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  • Writer's pictureSimon Brooks

New Thinking Routine: 8 to 1

Introducing 8 to 1: a new thinking routine for capturing the heart of the matter being studied in service of deeper understanding and cognitive engagement.

This routine encourages students to distil the essence of the content being studied, whether it's understanding the functionality of topographic maps in Geography, solving equations with the distributive property in Mathematics, exploring the Weimar Republic in History . . . anything really!

Here's how the routine works:

1. If you were to write exactly 8 words that captured the heart of what should be remembered, what would those 8 words be? 2. Now that you have your 8, can you distil them down to 4? 3. And 2? 4. And 1? 5. REFLECT: Share your 8 words, your 2 words and your 1 word. How did your thinking change? What did you learn about what's most important here?

This routine is highly effective when students are confronted with complex, multi-faceted concepts or areas of knowledge. With 8 to 1, they are pressed to considered everything in the big picture before drilling down into what is most important.

For example, students studying the 'To be, or not to be' speech from Shakespeare's Hamlet are challenged by a complex web of words that have kept scholars guessing for four centuries, and required to make some sense of it themselves.

Here is an example of how one student went through the process of 8 to 1 in relation to this famous speech:

Of course, the real pay-off in this routine comes when students share their thinking, explaining why they chose the words they did, how their thinking changed as they moved through the process, and what they find interesting about that.

You can find more details about the routine here, where you can also read more about when and where this thinking routine might be used, along with tips for starting and getting the best out of the routine.

Do let me know how it goes if you try it with your students...

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