You can refer to the examples to understand how to use Thinking Tools. Each example contains “STEP1: understand what to produce”, “Step2: share ideas” and “STEP3: frame your thoughts.”

Teacher’s guide for Thinking Tools

Provide resources of ideas
The very first step in using Thinking Tools is to confirm that your students have the “information” to be put into cards. If they have no “information,” they cannot create enough cards. See that they have enough experiences and/or knowledge related to the topic or they have easy access to the text and/or graphical contents.

Jot down ideas on the cards
Let student make notes of ideas related to a topic and/or summarization of part of the contents and jot them down on cards. These will be the source of ideas which will be finally developed into a thought. Let students jot down whatever they come up with on the cards. It is strongly recommended one card contains one idea or item only.

No “correct’ or “incorrect”
Before using Thinking Tools in class, be sure to rehearse them by yourself on the same topic beforehand. But you should not take the outcome of your rehearsal as the “correct” answer. Thinking Tools are not aimed to have students develop their products as teachers expect them to. What is important is not the contents of information they jot down; rather, the most important thing is that students can develop their own thoughts from the information and ideas on Thinking Tools. Tell your students how to develop their thoughts based on the contents on Thinking Tools compiled by themselves.

Share ideas with friends
After your students collect some information and/or come up with new ideas, let them share those materials with others to seek for additional information and/or different views. That will give them a fresh perspective when they review and reorganize their thoughts.

Develop original thoughts
What the students have generated on Thinking Tools is not the final products; it is a steppingstone to forming their thoughts. That is, they’re supposed to explain their own thoughts with the help of the contents they produced on Thinking Tools. Thus, when you apply Thinking Tools to your class, make it very clear to the students that they “compare” or “reason” things on the tools not for its own sake, but for the purpose of developing their own thoughts about the topic.

2 Circle Venn

You can construct a fresh view on things by comparing items, not only similar ones but also those apparently unrelated, to find unexpected commonness between them.

1. Understand tasks

My school provides a school lunch, but a friend of mine in other school bring his own lunch box. It’s totally different,

Really? What is difference between getting a lunch from a canteen and bring your lunch box? Jot out your ideas on cards. Then, put them on Venn diagram to classify similarities and differences.

2. Generate ideas

Compare school lunch with lunch box.

3. Develop your thought

Explain having a lunch in schools.

Some schools have a canteen and the others have no canteen. In a canteen, we have to choose what to eat from very limited menu. We can bring whatever we like as a lunch box. It is common that the person who make lunch are doing so for your health. It is important to eat and leave nothing left over.

First, write down whatever you know about the two topics on cards and put them into a Venn Diagram. This process will help you to develop new ideas. In the intersection of the diagram, you have two cards or more with the same content, so you can either select one and discard the other or just make a stack of them.

It is not enough to read out the ideas on Venn diagram loud. Develop your own thought based of the features in similarities and/or differences.

Y chart

When you think about what kind of information to handle or what to analyze multifacetedly, specify the titles: it will always remind you what should be done.

1. Understand tasks

I’ve found many living things in the park. I wonder how I can sort them out.

Using a Y chart, you can organize them based on their habitats: “in the grass,’ “in the water,” and “in a tree.”

2. Generate ideas

Sort out the various life forms in the park.

3. Develop your thought

Explain about the living creatures in the park.

I have divided the creatures in the park based on the habitats: in the grass, in the water, and in a tree. Snails, grass hoppers, mantises, and pill bugs were in the grass. Ladybugs, butterflies, and sparrows were in a tree. Carp, crayfish, and killifish were in the water. I think every creature has their suitable place to live.

When you set viewpoints after you gathered information, your focus will be “classifying” the information. If the viewpoints are set before you collect data, you can observe or appreciate the data “from multiple perspectives.”

With the information being organized and easily detected on this tool, you can write a report of your findings more easily. You are expected to contemplate further about what you have achieved through the process of classifying the data and/or viewing tthem multifacetedly.

Rake Chart

This chart enables you to see one specific topic from five* different perspectives.
*This number equals to that of comb-like teeth of the rake chart. It will also be useful for the factor analysis with rather simple structures, as a preparatory step for using a Fishbone Chart, which is more complicated.

1. Understand tasks

Let’s look for various signs of autumn in the school garden using all five senses. You can use a rake chart to organize your findings.

I found many signs of autumn (with the senses of smell and touch). I jotted them down on the cards.

2. Generate ideas

What do you find in autumn?

3. Develop your thought

Tell your friends what you found as the signs of autumn in the school garden.

I found many yellow and red leaves in the school garden. There were many acorns, too. When I treaded on fallen leaves, they rustled. The surface of the leaves was rough. I smelt a nice scent of sweet olive.
The sweet potatoes dug by the second-year students looked yummy. I feel things are more beautiful or more delicious in autumn.

First, look at the target from various points of view and write down whatever you found on the cards. Then, choose or combine some of them to compose your own thoughts.
This tool is also useful for organizing the parts of paragraphs when you write essays.

After describing your findings from each viewpoint, integrate them to develop a more profound thought.

Butterfly Chart

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Overall view : Consider opinions and reasons of them about a topic from both positive and negative stances.
Teacher : Students can put stronger opinions in perspective both of positive and of negative ones so that students can deeply understand the topic’s equivocality and its multifaceted nature.
Tool : On the center part of the Butterfly Chart, put a topic which can be easily tell supportive or opposed.
Thought: Guide your students to write down their own opinion, referring the supportive and opposed opinions on the chart. It is important to consider how to react to the opinions conflicting to their own opinion.


1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Teacher : Students can use this chart by each activity unit such as field trip and experiential learning. You can of course use it throughout whole unit. You should give your students clear perspective about what are expected to do.

Tool : (K/What I Know) Guide students to evoke what they know about the topic, which they are going to learn.
(W/What I Want to know) Guide students to write down clearly what he/she wants to know and what he/she is going to learn. This makes them to have clear visibility for their class activities and task.
(L/What I Learned) This part is filled after research activities. You should be careful this is not a “summary”. Students should bulletize what they learned. This makes them overview their learning process and easily find out next questions.
Thought : Ask your students what is changed from their first thoughts and/or image and what they have deeply learned. Also remind them of the new questions.

Candy Chart

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Overall view : Guide students to make an inference and its reason on given conditions or by developing a hypothesis.
Teacher : By using several candy charts, you can encourage students to consider from variety of viewpoints. In addition, you can even use only one candy chart. In that case, it is recommended to encourage students to write down an inference and its reason more in detail.
Tool : (Left side, “If,,,”) When teachers preset conditions, the learning activity can focus in making an inference.
Thought : Guide students to check if the inference and its reason for the hypotheses are logically connected or not.


Overall view: You will write down the main topic, such as a problem to be solved or a result to be obtained, in the head of the “fish” and analyze the causes or the requirements to achieve the goal.

1. Understand tasks

We won in the tug-of-war at the school sports day this year. I want to win next year again.

Why do you think you could win the match? You can examine the reasons using a fishbone chart.

2. Generate ideas

Why could you win the tug-of-war?

3. Develop your thought

The tips for winning in a tag-of-war, I think, consists of four factors: practice, calls, mood, and cheers. First of all, we practiced almost every day, trying to identify our own weakness and overcome it. And we discussed and devised calls to synchronize our moves. We also tried not to forget the chagrin of defeats in the past and confirmed our will to win in a huddle before every round. These four factors led us to win in the bouts, I believe.

(big bones/solid line) Set out some viewpoints from which you can specify the causes or requirements in more detail. When you use this in coursework, teachers may want to set the viewpoints in advance in the whole class, in case the information to be dealt with seems too complicated or the ideas you will come up with might be too fragmented and unrelated.

(small bones/dotted line) Write down the detailed descriptions of the causes or the requirements, such as observed facts, real experiences, and specific actions.

It will be useful to try finding alternative ideas or countermeasures for each cause/requirement you have given or focus on the correlations among several causes/requirements. That may help you to find out how to solve the problem or achieve a desired outcome.

Jellyfish chart

When you have some vague idea or instinctive feeling, this chart will help you give shape to it through listing the grounds for it.

1. Understand tasks

I want to be a music teacher.

Why do you want to be a music teacher? Can you examine yourself and elaborate the grounds in the tentacles of a Jellyfish chart?

2. Generate ideas

Explain to others what you want to be in the future and why.

3. Develop your thought

I want to be a music teacher when I grow up for several reasons. First, I like music classes very much. Second, I am good at playing the piano and I have enjoyed teaching it to a friend of mine. Singing songs is also one of my favorites. I want to be a teacher anyway, so music teacher will be the best choice for me since I can use my skills of piano.

(body/head) You can fill this body(head) part with a rather fuzzy or loose statement, such as “Someone/something looks cool” or “The hero/heroine was glad there,” so that you will feel free to present your way of viewing. You’re supposed to give the grounds for it in the tentacle parts below.

(tentacle) Place in the tentacle parts what you learned or read about the topic that seems to support your statement written in the body.

Not just giving a list of grounds for your statement to make it more precise, you can weigh the importance of each item and/or focus on a particular item to be scrutinized further. Figure out various ways to make your explanation more persuasive.

Pyramid Chart

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Over view: This chart guides students to clarify the reasons and evidences of their opinion or claim to make persuasive strong logic. At first, their opinion or claim is written in the top triangle. Then reason and evidences are explored later.
Students: It is important to distinguish reasons and evidences. The former is the reason of the claim. The latter is the things to support the reason such as facts, data, concrete experiences, and so on. This three-layered diagram makes a structure of “evidence -> reason -> claim.”
Teacher: At first, let students put their opinion or claim in the tip triangle, why they claim so in the middle layer, and concrete evidences in the bottom. Students can put whichever to write down for the middle and bottom.
Thought: When communicating, the claim had better come first and the other layers will followed.

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Over view: This chart encourages students to classify or abstract information to produce a conclusion, opinion, and claim. Students will organize information upwards.
Students: Students will use this chart to produce their own opinion about the topic based on what they learned previously.
Tool: Let students to put what they know or gather in the bottom layer. This information will be classified or abstracted into the middle layer. They can divide the layer into two or multiple layers when more complex process is needed. The information in each layer should be connected or related.
Thought: When communicating, the claim had better come first and the other layers will followed.


1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas

3. Develop your thought



Over view: This chart guides students to evaluate something. Presenting this chart before they attend an activity like a presentation or excursion, they will be aware of evaluation the quality of it and take note on the sheet.
Tool: It is important to let student recognize for what and whom the evaluation is. Student can set it for the purpose of multifaceted evaluation. When more focused purpose is needed, it is better for teacher to set it. In the “Interesting” column, any things students are interested in or have much concern, which are difficult to say plus or minus. It is also possible to set the column as “wonders” or “questions.”
Thought: Let students produce their thought based on ideas in each coloumns.


1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Over view: This chart guides students to produce unordinary ideas to use by making association from the center word.
Teacher: Encourage students to produce as many ideas as possible, when putting the center word in your mind. Students may enlarge the image even from the second circle.
Tool: It is important to put adequate word in the center circle. “Robot” and “The works of robot” leads to different ideas. You can focus or enlarge the direction of association by arranging the center word.After setting proper center word, allow students to produce any ideas. Possible ideas should be exhausted out at first. Each idea should be judged to use or not later.
Thought: Let students review all the ideas and write down what they noticed. It is not only making comprehensive summary but also making focus to some parts to explain why they are interested in the parts.


1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Over view: This chart guides students to organize information from two criterions. You should set the meanings of the two axes. Pay attention to check the axes are defective and understandable.
Tool: Plotting of ideas are not strict as using in math. It should depend on intuition and placed relatively.
Thought: Let student produce a thought based on the positional relation of the ideas. It will be easier to review information quadrant by quadrant. If you want to focus on some part as the sample, you may let student to explain the reason of the placement of the information.

Plot Diagram

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Overview: This chart is useful when you organize information in a book, your own-made story, your presentation scenario, and so on. You can focus on the top of the mountain as the climax. It is important to determine which card to put there.
Teacher: Let students make affairs in a story or plot of their story into cards. The card should be made for each chapter. You can arrange the order of the cards properly on the mountain ande set the climax.
Thought: You can make a summary by connecting the information of every cards. Furthermore, you are expected to produce a thought about what you feel or think about the story considering the climax. When you make presentation, the climax will come to the first because, in general, you had better to tell the conclusion at the first. The idea on the climas will be explained later again.

Data chart

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Overview: This chart guides students to organize information from multiple resources from multiple points of view. This makes students produce multifaceted opinion.
Tool: Put to what to focus or from what to investigate in “resources.” The means of investigation can be concrete ways of information gathering such as “reference book,” “brochure,” “the Internet,” and so on.
Thought: Compare information from different resources and produce your own idea based on the commons and differences. If you have your own opinion already, you had better how to use the information to make persuasive logic.

Analyzing Chart

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Overview: This chart guide you to distinguish gathered information into the facts and the hearsays. Then you will analyze what was inferred and claimed by the author. This is suitable to analyze a leading article of a new paper. You can use this chart when you make your own opinion from gathered information.
Teacher: Encourage students to distinguish the facts which is supported by data or observation and the hearsays which is just a someone’s talk. Then let them analyze what is inferred and claimed. Then let student criticize the original article.When making your own opinion, let students distinguish the facts and the hearsays as well and produce what can they say and claim considering the importance of the facts and reliability of the hearsays.
Thought: You can claim your opinion based on the facts and the hearsays. In the case, you have to consider the importance of the facts and reliability of the hearsays.

Diamond Ranking

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Overview: This chart is useful to choose the best idea based on multiple criteria. That means you can use different criteria in comparing multiple cards.
Teacher: Encourage students to ideas; one idea on one card, to determine the priority. Then let them to compare one by one to put them on the chart to form a diamond-figure from the worst to the best.
Thought: You will introduce the ideas on the chart and the top priority card with the reason.

Concentric Circle Chart

1. Understand tasks



2. Generate ideas


3. Develop your thought



Overview: This chart is useful to grasp the changes something depends on determinants such as time, distance, generation, the degree of abstraction and so on. The determinants should match to the focus of your activity.
Tool: If the information in each area has related each other, you may link them like “a touch – a gaslight – an electric light.”
Thought: You should explain what kind of change occur as the determinants change.