This is a column I wrote for a different blog a few years back.
I recently received an email asking a great question: “Where can I find good Thinking Prompts for my math class?” Thinking Prompts, in case you don’t know, are provocative objects we share with students to create lively conversations in the classroom. In fact you can download a mini-manual for Thinking Prompts at this link, and read about and download other mini-coaching manuals at the Big Four Ning.
Coincidently, the day I received that email, I was talking about the very same topic with Laura Parn, an instructional coach in Lincoln, NE. Laura was looking for a video to use as a Thinking Device for her elementary students to talk about measurement. What Laura did helped me understand how I could find good Thinking Prompts.
Laura told me she sat at her computer and took a few minutes to think about things students needed to measure and convert to other forms of measurement. She said she wanted something that would be very familiar to her students, and she came up with something simple: pennies. So, she just Googled “pennies” and “video” and a bunch of options came up. In less than a minute, she found a great thinking prompt for a lesson on measurement; you can view it here.
I decided to try out her strategy on a higher-level topic, and I chose statistics. Again, in less than a minute, I found a famous, but great Thinking Device for my topic. You’ve probably seen it before, but watch it again as a way to introduce statistics in a high school algebra class. You can view it here.
So here’s my advice. If you’re looking for video Thinking Prompts, all you have to do is go on You Tube, search for your topic, poke around a bit, and you should be able to find appropriate Thinking Prompts. And if you find any great ones, we’d love to see you post them on the Big Four Ning.
By the way, a simple way to download video from You Tube, if you haven’t tried it out, is Kick You Tube.
You can also find a checklist for evaluating Thinking Prompts from my most recent book, High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching, here.