Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

We Want Them to Wonder

In my last post, Great Questions for Learning, I talked a bit about questions.  In the post prior to that, I shared a story about homework. This one will pull both of those together in some ways.

We want our students to wonder.  Learners–lifelong learners–never stop questioning.  They never stop looking at the world–or at least parts of it–with awe and a multitude of feelings–delight, sadness, confusion, affirmation, etc.  Lifelong learners never stop being curious, wondering about inconsistencies, about oddities, about beautiful–and not-so-beautiful– sights, events and objects, both man-made and natural.

My students, over the years, have learned to be critical thinkers about the “facts” I give them and the questions I ask. They know I am going to ask questions that may lead them down a distracting path so they do a lot of skill practice that leads them to doing more.  I want them to be critical listeners to listen for discrepancies, connections, new information and details.  I want them to be attentive, to be active listeners, to know when to ask clarifying questions and especially when to ask for help and when to try something on their own. So, I ask questions that will scaffold them, but also give them practice being thoughtful consumers of information.

Full disclosure: I really don’t believe in a lot of homework. I want kids to go home and enjoy their families, being outside, reading for pleasure, and exploring their world through a variety of activities they cannot do in  the 6 or more hours they are in school.  I want them to have time to learn to clean their rooms, stay organized, help around the house, know their brothers and sisters and play and use their imagination. So any homework I am a part of sending home will generally NOT be worksheets or drill and skill work.  It will be something that helps them make connections, think more deeply about something they have talked/learned about that day, or an extension of our learning here at school.

So, homework in my classes is more like

  • Develop 2 or 3 “Henry questions” as you enjoy your evening.
  • Practice some factor trees–you choose the numbers.
  • Ask someone at home when they use estimation and when they use exact calculations–make a list if you need it to remember which is which.
  • As you go places this week, look for mathematical signs that might encourage you to ask more questions. (They know they can get a picture of it and send it to me if they want, so they can share in class.)

and as far as literacy?

  • Connect something in your book to something that has happened to you in real life.  Be ready to share tomorrow.
  • As you read tonight, think about whether this author is one you’d recommend to your classmates. Be ready to talk specific reasons why you would or would not.
  • Can you find any words in your reading tonight you think would stump the class?  make sure you can use it in  a sentence and give synonyms or antonyms in case you need to help your classmates figure it out.
  • Think about the theme in your book and be ready to share a “text set” of books with that theme if you have read others like it.

Or, if we have a great discussion, and the kids come up with their own questions, we challenge them to go home and answer them.  They often ask, “Can I work on this at home?” and that’s, of course, a delight to us.

The bottom line is that we try to incite and encourage and stand in awe of the wonder our kids have and develop, and we try to set up situations where kids will never lose that sense of curiosity and delight in the world most of them bring to their first experiences in school. We want our students to wonder!

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3 thoughts on “We Want Them to Wonder

  1. Great post and thanks for the suggestions, especially reducing “homework” to going home to make connections and wonder more fully on your own time and then bring those good questions into our classrooms.
    John Barell
    Did You Ever Wonder? Fostering Curiosity Here, There and Everywhere

  2. John–I’ve been a fan of yours for quite some time. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for sharing your Pinterest board about wonder. I’m enjoying exploring it.

    • Paula,

      Again, love your ideas about wondering. Reminds me of working here in NYC at The American Museum of Natural History where teachers would send their kids in with clipboards to get all the right answers–e.g. how are diamonds formed. And then all they did was hand it in for a grade. No projects developing therefrom and precious few minutes, if any at all, for allowing their own curiosities to wander in the Hall of Planet Earth developing their own investigations about earth formation and origins.
      Keep up your wonderful work.



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