Making Thinking Visible #2: Headlines

making thinking visible

This year my school district has embraced the book Making Thinking Visible and we are required to use  three strategies per quarter. You can read about the book in more detail and check out another thinking strategy called Chalk Talks here.


I love the headlines thinking routine because it is easy for students and at the same time tells me a lot about their learning. Basically, students write a headline for a topic or issue that is simply a summary or main idea that they feel is important. It focuses on the big ideas of whatever your working on and allows students to have those building blocks in mind for future learning.

Supplies Needed:

  • appropriate content – part of a book, a movie, a field trip, a particular lesson in class, any learning experience
  • a mentor text, like a newspaper that shows students what headlines look like

Before the Routine:

Give students the directions to write a headline that captures the main idea of what they want to remember. Remind them that a headline is not written in a complete sentence, but is short in order to capture only the BIG idea of their learning.

During the Routine:

Students can work individually, with a partner or small group. It is very important for students to be encouraged to share their headlines as well as the story/reasoning behind them. This will help other students see other perspectives and see the content in a new way they might have not thought about.

After the Routine:

This is where the magic happens! First, document everyone’s thinking so that students feel valued and have the opportunity to check out the other headlines. Ask students if they notice anything that the headlines have in common or which ones helped them think about the content in a new way. You won’t be disappointed with the discussion students have about their thinking. It also might benefit your students to have these headlines handy to revisit during future learning opportunities.

Other Uses:

You can use headlines with just about anything. Try having students write a headline about their weekend, how class went for the day, an assembly, or even to sum up a conversation in class. There are lots of possibilities and I’d love if you share some of your ideas on how to use headlines in the comments section below!

Final Thoughts:

I love headlines as a formative assessment tool. I can quickly see if my students get what we are doing and who needs some scaffolding to get there. I used headlines when we were reading Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman and had students pick their favorite four chapters and write headlines for them because they aren’t titled already. It was very interesting to see them reflect on each chapter and decide what they were each mostly about. My eighth graders did a pretty decent job with this activity and enjoyed it because it was something different. When we looked at everyone’s headlines we had a great discussion about the big idea of each chapter and students loved sharing their ideas.

Next up….

The 3-2-1 Bridge is a thinking routine that works well when introducing a new topic. I love using it for book talks! Post coming soon!

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