Tuesday, April 9, 2013

See, Think, Wonder about Rocks

Connect: At the beginning of our science unit about earth materials I was feeling like I was leading too much of the conversations going on in our classroom.  For our last unit we had used inquiry circles and the students talked, reflected and questioned all about plants and it felt great!  Their interactions were fun and exciting and they learned A LOT!  Earth materials...well it was not having the same 'great' feeling.  The curriculum always seems so plain and not as interactive as I would like. I wanted to feel as though my students were leading things again, but I have a hard time doing the same thing so I was looking for something new.  I also wanted my students to really think about what they were seeing in the rocks, and not tell me what they thought the rock had been through in its history (in relation to the rock cycle as that was our first study).  I decided to try the "See, Think, Wonder" routine in order to facilitate this.

What I did: I began by showing them a picture of a scenic view that had mostly rocks.  I told them that I wanted them to pause and think about what they could see.  They needed to separate their thoughts about how it became what they saw, and just explain what they could see.  We did this silently and they wrote all their ideas on post-it notes.  Next, I asked them what it made them think of.  Finally, what were they wondering now that they had thought and looked at this picture for awhile.  Each step they used a new post-it note and I would collect them.  The first time I did this,
there were both positives in this activity and things I realized we could work on.  They were able to give details in what they saw, but they would also begin to guess or try to explain what they were seeing even with my attempts to divide these thoughts.  This was important to my practice because through their responses I could see that while it isn't always evident each day, they are clearly understanding how to identify properties of rocks and although they tend to jump to conclusions, their conclusions are backed by their scientific knowledge and they are able to identify their process.

 Extend: This impacted my work because I was able to begin allowing them to lead more of our classroom discussions knowing that they were on the right track.  I was surprised by the details that students were able to pick up and explain in their writing. Also, from my experience with some of our other thinking routines I was able to take a step back and continue changing my vocabulary and continue practicing it until I was seeing the outcomes closer to what I wanted in the beginning.  I want to start using this with the rocks the students are bringing in for our rock museum.  I think we will do this one more time as a class with a rock from the museum and then have them try it in small groups and see what happens.

Challenge:  The biggest challenge for me with this routine is taking their amazing wonderings and figuring out exactly what to do with them.  I want them to be able to take those and research and challenge their thinking, but with just me in the classroom and the students still just learning our iPads that would be another challenge that I'm not sure I'm ready for!  At the moment I have been asking students to take some of the questions home (mostly over spring break) and see if they can learn about the rocks in the places they traveled.  The families were very supportive and we had a lot of fun write-ups and rocks brought in, I just need to figure out the next step for our classroom.


  1. I like the idea of doing this with post-its. I was trying to figure out how to incorporate this routine into Nonfiction Fridays without taking too much time... using stickies is a good idea. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Shannon,

    I like that you commented that the kids usually jump to their conclusions, but it turns out that their conclusions are backed by evidence. They were able to show that evidence through this routine. I really am finding I need to slow down, even during this time of year when everything else is speeding up. I can't lose sight of the fact that tracking down their thinking is extremely important. Thanks.

  3. Shannon, I have learned from you to slow down and give them more time and opportunity to think and write about their observations. I am so inspired by what I am learning about my students work in your classrooms!

  4. Rocks always get such a bad wrap, but what a good way to make it more interesting and to get students to think about rocks a little more. I find, too, that when I slow it down and let students do the talking, their learning is more impactful.