students collaborating outside with an ipad

What began as a personal professional development endeavor for Anthony Cannuli, faculty in the English department, quickly became a hallmark of the Hun Middle School’s teaching philosophy. He calls it ‘Thinking Made Visible,’ a nod to Ron Richards’ book The Power Of Making Thinking Visible. Thinking Made Visible is a concept that brings lessons, literature, and assignments to life in a way that empowers students to develop their personal learning styles. This teaching pedagogy presents itself in the classroom in a multitude of ways often resulting in a tangible product that students can walk away with. 

Mr. Cannuli breaks down the recipe to create a successful Thinking Made Visible experience in the classroom in a few steps: 

“First, teachers need to set a protocol, meaning you provide students with an essential question. Once you explain the protocol to the students, they work in small groups to create a tangible product that answers the essential question. Then, the product is displayed around the classroom and we do a silent gallery walk where we view our classmates’ work and absorb the information. Lastly, it all culminates with a final Harkness discussion about the material.” 

In Mr. Cannuli’s eighth grade English class, one of his best known Thinking Made Visible projects is a silhouette exercise. Students create a silhouette poster of a character from the text they are currently reading; once the silhouette is created, students are tasked with taking a deep dive into character analysis to create symbols to fill the silhouette. Students then observe their classmates’ work to identify each character  based on the symbolism. Lastly, students gather for a Harkness discussion on the reasoning behind their symbols and final product. 

“This type of work really empowers students to take accountability for their learning and to create something that they are proud of,” Mr. Cannuli says. “In the Middle School, we often emphasize the importance of thinking about how we think. Thinking Made Visible encourages students to generate their own thoughts as opposed to just reiterating what a teacher tells them. Then they reflect on what works for them.” 

Mr. Cannuli notes that a hallmark of Thinking Made Visible work is the idea that every lesson ends with a finished product that students get to walk away with; he believes that allowing students to express their creativity while applying the lessons learned in class allows students to create  an understanding of the material in a way that makes sense for their individual learning styles. 

“What’s great about Thinking Made Visible is that students can intertwine their personal interests into these assignments and oftentimes discover a new passion,” Mr. Cannuli explains. “I love seeing students express and discover this creative side to them that they didn’t know they had while simultaneously working through class material.” 

Since implementing this teaching philosophy in his classroom, Mr. Cannuli has seen a definitive impact on the way his students learn -- it often creates a moment of acceleration.  

“I see more creativity, more energy, more student involvement, more innovation and art,” he says. “But most importantly, I see more smiles and productivity. I see students taking more ownership of their thinking and being more invested in their learning.” 

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