Category Archives: Thinking Routines explained

Beginning-Middle-End: Creative writing and storytelling

Beginning-Middle-End is a thinking routine that stems from the Artful Thinking approach which aims at stronger thinking and learning through the power of art.
I have found it an effective way to a) stimulate students’ imagination and curiosity b) encourage their observation and strategies of making predictions and c) help develop their creative writing and storytelling skills through the power of narrative. I have tried it with intermediate+ students.

Step 1                                                                                                                                        Show students an artful stimulus (painting, image, screenshot from a film, sculpture). Ask them to look at it in silence for a couple of minutes.

Step 2
Hold a plenary discussion by brainstorming ideas about things and key elements students see in the stimulus. If students share their interpretations ask them what they see that supports this idea.

Step 3
Ask students to choose, think and respond to one of these questions:

1. If what you see is the beginning of a story, what might happen next?
2. If it is the middle of a story, what might have happened before? What might happen next?
3. If it is the end of a story, what might the story be?
Students can work in small groups, in pairs or individually.

Step 4
Have students share their thinking and ideas.

Classroom practice

When working with my students on the topic of War/Peace I showed them a screenshot from the short animation film Chromophobia by the Belgian film maker Raul Servais. Then they worked in groups and each group chose one of the questions (step 3) to work on. After that we watched the film.

Screenshot from Chromophobia

This is what students came up with:

The questions in the routine are written in an open-ended way. You can use them as such with any artful visual stimulus. You can also connect them with a specific topic – as in the classroom example above – and ask students to keep this topic in mind when they imagine their stories.

Students can come up with sentences or paragraphs.

The routine can also work well as a speaking activity. In this case work as a whole class by asking someone to begin a story and having others continue it.

Art in the English Class Project, Chromophobia: Beginning-Middle-End
Artful Thinking,
Visible Thinking,


3-2-1 Bridge: A creative warm-up and follow-up routine

In this post I will talk about the 3-2-1 Bridge thinking routine. The word Bridge is used to indicate the routine has two related stages. I have found it an interesting and effective activity in prompting students’ creative thinking. This applies to a) activating their prior knowledge on a topic, b) fostering their readiness in generating ideas c) extending their thinking to new directions and d) facilitating reflection on this shift in their thinking. The routine works well as warm-up at the beginning and as a follow-up at the end of a topic.

Step 1
At the beginning of the topic ask students to generate
3 words
2 questions
1 simile

that quickly come to mind when they think of this topic. Students can work individually, in pairs or in groups. Explain that similes are connections we make, comparing one thing to another because they are alike in some way. The words “like” or “as” are typically used. Ask students for an example of a simile first and provide one yourself if needed.

Step 2

Share the thinking. Ask students to share their ideas with their classmates and make them visible within the classroom.

This is how my students responded to this part of the routine. I tried it with 2 groups of 6th grade primary school students (mixed ability, pre-intermediate/intermediate). We did this routine when working on the topic of friendship. Students first recorded their responses in their notebooks, shared them with their classmates, and displayed them in the classroom on post-it notes.

Step 3                                                                                                                                
Provide a period of further learning and elaborating on the topic. This may be a text, story, video, image that conveys new information. Make sure that this instructional period is sufficient for students to move their thinking beyond their initial understandings.

Step4                                                                                                                                             At the end of the topic, return to the 3-2-1 routine and repeat step 1. That is, ask the students again for 3 words, 2 questions and 1 simile about the topic.

Share the thinking by Bridging. You can do this by holding a plenary discussion or having students discuss in pairs how their thinking and final responses might be similar or different from their initial ones.
In my classroom practice the instructional period involved: a set of questions for students to reflect upon and respond, an extract from a poem, a extract from a short story and a short animation film. It was really interesting how after reading, watching and discussing, new thoughts and ideas came to the fore. Students’ final response to the 3-2-1 Bridge revealed a more extended use of the notions of judging, rejection, weakness, betrayal, jealousy and selfishness when we think about friendship than in their initial responses. These notions may have to do with many different issues, but some of the ones students thought are important were: appearance, disability, coming from another country, being a very good or a bad student. As one student wrote in her final remarks:
Why don’t you want me?
Because I’m ugly, too short, fat
or from another country?

Do you reject me?

It was also interesting that in their final responses many of the students wrote that empathy is important when we talk and think about friendship.

Tip: the routine works well with topics students have prior knowledge of.


Art in the English Class Project,

Visible Thinking,