Monday, July 8, 2013

Chapter 3: Curiosity

How do you tell the difference between a student who is genuinely curious about a topic and asking genuine questions and a student who just asks questions to fulfill an assignment? Does it matter what types of questions they are asking? Will they get the content whether they are faking it or not? How do you teach or model curiosity in your classroom?


  1. This chapter was so much fun to read. Typically with my classes the students questions are genuine because they are topic related. Without curiosity the questions are related to the point of how many words, pages, etc. When I get this, I know I have not delievered the topic well. I am concerned when there are a lack of questions of any type. I feel I have not peaked their curiosity and I do not believe they have gotten the content.
    For my 8th grade general music classes, when we discuss African music, I bring out unusual intruments, such as llama toe nails (a shaker or rattle). Now that want to know if they are real or not,etc. When discussing the djembes(african drum), I show pictures of the community where they were produced and talk about the individuals who made the djembes and the differences in life styles. The hour moves quickly and my students are so engaged they have lost track of time. When the questions are coming quickly and more than one student....there is an interest.
    In my choirs (grades 6, 7, and 8th grades), when possible, we tend to write about the pop songs that they know and what they mean to them. Questions stem around the artist and the music. If I can I show the official utube video, which many have not seen, then we compare their meaning with the artist's meaning. A great one that I use with the 6th graders, is CONCRETE ANGEL. Students love the piece but do not fully understand what it means. They interpret, then write, we watch and then we discuss. Why did she write this piece, what was so important, etc.? Students are curious.

  2. I think you can tell if a student is genuinely curious partly from the level of the questions they ask. It can take time and considerable thinking/retooling to generate a deep question. They can still acquire content if they are "faking it" to begin with, but the level of their questions might be representative of their interest-- at first anyway.

    I did something similar to what Maiers does with rocks (so crushed that she mentioned science as uninteresting) when I did a chapter on bacteria and viruses. I had the students create a list of questions before we started the unit, with the idea that we would see which ones we answered as we went along. I typed up the questions from all 5 classes and we compared. Not all of the questions were answered (some of them might be unknown to this day), but it was an interesting framework to use.
    I think you can model curiosity with think-alouds, and by refining your questioning techniques. One of the best ways to "teach" curiosity is to not give away too many answers. I liked her point that curious brains are active brains, and active brains become smart brains.
    When I taught science, I tried to have some type of objects on the lab tables when students came in as often as possible. We often started with lateral thinking puzzles when students had to deduce an answer by asking yes-no questions only.
    Questioning skills can be very elaborate; not only students but probably teachers can benefit from some of the techniques she details. The challenge to be curious on page 46 is a great idea.
    I looked for the Wise Woman book, but it is not in any of the libraries in our area, and is only available from third-party resellers on amazon.
    I think the curiosity inventory could be used by teachers at the beginning of the year (many give questionnaires already), and maybe if a wonder box is not possible, students could combine a wonder list with a reading/writing notebook or commonplace book.
    Coincidentally, as I was reading this chapter, I opened up our district newsletter from the Community Health Network, and it contained an article based on Csikszentmihalyi about flow. Apparently curiosity can be healthy for you, too! I was fortunate to see him speak at a conference in Indianapolis once.
    And, of course, I had to think about how this relates to standardized testing and lockstep pacing calendars...

  3. Isn't it interesting how imagination and curiosity go hand in hand? While reading this chapter on curiosity I kept going back to the thought that if the student isn't using their imagination how can they ask (or think to ask) higher levels of questions.

    My teaching area/classroom is a bit different than the traditional teacher, I teach an exploratory class on college and careers, work with work-based learning students, and I am an AVID 11 and 12 Elective Teacher. For my AVID students they have been working on Costa's and Bloom's questioning levels since 7th or 8th grade when they entered the AVID System.

    As I have worked on lesson plans and curriculum this summer for the AVID 11 and 12 classes, I have found myself being intentional in bringing in activities to build their questioning skills (aka curiosity). As I thought about the activities that I have put in place, I came to the conclusion that I want my students to be curious about their questioning methods, strategies, and levels. I know that I can just "teach" them and give them the information, but now after reading Chapter 3 of this book I know that I need to make them curious about their questioning methods.

    As instructors in the classroom, we are all performers; so what do I "do" to get them excited and raise their level of curiosity?

    For me, I believe that any question that is posed, no matter where it falls in Costa's or Bloom's level of questioning, is a curious question and no student is "faking" their curiosity. All students are at different "levels" of curiosity for different subjects, presentations, activities, lessons, etc. We should not expect every student to be curious about everything in their classroom world, just as they are not curious about everything in the world around them. The student who is asking "curiosity" questions (my terminology) will be asking questions to learn more and more information and they are not looking at the "assignment" they have to fulfill. However, the student who is asking questions about the assignment, just wants to get the assignment done and over with and you know you are going to get surface level information, and perhaps that is where their curiosity level is on that subject/lesson.

    In my classroom I believe that curiosity comes from my excitement, preparation, presentation, and energy level. If I am not curious about a subject, then how can I expect to spark curiosity in my students.

    Final thoughts/ramblings: Curiosity is at different levels and stages with every individual; some may be over the moon excited and curious and others are thinking "let's just get through this information, Teach" and that is to be expected. However, the final question we have to ask ourselves is how ca we get those who are the "let's just get through this info" students to get to the next level of curiosity?

    1. I agree- to me, imagination and curiosity are linked. I need to do a better job of letting students watch me explore my random thoughts- model curiosity on the "big screen" so all of them can see me (sort of like a read-aloud-close-reading but with thinking and wondering).

  4. This chapter was enlightening. It made me start to think about my own strategies and tools used to form questions for my students. I can honestly say I don't remember a teacher in school teaching how to ask questions. Watching Angela Maiers with the first graders teaching the habits and attitudes of curiosity with the book Where Do Balloons Go? was awesome! The lesson showed how curiosity and questioning go hand in hand. What I loved the most was the activity they did in small groups that gave them time to just ask questions about a picture. It was hard for kids not to want to answer the questions right away. We have taught kids from the beginning to just answer our questions in education and as we continue to be “data driven” teachers that is all we will get is correct answers! How can they be curious if all they are doing is trying to get the right answer? They have to have a chance to "wonder" to actually become curious enough to want to ask more about something. I was thinking how a wonder box would be an excellent activity to have on hand for a station during daily 5 to research their own wonders and use the q-cards recommended in the book to help them build questioning skills. This would help foster critical thinking and THAT is where we want them to be! That is when you know they are NOT faking it.

  5. I agree with your comments, Amy. I liked the way Maiers phrased a statement about reflecting on the quotes with the Kindergartners; she said "As you read what these famous voices are saying about curiosity. . . ." So do you think the students were thinking about how the famous person sounded when they actually said the words? She just gave the quote a "voice."

  6. This chapter really went along with what I learned at the Peace, Love, and Ed Tech conference last week (part of the IDOE Summer of E-Learning). Melissa Pogue, principal at Edgewood Jr. High School in Ellettsville, said that she doesn't ask her son what he learned in school today anymore- she asks him what questions he asked today. This kept running through my mind as I read the chapter. My job as a teacher isn't just to fill my students with new ideas and knowledge, or even to rehearse the learning that they will need to demonstrate on the assessment; my job is to teach them to ask questions. I want to revise my lessons this year to include more questioning- to give students more opportunities to explore their own ideas and to wonder. I loved the thought of just learning something because you felt like it- I saw a cartoon recently about someone on their computer as bedtime approaches, almost ready to go to sleep, but then something made them curious and hours later they are still looking stuff up on Wikipedia about it. That's the power of teaching our students to ask questions and be curious- that's lifelong learning.

    1. I agree, questioning is lifelong learning. My hope is to help guide the students that I come in contact with in my libraries become lifelong learners/ lifelong readers. I love to have book discussions with the students and hear the questions they have after reading a book. It is great to see their curiosity come to life.

  7. How do you tell the difference between a student who is genuinely curious about a topic and asking genuine questions and a student who just asks questions to fulfill an assignment?......until you are able to cultivate a learning environment where curiosity is encouraged and expected, it might be difficult to distinguish between the two types of students. Like anything else, it's imperative that we as teachers, model curiosity as well, asking questions of ourselves as we teach.

    In Lesson 1- Building Curiosity, the quote- " nothing is interesting to us unless we pay attention to it," is so true. So often, students have no real connection to a topic and find it uninteresting. I like the idea of looking at a problem or topic through a "curiosity lens." Additionally, we must give our students the tools to explore and learn on their own. I especially like the questioning tools in lesson 3. I have encouraged students to use some of these same questions during our blogging challenges. These questions force students to think outside of the box and really take a genuine interest in others' ideas.

    The one new concept I took away from this chapter was the typology of questions. The idea of teaching students how to categorize their questions, thus, empowering their own learning, is motivating as a teacher. Although most of realize that our roles as classroom teachers should be to coach, guide, and facilitate, it is still a shift in thinking and teaching. If we are to cultivate a classroom of curiosity, we must model and believe in the power of questioning and curiosity ourselves.

  8. When I offer projects or assignments that offer students the opportunity to choose what they want to do, I see a difference in the curiosity level through their engagement with and questions about the topic/issue. I did a research project during the last two+ weeks of last year's seniors that allowed them to choose what they wanted to learn. I was amazed by their willingness to write a short proposal,find 8-10 sources to annotate, and produce a presentation in a format they wanted to do. Their questions about the issues, the credibility of sources, and how to present their findings reflected a genuine curiosity in all these areas. Interestingly, they took it upon themselves to find answers and ask other experts online and in person these questions.

    This year students will do a similar project for each semester in the form of a 20% Project. I want to have them use the questioning strategies of this chapter as the do bi-weekly blog updates of their processes during their 20% Project. These questions will help prompt them to reflect on their learning as part of this process.

  9. When I teach the Gold Rush I put the students in groups and hand out a different picture of the Gold Rush to each group. They talk about and analyze the picture. The most important part of the assignment is "what questions do you have about this picture". It really draws out their "curiosity" about the picture and the topic.

    I found Lesson Three Asking Genius Questions to be the most interesting part of this chapter. The idea of creating groups and giving them a set of genius questions at the end of a lesson or section or chapter would be a very easy way to foster curiosity and what a great way to get students talking about the content!

    I also think that curiosity and imagination are linked, but I think it is easier for students to be curios than to use their imaginations.

    1. I agree especially when they are older. They will ask questions but it is more difficult to be creative.

    2. Brant:
      A few years ago I went to an outstanding workshop on visual literacy at the Indianapolis Art Museum. The leader started with one picture and had us generate questions and observations. At first I thought, yeah, just a picture of somebody in a field. I was amazed by the number of questions we were able to generate! I often think back to this experience and how often I (and probably my students) barely glance at something and go on. I hope I'm a little more curious when I see something now. Great idea to use with your students, and they can observe each other being curious.

  10. The first time I read the chapter on curiosity by our pool last week, I had to reread it again this week to effectively comment on the chapter. However, last week when I asked my granddaughter, Alexa, what she was curious to learn more about. Her answer was, "Shoes"! She explained that she wanted to know more about high heels. This is exactly what so many of our good Indiana teachers do; we continue to press on, to find out what the student's hot button is.

    As I read Susie Highley's comments I reflected on her statement, "that curious brains are active brains, and active brains become smart brains". This is exactly what I want to happen with my students with intense disabilities. I want their brains to become active.

    The author, Angela Maiers, principle, "Curiosity is a mindset that enables individuals to explore their internal and external worlds by asking questions, seeking answers, and engaging in a wide range of personal and interpersonal activities. This concept is what we are striving for in our students with autism.

  11. I think sometimes students get programmed to give certain answers and used to questions. We have been doing a lot of balanced literacy at our school and some students will ask questions or give answers that use some of the words that they think we want to hear like "scheme" and "connections". It's sometime easy to spot these kids who are just word droppers. I think as a teacher you can guide their questioning with more in depth questions. I've had students who say why do you always answer our questions with a question!
    I think it is no easy task to try to get children to be more curious. I thought it was very interesting to think of mundane things as something we could become curious about, like rocks. This is what little kids do naturally all the time. My six year old constantly wants to know about everything and now he asks if something is real or fake. We recently went to Chicago and he had a hard time keeping up with us become he wanted to look and exam everything from the buildings, trolleys, and people. I found myself telling him to hurry up and now looking back I should have been slowing down for him! I guess that's maybe what happens as we get older there are too many people shutting down our curiosities and imaginations. I am excited to use the resources in my classroom and see what my students come up with!

    1. As I was reading your post, I was thinking the same thing that sometimes we go too fast to allow a child's curiosity and imagination to process everything around them. I love to watch their minds at work while observing and finding out about things that interest them-- not just what the assessments say need to covered and taught.

      My son has always had a natural curiosity about maps. He loves to look at and study maps. He came home from his fourth grade field trip thrilled because the museum had a map of Wayne County and the map was free. He has been looking at the maps his aunt brought him from her vacation to South Carolina. I have found him using the laptop computer at home traveling all around Indiana and Ohio on google earth. His curiosity in maps and where places are located amazes me.

    2. I had forgotten that young many young children are naturally curious. My grandson, age 5, is constantly asking questions. Why this and how that....the questions come so fast at times there isn't any time to answer those questions,especially when we are driving. Then they start to grow up and somewhere along the line we end up with our older students and in particular my 8th graders who are no longer curious. "Just tell me what to do so I can do it and get out of here." The job goes back to trying to create the desire to be curious.

    3. Young children are curious and then when older many students have lost that curiosity. Why? Is it just part of it growing up or is it because others have caused it to die overtime? It is also good to spend time with younger children to rediscover the wonder of the world around us.

  12. I am sure there is a difference in sincere questions and those that
    are being asked to fulfill an assignment; however, does it make a
    difference in student learning? I was intrigued by Csikszentmihalyi's
    research, especially when discussing how to build curiosity in
    learners. Maiers wrote, "... we can develop our curiosity (and fight
    boredom) by making a conscious effort to build it by paying
    attention." Even if a student is asking questions just to complete
    the assignment, they are at least paying attention and learning to ask
    questions. I think as long as the learner is engaged in asking
    questions, as educators we can model and/or push back with deeper
    questions until they begin asking those.

    I loved the ideas and lessons included in how to build curiosity in
    students. At the high school level, many students will claim that
    their entire day is boring. I think my new response will be to ask
    the student which topic they find most boring and use the author's
    strategy of asking if it wasn't boring, what would you want to know?
    Finding a way to get the student to think beyond their boredom is
    pivotal. This was another great chapter!

  13. I teach the elementary children and their curiosity is natural and evident. When interested in a topic, they frequently will instantly have questions of their own directed to the teacher. They may not even want to change the topic. Sometimes their curiosity/interest is also evident by what they want to add to the discussion; possibly even bringing something from home the next day that is related to the topic.

    To encourage or model the development of curiosity I often stop during discussions to say "I wonder..., or "How many would... The children naturally want to suggest ways to find out. Counter-wise, when they have a question about something I also suggest that we (or they) find the answer. Sometimes taking the time to actually focus of something of interest allows the kids to get a bit "deeper" into a topic.

    Curiosity is frequently neither patient or quiet! I wonder sometimes if we succeed a bit too much at getting the young kids to conform. Maybe this is why it is so hard for them to develop or express their curiosity as they move through the grade levels.

  14. Another great chapter. Looking back over the end of the year research in the library, I think one of the problems students were having is a lack of good questions about the topics they were researching. I loved the video of the 1st grade class working on coming up with great questions. Julie mentioned that some kids seem to be only asking questions that they think the teacher wants to hear, and I have noticed that as well. I think the "Question Typology" offers a way to try to pull different types of questions from students that are "faking it." Finding a way to work this in to my short class times will be a challenge but I can see that it could have long term benefits.

  15. “Curious brains are active brains, and active brains become smart brains.” This was one of my favorite quotes from this chapter. Curiosity is so important! I think it is one of the main reasons I enjoy teaching young children so much. They are naturally curious. It is our job as educators to tap into that natural curiosity and nurture it. It is interesting to think about curiosity and imagination and their relationship. I will be doing some contemplating and question-forming on that topic.

    I like the idea of “Wonder Boxes” that Maiers talks about. That would be a great thing for primary students to do. Students could then connect their Wonder Box questions to their reading, learning, and research in the classroom. We could even have a class Wonder Box.

    The genius question-starters are great! This is a resource I will print out and keep with my planning materials. Teaching students to question – deeply and with the correct questions – will greatly increase student reading comprehension.

  16. We talk a lot about questioning especially during reading . . . thin questions verses thick questions. This is one of the hardest lessons to teach and for the students to learn. I think by the time they get to third grade they have been taught to just wait and the teacher will give you the answer. This chapter was spot on! I need to focus more on the question they are asking not the answer. However, I think that’s what they’ve been condition to do. . . get the right answer, the question is not paid much attention. Depending on the situation, I do make a big deal if a student even asks a question. Sometimes I wonder if they think they are NOT supposed to ask the teacher a question. So I really play it up when somebody does ask.
    Do we as teachers give them enough time to think about being curious? Do we have enough time during class to devote to this?
    When I think a student is asking a question, or even wants to ask a question, they are curious, and again I try to play it up so show them that’s it’s important to ask and wonder. I love the question on assessments that ask ‘what do you think about . . . ?” Then that gives me the opportunity to ask them “do YOU think?”
    This habitude is one I will always keep in the fore front of my lesson plans because students do need to wonder and be curious.
    Cathleen Cunningham

  17. The questions that one asks determines what information one gets in return. Students need to learn what kind of questions to ask and that it is okay to ask questions. The more information that one obtains; the more information you have to obtain a solution to your problem.

  18. I agree with many of you who wrote about slowing down to encourage curiosity. I, too, feel the pressure of testing, and that has affected how much time I spend encouraging students' curiosity. I am excited to teach science this year, as it will provide an excellent opportunity to model my own curiosity about certain topics. For me some of the content will be completely new, so I will certainly be curious about the investigations we will do. I need to keep in mind that curiosity is so important to emphasize.