Visible Thinking: Chalk Talk

This year we have been learning visible thinking routines from Project Zero to support our students’ development of critical thinking skills. Teachers have been sharing strategies in grade team meetings, and more informally in the student work they display in the hallways.

I saw this outside our 10th grade Humanities classroom and got inspired to do it for 11th grade math!

10th Humanities Chalk Talk on the government shutdown

I brought in the chalk talk to introduce our summative assessment (create a video about human population growth that applies exponential and logarithmic functions to highlight a global challenge: preserving biodiversity, sustainable resource use, or protecting human rights) by looking at the problem first and considering how math affects our ethical choices.

I chose the article Straw Wars so students could examine how the statement of inquiry, debatable question, and TOK question of the unit might play out when working to solve the problem of straw pollution on the environment.

  • Statement of Inquiry: Relationships show how change in population and demography connects to the impact of decision-making on humankind and the environment.
  • Debatable Question: To what extent should change in population and demography influence our decision-making?
  • TOK Question: Can we use mathematics to justify our ethical choices?

I asked the students to generate questions after reading the article, then put a sheet of chart paper on each table with a question. I had pre-generated a few questions (What is a personal connection I have to this problem? What is a potential solution to this problem?)

Students came up with initial questions like “How does this ban on plastic goods affect companies that use them? In what way can we improve waste management structures? How much land can be covered by the daily use of straws around the world?”

Here are some of the student responses:

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