Send me the links!

Creating A Culture of Curiosity

We have a problem with curiosity in our classrooms.

Observations find that entire classes of kids ask essentially zero curious questions. This starts in kindergarten.

An individual kid may go an entire year without asking a curious question.


As teachers, we want to blame our curriculum, other students, time constraints, etc.

But, friends, as a teacher I said all kinds of things to my students that discouraged questions. I was the biggest barrier to student curiosity because I made asking questions scary when I said things like:

  1. We don’t have time for questions.
  2. Oh, that’s a silly question.
  3. That question is off-topic.
  4. I’m not there yet. Hold onto your questions.
  5. I already answered that! Weren’t you listening?

All of these statements (unintentionally) kill curiosity. The whole class clams up. Asking a question becomes dangerous.

Create This Environment

With the puzzlements mailer, we’re looking to establish four things (this comes from Susan Engel’s work. Read it!):

  1. Routine: students come to expect a time to be curious. Use the mailer at the same time every week. Establish a curiosity routine.
  2. Safety: students know they can ask a question without being hushed or sidelined or mocked. Set the expectations early: "Class I will not say things like 'we don't have time' or 'that's a silly question'."
  3. Novelty: the puzzlements are fresh, interesting, and unexpected. Feel free to use only one or two to fit your needs best.
  4. Praise and Model: this is a chance for you to praise and (more importantly) model curiosity. You MUST be wondering along with the class. You MUST show what it's like to be curious.

So, What Do I Do With This?

All you need to do: decide which links to use, show them to your students, and then periodically stop and ask:

  1. “What did/do you notice?” Don’t skip this step. In fact, spend a long time here. Let kids sit and spot things, make connections, and simply think.
  2. “What do you wonder?” Note the wording. “Wonder” is important. And you’d better be ready to wonder yourself! Modeling curiosity is key.

That’s it! No homework; no assignment; no prep (other than selecting an appropriate puzzlement). You’ll find that, over time, kids will bring in their own ideas, create their own versions of videos, and become more confident as wonder-ers.

All because you changed the culture of the classroom!

This will probably take time. Your students are not used to being curious at school. Give them three or four weeks to build trust in you. They'll slowly learn that it really is ok to wonder.

And, again, do not assign homework or create classwork out of these questions or you’ll quench the fire.

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