Thursday, February 23, 2012


My favorite classroom phrase these days is, "What do you notice?"

For awhile, I was zooming right ahead to, "What are you wondering?" But I realized that before you can wonder, you usually have to notice.

This is a graph that Environmental Club students studied after a dusting of snow:

What do you notice?
Do you have to understand before you notice, or can your noticing lead to understanding?

More and more, our content learning begins with one or more images that are rich for noticing. These images and noticings build background knowledge and vocabulary for the entire spectrum of my diverse class of learners.

Ohio’s Native People in the 1600-1700s
from One State, Many Nations
What do you notice? 
As you notice, can you compare and contrast?

White Settlement Patterns in the Ohio River Valley During the 18th Century

from One State, Many Nations

What do you notice?
As you notice, can you infer any causes or effects? 
Why are so many of the settlements named Fort Somethingorother? What is a fort? Why did the settlers need forts to protect themselves? 

As I'm reading aloud, I ask students to notice evidence of the author's craft, times when the author defines an unusual word later on in the text, or actions that can tell us about a character's personality.

All of this noticing leads naturally to questioning, wondering, predicting, and connecting.

It's amazing that one of the smallest questions can yield the biggest rewards in terms of student engagement and student thinking.

That's what I've noticed, at any rate. What are you noticing?


  1. Such a crucial part of teaching to build upon what they notice but I tend because of pacing to skip this step thank you for bringing "noticing" back to the forefront of my thinking.

  2. Mary Lee,
    You make a great point here. We do have to take time to notice. Noticing does seem to lead to wondering. We started our investigation of maps today with a bit of searching and noticing. I'm thinking I'm going to put that word at the top of my plans for next week.


  3. I just finished reading "Making Thinking Visible" and this was one of the powerful points made - funny how one word opens up a whole new world of opportunities. Also finished "Choice Words" - another call to listen to the words we use, and be more deliberate.

  4. I love this idea of noticing. We're always in such a hurry to run off to the next new exciting something that we forget to notice what's right in front of us.

    I'm trying to get myself to notice things more often too. I take a break a couple of times a day and go outside and wander around the garden and make myself just look, for a long time, at any one scene. Because the more and the longer I look, the more I see.

    First a scraggly ceanothus with a few blooms. Then a few fuzzy carpenter bees dancing around the blossom. Then a single thread to a spider thread. Then a little spider, danging from a glossy leaf.

    It was all there all along but I didn't see it all until I slowed down.

  5. I notice that although I headed into my year fully intent to make Noticing and Wondering the theme of Kindergarten, as a concept and practice it was pretty much absent for the first two months. I was running so fast to catch up that it didn't feel like I could slow down for noticing. I'm sad to think now of missed opportunities, especially because I'm beginning to understand how the skill of noticing levels the playing field in a classroom. Thanks for this view of its power.


Comment moderation is turned on.