Think Puzzle Explore: Pictures of Practice
What does the routine look like in action?




Using the routine to explore a social studies topic
To get her class ready for a new social studies unit, The Changing Earth, Allison Fritscher asked her 5th grade students to look at a photograph of what appeared to be an aerial view of a land mass. She used the “What makes you say that?” routine to help her students observe the image and make interpretations about what the image. The short activity and conversation allowed students think about what they already knew about the planet and primed them for thinking more deeply about their upcoming social studies topic, the changing Earth.

Image of Namibia used with the What Makes you Say That? routine to help launch Social Studies unit, The Changing Earth. Click image to enlarge and see more examples of student work


Allison continued the discussion by asking her class to think about their new social studies topic, the changing Earth. “From the kinds of things you noticed in this image of Namibia, it seems we already know a lot about this topic. What other things do you think think you know about the way the Earth changes?”

As the class took a few quiet moments to think about this question Allison created a column on chart paper called Think We Know. As students offered comments she captured all ideas, including misconceptions, on the list. After most people contributed, Allison moved to a new question. “We seem to have many ideas about the earth and we have some and a knowledge about this topic, but what kind of questions do we have about the earth? What are you wondering about? What really puzzles you about the way the Earth changes?” Again, Allison gave thinking time before inviting students to share their puzzles. She captured the students’ thoughts on a long list.

The next day this list of questions was distributed to the class. Students worked in small groups to reflect on the collective list of puzzles. Their job was to analyze the different kinds of questions that the class wondered about and identify emerging categories: “Think about each puzzle on the list. Which ideas seem similar or related? Use a symbol to identify all the puzzles that would fit into the same category. Come up with as many categories as you can.” click image to enlarge and see examples of student work

Allison later encouraged students to further define each category. “How would you describe each category? Try to come up with a name that gives us some more information and tells us why you sorted the questions together.”

The groups came up with different categories and symbols that help them sort the ideas, for example one group sorted the questions into continents/plate tectonics/disasters/ gravity.  Another sorted the same list into: The class explored these puzzles together over the next few weeks through series of research projects. 

Example of class puzzles and wonderings generated during Think Puzzle Explore:

What we wonder about the changing Earth…

  • How earthquakes and volcanoes start
  • What is the proof that the Earth has changed?
  • How the continents are moving
  • Will everybody die during one of the changes?
  • Will the plate tectonics stop moving?
  • Why are there plate tectonics?
  • How do the plate tectonics move?
  • Is it possible to dig and accidentally find a plate tectonic?
  • Where is the most active volcano?
  • Why do the plate tectonics move?
  • Does the world change because of earthquakes and volcanoes?
  • If Earth changes in a circle (cycle)
  • Are there any very small plates or only the large ones?
  • Why don’t we fall off the ground when the Earth is upside-down?
  • What machines do they use to know the Earth is moving?
  • What happens when the Earth changes?
  • Why are there underwater earthquakes and volcanoes?
  • When and why will the Earth end?
  • Is Mount Vesuvius still alive?
  • What makes the plate tectonics meet?
  • What is the proof that the Earth is turning?
  • Does the Earth change by itself?  If so, how?
  • How long does a volcano erupt?
  • When and how did people discover the Earth is changing?
  • What would happen if you were digging and found a plate tectonic?
  • How do people know the continents will be one in millions of years?
  • Why was the world one continent at the beginning?
  • How will we protect ourselves from disasters?
  • Is the Earth round? What is the proof?
  • Are there any gaps between the plate tectonics?  If so, what fills them?
  • Why is there gravity on Earth?
  • How did the Earth begin?
  • Will the Earth be one continent in millions of years?
  • What caused Mount Vesuvius to be overdue to erupt?
  • What was the due date for Mount Vesuvius to erupt?
  • Are we really upside-down?



Using the routine to explore bone in a biology class

Anne Clarke's high school biology class began the lesson by carefully observing an unidentified bone joint. Using the What Makes You Say That routine in pairs, students made observations about the objects and tried to suppy evidence for their interpretations.

Documentation of student ideas from the Think Puzzle Explore routine. Click to enlarge.

Students were then asked to elaborate on their thinking through the Think Puzzle Explore. They were asked to consider what they think they know about the bone, what puzzles them about the bone and what they could explore.

Students used observations from the interpretation process to create puzzles. For example, one student who interpreted the bone as a shoulder wondered about the shape and flexibilty of the joint. As part of her exploration she wanted to investigate the function a shoulder blade.






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Kate Thureau, G6: Gagebrook Primary School