Making Thinking Visible #3: 3-2-1 Bridge

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 other thinking strategies called Chalk Talks here and Headlines here.

3-2-1 Bridge

This thinking routine is fantastic for activating prior knowledge before and synthesizing it with new knowledge after a topic or unit has been covered. It encourages students to take their thoughts of the “big picture” and narrow them down to the heart of what is being studied. It also gives them a chance to think about “what this reminds me of” which will help them remember key concepts in the future.

Supplies Needed:

  • appropriate content – any key concept or idea, part of a book, a movie, a field trip, a particular lesson in class, any learning experience
  • 3-2-1 Bridge routine instructions (see below)

Before the Routine:

Put the following on the board, in students’ notebooks or whatever works best in your classroom.

When thinking about (whatever concept or idea you are studying) identify:
Initial Response
3 Words
2 Questions
1 Metaphor / Simile

During the Routine:

Like most of the other routines, students can work individually, with a partner or small group. When this is complete, the topic or concept is studied.

After the Routine:

Now that the instruction of the key concept, idea or overall unit is over, students will answer the other half of the thinking routine questions:

NEW Response
3 Words
2 Questions
1 Metaphor / Simile

Identify how your new responses connect to or shifted from your initial response.

NOTE: It is very important for students to be encouraged to share their thinking during the activity. This will help all students see other perspectives and consider the content in a new way they might have not thought about.

Other Uses:

I have found a lot of success with using the 3-2-1 Bridge Routine during book talks in my middle school classroom. I will hold up a book cover and give students time to study it. I will then walk around the room so they can each inspect the book more closely. They then will complete their initial responses. This can be done verbally or in notebooks, or both!

What three words quickly come to mind when looking at this title/book cover?
What two questions come to mind when you look at this title/book cover?
I think this book is going to be similar to ___________ because __________.

Students share their thoughts and what other books or movies/tv shows the cover reminds them of and when everyone has had a chance to share,  I give my book talk. As I am talking, students are completing their “new responses” and it is very cool when they can’t help but shouting out “Yep! It IS exactly like _____” or “I was way off on that one. The cover is a little deceiving”. I have never had such fun, animated book talks as I have using this routine.

There are lots of possibilities with this one and I’d love if you share some of your ideas on how to use headlines in the comments section below!

Final Thoughts:

Like the thinking routine Headlines I love using the after learning part of the 3-2-1 Bridge 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 don’t think it’s a routine you should use before and after everything that is done in your classroom, but it is something to add to your teaching toolbox that can be used alongside or in place of a KWL chart.

Next up….

What Makes You Say That is a simple thinking routine that packs a LOT of punch and can have a dramatic affect on your students’ responses to content. Post coming soon!

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