In this post I will describe the Looking 10×2 thinking routine. It is a routine that helps learners slow down, concentrate, observe carefully and describe. The routine stems from the Artful Thinking programme, one of the programmes at Project Zero. It is linked by the theme Visible Thinking which aims at helping students develop thinking dispositions that foster thoughtful learning.
Introduce the source material. This may be any kind of image, painting or artwork, especially visual art.
Ask students to concentrate and look quietly at the source material for thirty seconds. If the source material is rich in details, you can extend the time to one minute.
Ask them to take notes and make a list of up to ten words or phrases about any aspect of what they have just seen. In this stage students can work individually, in pairs or in small groups.
Work as a whole class and share ideas. As students come up with their words and phrases keep a visible record on the board by using a brainstorming diagram or a concept map. A circle map works well with this routine. Ask students to take notes of the ideas shared in class.
Repeat steps 1-4. That is, ask students to look again, add more words and phrases to their list, and share them.
As this is a routine that helps students generate descriptive language, it is a useful springboard into a writing activity. After completing the routine ask them as a writing assignment to produce a short text reflecting on the activity, the classroom discussion or elaborating further on the thoughts and ideas the routine triggered.
I have tried this routine on quite a few occasions so far with my mixed ability A2+ groups of 6th graders (twelve years old). The first one was with the topic of war/peace where we used Picasso’s Guernica as the source material. I did not tell them anything about the artwork apart from the title and the name of the painter. Students were highly engaged and motivated and came up with some interesting responses. Their responses involved references both to what was obvious (horse, bull, lamp, door, faces, feet) as well as attempts beyond it (lost lives, lost dreams, black world, death, fear). We used a circle concept map to document our words and phrases. Red marker was used for the words and phrases they came up with when we repeated the routine.
Another occasion was with the topic of refugees. Here the source material was an illustration for World Refugee Day by Hanane Kai, a graphic designer. Again, students’ responses were recorded through the use of a circle concept map.
A third occasion was with the topic of mobility disability. In this case the source material was an image by Ian James for ELTpics. This time we used a brainstorming diagram.
Things to consider
The idea in this routine is to have students slow down their usual busy mode of work and spend some time to look carefully and think. Careful looking means taking time to notice more than what meets the eye at first glance. It is the observing and describing disposition that is at work here, a component of creative thinking, which is about noticing, thinking and communicating impressions.
What I find interesting about the Looking 10×2 routine, and the same goes with all the routines I have tried in class, is that it serves what David Perkins calls “the optimal ambiguity” in an assignment. It is flexible for the teacher, structured enough to guide students, and open enough to let them discover their unique paths. This openness results in a nice flow of ideas expressed in the English classroom.
Using artwork as source material is enriching as it provides a nonjudgmental territory for students. Art is open to multiple interpretations, pushing students at the edge of what is and what isn’t; it is exploring, there are no incorrect answers and this is particularly important for students with low confidence.
The routine is most effective when attached to a topic or content which gives students something worth thinking about. It can also be nicely combined with the See-think-wonder routine to push their thinking further.
The routine may also be used with a piece of music as Listening 10×2.
Art in the English Class, Guernica: Looking 10×2
Artful Thinking, Looking 10×2
Papalazarou, C (2015) ‘Making thinking visible in the English classroom: nurturing a creative mind-set’ in Maley, A and Peachey, N (eds) Creativity in the English language classroom. British Council: 37-43. Available free as a pdf file.