Awhile ago I came across this blog post from Byrdseed.com. This is a website dedicated to differentiating instruction for high-level learners. However, I find many of the things Ian Byrd, the blog's founder, blogs about and shares are able to be applied at a variety of levels. The post I want to discuss today is called Tickling Students' Curiosity. In this post, Byrd offers suggestions for how to capitalize on the curiosity of your students. I'll summarize his suggestions here:
1. The Book - Create a book of unanswered questions with your students. This can take the form of a simple binder or it can be a bulletin board in your classroom. This is what the third grade team at Harvey Dunn has created. Here students are encouraged and given time to write questions that may come up (whether related to the content or completely off topic) and hold onto them for later investigation.
2. Scaffold -
3. Curriculum Connections - Once students understand how exciting it can be to ask questions, start connecting to your curriculum. What lingering questions do students still have about a topic you've been studying? Put these questions in the book as well as any answers that come up.
4. Using the Book - Return to the book when you can and remind students of questions that have been answered, but also of questions that are still waiting for answers. Encourage them to keep pondering.
There are no doubt countless ways to incorporate these ideas into your day. Perhaps the questioning happens as a wrap-up to a lesson, or even as an opener. Perhaps it takes place during morning meeting. Maybe it becomes a closing circle activity before the day is out. Giving students opportunities to ask questions, demonstrate inquisitiveness, and excitedly seek those answers deepens their critical thinking and problem solving skills. In order to prepare our students to be successful in the 21st century, we need to support their curiosity and the search for answers. How can you capitalize on your students' curiosity?
On a related note...
Google Search by Reading Level - When students use Google to search for answers to their questions or research topics, they can use the simple steps on this handout to filter their Google searches by reading level. Just follow the steps in this document.
As you get to work tackling the goals with your kids and continue to write up your plans for the week, it is important to think about not only what you as the teacher are doing during the lesson, but what are the kids doing?
One "Teach Like a Champion" technique for getting started with this type of planning, or thinking about your planning is called Double Plan. Follow the link for a full description of the technique. With this technique, you not only think about the actions you'll take as the teacher, but you script in what the students will do and say at each point in the lesson. Doing this can really help you more intentionally create plans that effectively integrate student interaction and get the students doing more work and talking.
You also want to keep in mind the SIOP strategy of Chunk and Chew. During instruction, the ratio of teacher to student talk should be 10:2. This means for every 10 minutes of teacher talk the students should have 2 minutes to process the information or do something with the information they are learning. This might be talking with a partner, writing thoughts, briefly practicing the skill, etc. It does not need to be super involved, but there should be a back-and-forth between students and teacher during your lessons.
Check out this blog post, "8 Ways Teachers Can Talk Less and Get Kids Talking More", for more ideas on how to incorporate student talk into your day.
On a related note...
53 Ways to Check for Understanding - Check out this awesome list of formative assessments. There is so much more than "thumbs up / thumbs down" that you can do to see if your kids are getting it.
I am an elementary instructional coach for the Sioux Falls School District.