Thumb Thermometer

Nov 11, 2010 by

Yesterday I had the opportunity to observe a fabulous 3rd grade teacher present a writing minilesson on personal narratives.  Toward the end of her lesson she used a little technique that I hadn’t seen before.  She called it the “thumb thermometer”.  I have used “thumbs up/thumbs down” to engage my students in a lesson, but this was a little different than that.  After she had concluded the teaching portion of her minilesson, she asked her students to get out their “thumb thermometers” to show her how confident they felt about trying out the minilesson strategy in their own writing.  If they felt like they could do it on their own, they put a thumb up.  If they felt totally confused, they put a thumb down.  And if they weren’t sure or if they felt they needed some help to get started, they put their thumbs to the side, and some even shook their thumbs up and down a bit.  I thought this was a great way to encourage her students to do a little self-reflection and to monitor their own learning.  It also gave her a quick visual of who to possibly target in a conference that day.  I will definitely be adding this little tool to my bag of tricks and thought I’d pass it on to you.  Tomorrow I will share another handy tip that I learned this week—this one is a way to help writing conferences go more smoothly.


  1. Beth

    I do this all the time especially in Math. I try to remember what the students felt about their own ability as I look over their work later. I know who maybe needs a little more confidence…even though they got them all correct or those who thought they knew/felt comfortable with the skill and bombed!

  2. Annemarie

    You’re right, Beth–this technique works with every area of the curriculum. This morning I was teaching a class of second-graders a math lesson on median. It was a little bit tricky, so I used the thumb thermometer. I told them that if they had their thumbs up, they could go ahead and get started on their own, and if they had a thumb down or sideways, they could join me on the carpet for more instruction if they wanted. It worked out great!

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