I used to think…

I have blogged recently about creating a culture of thinking and about introducing thinking routines as a structure to promote and develop students’ thinking.

Another of Project Zero’s thinking routines is ‘I used to think… Now I think‘.   Using this routine, students reflect on their understanding of a topic or issue and explore how and why that thinking has changed.  It provides a structure for students to identify and think about new learning, opinions and understandings.

Here’s my version of  ‘I used to think, now I think…’  It’s by no means a comprehensive list, just a sample!  Please add your thoughts in the comments… 🙂

I used to think it was about the teaching.

Now I think it’s all about the learning.

I used to think every student had to put up his hand before he spoke and all conversation had to go through me.

Now I think, the best discussions are ones where the kids are responding to each other and I’m out of the picture.

I used to think that praising kids was necessary positive reinforcement.

Now I think that feedback needs to be constructive and specific and praise on its own isn’t helpful.

I used to think silence had to be filled by repeating the question or asking a different question.

Now I think silence means every student is having enough time to think.

I used to think differentiation meant setting different tasks for different abilities.

Now I think digital tools often  provide natural differentiation for different levels and abilities.

I used to think exercise books had to be neat, with a margin drawn at the side.

Now I think exercise books are for thinking, reflecting, scribbling ideas and working things out, so it doesn’t matter what they look like.

I used to think finished work should be hung on the wall so the class could see it.

Now I think the best place for samples of learning is on the class wiki where an authentic audience can read/listen and comment.

I used to think my students learned best sitting facing the front of the classroom.

Now I think they need to sit in groups, in order to collaborate.

I used to think the classroom needed to be quiet and I needed to be in control.

Now I think noisy lessons where the kids are engaged often reflect learning at its most vibrant.

Unplanned series of posts based on Project Zero Thinking Routines #3


30 thoughts on “I used to think…

  1. I love this posting. It seems we have both had the same journey through teaching and I could have written exactly the same statements as you! Some of the things you have mentioned are things I have been working on this year with my students, particularly the conversation bit. I noticed that my students were unable to have conversations without interrupting each other or getting angry with each other unless I was there to enforce the hands-up routine. That’s not realistic is it? Life just isn’t like that. There’s a lot of things we do as teachers that create problems for kids in the long-term!!!



  2. Brilliant. The secret sauce is creating a non threatening way to say “I was wrong.” The risk to reputation of being wrong is at the heart of what slows down the learning process. In the principal’s offce, the school board’s office, at teacher meetings and conferences and in the classroom it’s all the same mechanism.

    Imagine if a politican, school board member etc etc could say ” I used to think, now I think.”

    My contribution:
    I used to think I knew everything and could change the world.
    Now I think I know alot about very little and the world changes all by itself.


  3. Thank you for posting that beautiful piece of prose. It is an excellent reflection upon the growth that we as educators must constantly be making. I truly believe that to stop learning is to stop living.

    I’d like to add my two cents to Michael J’s final comment above:

    I used to think I could change the world
    Now I think I can change myself


  4. A few weeks back, I was at a Debbie Miller workshop where she had us do this exercise. I wrote some of my then/now thoughts and put it in my to do folder. You’ve inspired me to move it up the priority list. Thank you :).


  5. Love it! It requires self-reflection, causing self-awareness and the realization that we are ever-changing- and that if we are not changing, we are not learning.
    I used to think I was the only one who got tired of beating the web 2.0 drum.
    With my PLN, now I think I have company (and that I’m not crazy).


  6. Isn’t not thinking you’re crazy such a nice thing?

    Imagine what it must be for some kid trapped in a dropout factory in the States or a “good school” that is boring him to distraction. “You’re this, and that, and not like you are supposed to be. What’s wrong with you? Or you dumb or just crazy.”

    I would choose dumb every day of the week.


  7. I love this post! It really has me thinking. I am going to sit and do the same for myself. What an excellent stimulus for reflection! Thanks


  8. I am immediately forwarding this to a teacher friend who teaches underpriveledged children in Mumbai through a NGO, learning these concept would be a paradigm shift for the teachers ; i liked the last statement on noisy kids very much !!


  9. I love the Visible Thinking routines and you have really demonstrated how your thinking has changed as a result of your experiences as a teacher. This shows me what a great learner you are as well as a great teacher. Thanks for sharing all these ideas Edna, I will be passing this post onto our teachers here in Switzerland.


  10. Great self-reflection. It’s amazing how much we change our thinking without even realising it, isn’t it? Your thinking so much reflects mine, but I hadn’t really actively thought about it. I so agree with Dave about the thinking re professional development too!


  11. Once again a fabulous thought provoking post and so many interesting comments too. I am busy thinking of a few more myself. Isn’t it amazing what connecting with like minded teachers is doing for those of us on Twitter.


  12. As stated in several previous responses, I love the use of self-reflection and the acknowledgment that we’re in a dynamic and ever-changing system. I also like the positive underpinning of analysis and self-improvement leading to increased awareness. (The one about the messy exercise books is my favourite!)

    -I used to think a lot of social media (such as twitter) was meaningless, frivolous, bombarding and ego-driven.

    -Now I think that a lot of social media (such as twitter) is still all of these things, but it is also an intriguing social phenomenon which – with a little mindfulness and purpose – can be used to create powerful new ways to connect and collaborate; to teach and to learn.


  13. I used to think I, the teacher, was the deliverer of knowledge, as an authority.
    Now I think that I, the teacher, models acquiring the knowledge, as a learner.


  14. I used to think (as a Principal) that I had to fit the pieces together in the puzzle (school) to have a successful school. Now I think I need to create the puzzle to fit the school each year.


  15. Love this! I am currently doing the Harvard online PD course on Visible Thinking and your poem ‘I used to think but now I think’ made me smile.


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