment task project, yet most of the work was done at home, so I was still unsure of what kids were actually taking away from the unit.  What I wanted was a simple way for kids to show me their thinking about ecosystems, and finally my brain put two and two together and pulled out the Making Thinking Visible book. On a whim I decided to try CSI (serious whim, I had to read straight from the book in order to explain it to the kids!)

I reminded kids of our essential questions:
-Why is balance important in an ecosystem?
-What is the relationship between living and non-living things in an ecosystem?

Then I walked them through the CSI protocol, quickly at first (color was a concept they understood) and then more slowly, defining symbol and image and the difference between the two.   More important then their actual choice of color, symbol and image, was their explanation for each.  As they worked, I supported them with examples of possible symbols and images when needed, leaving them to explain how it might represent balance or relationship in an ecosystem.
The end result was much more than I expected.  By asking them to apply their learning in a totally new context, many of the students were able to transfer their knowledge!
I am now left with wondering how this routine and it's outcomes can be translated into a more frequent occurrence in my classroom.  With all the conversations we have been having in PLC and ILT about wanting that real world application of what we are teaching our students to shine through, I feel like I may have caught a glimpse of that, yet it was fleeting.  My next steps are to reflect on what it was about the CSI routine that brought that thinking out.


  1. Catlin,
    The first year I started using my Thinking Visible book I wrote down the steps to each activity on notebook paper and kept it very close to me. I have used CSI several times and the first time I used it not all of the students grasped the color concept. I would see students looking around to see what colors were being used and choose their color based on what they see. When it came time to support their color choice not everyone was successful. I knew they needed more guided practice so I went back to modeling my thinking. Once I had more of the gang on board I introduced the concept of "symbol". When the students began to support their color choice and symbol choice I began to dig a little deeper if their explanations didn't support the color & symbol choice by using evident from the text. Finally we were ready for the image concept. So from what I see on the image your students did a great job with all three thinking concepts. The most valuable concept of this activity for me was hearing how the students could support their choices through making connections back to the essential questions. The more you use this activity the deeper the begin students thinking. Good Job.

  2. Caitlin,
    I love, love, love, the way you used this thinking routine. I have been intrigued by CSI ever since colleagues shared it during PLC, but unsure of the way to make it fit with my curriculum, I've never tried. As I plan our Regions unit, there is one week of building background knowledge through interview/impressions/opinion. I wasn't sure what task students would use to synthesize their impressions and CSI seems perfect! Thank you making this within reach for me. Your visuals accompanied by thoughtful descriptions are wonderful!