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Circle of Viewpoints Thinking Map - Visible Thinking Project - Project Zero

Hand-drawn diagram lists ideas around a central document.
The results of a Circle of Viewpoints routine.

Prior to investigating a source, students examine the variety of people and groups that would interpret the source differently. Members of the class brainstorm to arrive at a list of all the different viewpoints, then one by one speak from the perspective of the varying stakeholders. This thinking routine, published by the Visible Thinking project at Project Zero, helps students consider the social and historical context for a primary source. It provides a perspective-taking activity that guides students to draw on what they know to imagine different viewpoints, including the author(s), the intended audience, and others who were or were not directly affected.  

Social Studies educators can use this activity to develop a safe environment for discussing difficult topics in history. Educators develop discussion guidelines based on the varying perspectives from the Circle Activity. Teachers can then create a system of hand signals indicating comfort level with discussing a topic and incorporate time for discussion and reflection. Students will benefit from a discussion that is student-driven and not fully directed by the teacher.

Further Resources


U.S. map from Tuskegee Institute shows lynchings 1900-1931.
Powerful primary sources can connect with student's sense of justice and drive inquiry.







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