Lesson plan

Exploring Systems with the See, Think, Wonder Thinking Routine

Give your students the opportunity to explore systems by using the "See Think Wonder" Visible Thinking Routine from Harvard's Project Zero.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will learn to identify systems and heaps in their environment.

(2 minutes)
  • Tell your students that today, they'll be exploring some interesting pictures. Explain that they'll have a few minutes to look at the pictures at each station and write down what they've observed.
  • Display the images on the chart paper so your students can see them.
  • Ask your class to think about the ways the images are the same and the ways that they're different.
(5 minutes)
  • Show your class an example of the two contrasting images that are on the chart paper. Explain that they'll be writing what they "see" on the left side of the paper.
  • Model how they should write down observations on the paper. Use your finger to point out what you see as you write each thing down. For example: I see a blue crayon. I see a pile of only crayons in one picture. I see a box.
(10 minutes)
  • Ask your students to make observations while you add them to the chart paper you're modeling with.
  • Record 3-5 student observations. Remind your class that this portion of the routine only involves making direct observations.
(25 minutes)
  • Tell your students that they'll now have an opportunity to make observations on their own.
  • Ask your class to spend 3-5 minutes writing down observations on the chart paper at each station.
  • Instruct everyone to travel between the stations as a group. Signal to your class when it's time to move between stations, and include which direction they should be moving in.
  • Support: If students need support with the language surrounding the thinking routine, provide them with the sentence frames. For example: "I see... Looking at ________ makes me think... Thinking about ________ makes me wonder... Looking at ________ makes me wonder..."
  • Instead of a white board you could alternatively use an app such as Nearpod to allow students to make their observations directly inside of the app.
(15 minutes)
  • Gather your class together as a group. Have your students share what they're thinking and wondering about the images that they just observed.
  • Record their thoughts and wonderings in the space remaining on the chart paper.
  • Explain that the images show examples of heaps and systems.
  • Ask students to identify which of two contrasting pictures is a system and what important elements they believe make qualify that image as a system.
  • Collaborate with students to come up with a working definition of a system. The Agency by Design Research Project has some great examples to get you started: A system is a collection of parts that have some influence on one another and the whole. To be considered a system the components must interact or influence each other in some way. Systems have subsystems and may themselves be part of larger systems.
  • Now that students have defined what makes up a system have them also come up with a working definition for a heap. A heap is a collection of parts that do not influence one another or interact with each other as a whole.
(3 minutes)
  • Tell your students that now they'll have many more opportunities to come to understand what makes up a system. As they gain more familiarity with systems, they'll go on a "Systems Hunt" around the classroom.

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