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Remote Learning: Notice Wonder
By Mark Heintz
Dec 2, 2020

This is another post in a series that highlights the successes of being in a full remote setting. 

Create The Learning Conditions

I have tried different ways to create conditions for deep learning in a remote/hybrid setting. Getting all students to participate in a class is never an easy task, and that problem hasn’t gone away in a pandemic. After a few months of teaching remotely and then in a hybrid setting, one method I routinely use is Notice/Wonder. I didn’t come up with this method; I was first introduced to it through the School Reform Initiative. Using Notice/Wonder has dramatically increased participation while simultaneously improving the students’ ability to analyze and think critically.

Here is how I do it:

Procedures

Step 1: Assign students a document. If students are online, have them join the breakout room. If you are in person, have them gather together. That keeps the parallel structure the same.gather together if you are in person.

Step 2: Give 3 minutes for students to look at the document to write down anything they notice. It can be words that stick out to them, numbers, author, locations, or if using images of anything they see. Everything is important and should be noted. As students do this, they are merely stating what they notice. This allows time for all students to process the document.

Step 3: As a group or class, students record all of the things they noticed. Have students go one at a time to allow every student a chance to put one of the things they noticed. Having all students work together allows for the class to fully notice more as a group than we would individually.

Step 4: Give students 2 minutes to write down any questions they have related to the document. This could be anything from things they are confused about to connections they are attempting to make. The word “wonder” allows the students to take a chance on what they are thinking without it being considered right or wrong. The questions typically allow for a deep analysis of a document.

Step 5: As a group or class, students record all of the things they noticed. Have students go one at a time to allow every student a chance to put one of the things they noticed.

Why I Routinely Use it

When using Notice/Wonder, students share their learning with others. Using this method allows students to just notice. They aren’t trying to answer a specific question that sometimes makes students hesitant to answer because they are uncertain if they are “right.” In other words, they aren’t ashamed of what they are sharing, which increases participation.

When given the opportunity to ask questions instead of answering my predetermined ones, the students take risks in their learning. Since we aren’t looking for the “right” answer, students are okay with asking questions to learn. That is the goal of the activity: to increase learning, not find an answer. I give lots of wait time and encourage the students to ask every and any question on their mind sparked by the document. When students start asking questions, it leads to others asking questions, and the learning is multiplied.

After questions are asked, we attempt to answer them as a class. Sometimes we know the answers and sometimes we don’t. When we don’t know the answers, I show the students that I am still learning, and we can learn together. I give up my role as the expert and allow students to lead. Often, students will ask questions I have never thought of before, which is refreshing for me as a teacher because I have been using some of these documents for fifteen years. I am excited to be teaching every period because the questions they come up with are different.

Since being in a remote/hybrid setting, I use this technique almost every day. I will still use this technique when we are back to being in person because it allows me to stop talking and the students to do the analyzing. In a class of thirty students, one of them will notice something that sparks a conversation or poses questions that gets to analyzing the document at a deeper level.

Thank you to Kim Miklusak for reading through and providing guidance in my writing.

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