Purpose: What kind of thinking
does this routine encourage?
A key part of thinking is spotting situations that need more thought,
and where more thought is worthwhile. This spotting routine asks
learners to spot "thinking hotspots" about truth within a topic
or situation that might be worth more attention. It thus helps them
to be more alert to truth hotspots in the future. Also, asking "What
makes this idea this way?" draws from learners characteristics that
make an idea more or less uncertain and more or less important.
This greater awareness helps them to spot truth hotspots in the
Application: When and Where can
it be used? Spotting truth hotspots can be used
on almost any topic or situation. It can be used to introduce a
topic, to draw out students' initial thoughts. It can be used to
review a topic, to look back at something students have studied,
in the middle of a topic to take stock. It can be used to get students
started on identifying projects or identifying issues for discussion
in small groups or to launch a whole-class discussion.
Launch: What are some tips for starting
and using this routine?
The spotting hotspots routine is best used for a topic or situation
where students have some knowledge already. They may not have studied
it formally, but at least they have some common knowledge. Otherwise,
almost everything would come out "uncertain" and with little basis
for judging its importance.
Younger children may respond better to concrete
situations, like a playground fight or an event in the news, than to abstract topics like nuclear energy.
This routine makes thinking visible by helping
students to see thinking opportunities-- "thinking hotspots"--in
situations. In particular, it helps students become more alert to
situations where they might think more deeply about the truth of
something. Here are the key steps to the routine:
Teacher or student identifies a topic or
Students identify ideas about the topic or
situation as clearly TRUE, clearly FALSE, or
uncertain and somewhere in the middle. And as more or less important
to figure out.
Place ideas on a continuum. First, decide
where to place the idea on the continuum between true and false.
Then use a vertical axis to indicate importance, according to
the student's judgment (see simple chart below). The teacher asks
something like, “What makes this idea this way?” and
draws out characteristics that put an idea “in the middle” rather than plainly true or false or make it important or not
so important. The teacher does all this for several ideas from
NOTE: Some students may reveal misinformation
or misunderstandings at this stage. As with other thinking routines,
while the students are thinking together it is not your role to
correct them. Students may correct misinformation or misunderstandings
themselves during the discussion or as they pursue a topic in
the last step, or you may provide better information upon coming
back to the topic later. Right now, you are functioning as a facilitator,
not a source of information.
Teacher and students discuss disagreements
about true-false and importance and place ideas on the chart,
in more than one place if necessary. You do not have to resolve
these disagreements, just acknowledge them. The goal is to raise
consciousness of uncertainty and the reasons for it. Some disagreements
may get resolved in the last step.
If the chart is lopsided, say with only
some uncertain ideas in the middle or only important ideas, the
teacher prompts to fill out the chart a little more. Example: "What are some ideas we are sure of?"
Teacher and students select “thinking
hotspots” to investigate further, maybe right away or maybe
later, perhaps using other routines.
Truth Hotspots diagram
True for sure, “Feels right, I’m
False for sure, “Feels wrong, no way.”