What do YOU wonder? I have found that asking this simple question promotes inquiry, curiosity, and engagement in my classroom. While the question is simple, the journey to guide students into wonderment is not as simple. Many learners are disengaged with content learning and are therefore sadly empty of wonder. Other learners may be struggling with the content at the understanding level, which makes it very challenging to move to the wondering level. One way I have worked to overcome these roadblocks is through the use of visual images. The use of rich and authentic images in content-area learning has such transformative power because it allows students to engage in higher level thinking skills while processing the deep meaning of the images. Whereas images are readily available online, an in-depth source of content-area images is Britannica ImageQuest. The organization and authentication of the images within this digital tool allows teachers to quickly locate topical images that will spark deep learning and discussion with students.
So, now that you have a great image, what next? Here are some some ways that I use images to get my students curious, engaged, and asking, “I wonder?”
Grabbing attention at the start of class is key. A way to do this with images is to have an image that is connected to the content of the day posted as students walk in. Students can use the See-Think-Wonder protocol from the text Making Thinking Visible to analyze the image for details, think about the implied ideas in the image, and wonder about questions the image evokes. Through this simple process students have activated their background knowledge, made predictions for learning, and set a clear learning purpose. Recently in my classroom I used this strategy to guide a novel study. Each day a new image was posted that connected to the chapter in some way. I was pleasantly surprised with how this simple bell-ringer activity harnessed student energy and directed that energy toward uncovering the story of the novel at a deep level of thinking.
Another way to grab interest is to post an image but with portions missing or covered. This works really well with visuals such as charts and graphs. Students can practice inquiry skills to determine the information they know, and they can hypothesize about the information and data that are missing. Through this process students are using images to practice the challenging skill of making inferences that can then be transferred or connected to making textual inferences.
Also, images are a fantastic way to engage students in wondering about a variety of viewpoints. To use this idea in the classroom, Doug Buehl suggests having students put themselves into the image while asking reflective questions, such as: What do you see? What do you feel? What happened before this image was captured? What will happen next? This activity truly puts students into the perspective shown in the image, and it can deepen their understanding of an event, setting, or time period. I have modified this strategy to utilize it in a cooperative learning environment where I provide groups of students with a different image of the same topic. The student groups become experts on their image perspective and then share that learning with the class, so we gain a complete picture of the topic.
Creating a sense of wonder in students increases engagement and learning. Images are a great way to add wonder into content learning!
Cited Texts: Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning; Doug Buehl and Making Thinking Visible; Ron Richhart, Mark Church, Karin Morrison