New Thinking Routines

Thinking routines are an adjustable collection of practices to nurture thinking skills and help learners become more independent, active, enquiring, and engaged. The concept of thinking routines emanates from Harvard’s Project Zero. New routines are regularly developed and I have enjoyed incorporating some of these newer routines into my teaching practice.

Global thinking routines are patterns of thought that are used to facilitate the development of global competence. The 3 Ys is a global thinking routine which helps determine the significance of a topic or issue, keeping global and local connections in mind. It asks learners to move across the personal, local and global and uncover connections across different geographical spheres.

The 3 Ys

  1. Why might this [topic, question] matter to me?
  2. Why might it matter to people around me [family, friends, city, nation]?
  3. Why might it matter to the world?

I use the 3 Ys routine in my Year 9 History class when we conclude the Civil Rights and Freedoms unit. Students read the article White Privilege by Peggy McIntosh and then use it as the topic for their thinking. This year the ensuing discussion focused on: multiculturalism, that white privilege is something that white people don’t realise they have, hidden prejudices towards different races, the role of different times, different opinions, different values, and the potential of knowledge to lead to a worldwide solution.


I also enjoy using the Parts, Purposes and Complexities thinking routine coming out of the Agency by Design project to conclude a Year 11 unit on the causes of World War One. Agency by Design is a combination of design thinking, systems thinking, and the maker movement. This routine asks us to choose a system and ask:

What are its parts? What are its various pieces or components?

What are its purposes? What are the purposes for each of these parts?

What are its complexities? How is it complicated in its parts and purposes, the relationship between the two, or in other ways.

I find that by asking students to view the causes of World War One as a system they come to identify the complexities of the various parts and start to look beyond the impact of individual leaders and countries.

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