Teacher Toolkit

Thinking Routines and Discursive Strategies

Widening the Aperture

Who is this for?

Grade 4+

Why use it?

Surface their shared knowledge and assumptions

Activate their intellectual empathy to consider the question or problem from alternate points of view

Identify the key concepts at the heart of the issue

Generate questions relevant to multiple viewpoints

What is it?

This routine invites small groups to respond to a question or issue first from their own point of view, and then from an alternate point of view. As they do so, they identify key concepts and emergent inquiry questions. This routine supports students to reason empathically from alternate perspectives and to recognize and transcend their own implicit biases.

Materials – chart paper, markers, template

Set-Up – small groups

How does it work?

1.Form small groups, each equipped with a large sheet of paper and markers.

2. Prompt students to draw a square in the middle of the page.

3. Share the topic, question, or prompt, and ask students to share and record the words, phrases, and images which come to mind when they think about it in the space called “Group’s Thoughts.”

4. After 8-10 minutes, ask students to consider ways of categorizing the contents of the square, generating 3-5 categories which they record along the top of the page

5. Now, as a large group, brainstorm and record additional stakeholders/points of view on the topic/prompt – those involved in or affected by it.

6. Each group then chooses the point of view of another stakeholder in the issue. First, groups will circle the ideas in “Group’s Thoughts” that this new point of view would affirm. Second, in the “2nd point of view” space, students will assume the alternate perspective, and generate the ideas that would be most significant from this point of view.

7. Beneath the ideas they’ve recorded, challenge groups now to identify and record key concepts/big ideas that have surfaced in the thinking.


  • Finally, at the bottom of the page, ask each group to record a question that multiple stakeholders would consider compelling and important in relation to the topic, issue, prompt.

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Discursive StrategiesWidening the Aperture