I teach grade 3 in a PYP school so I find that I am using visuals a lot to get students to learn through inquiry. I want them to formulate their own questions about the world around them, and sometimes I have to bring the outside world into the classroom. I teach students from all over the world in a school in the Middle East, so if I want them to view a rain forest or a snowy scene I find ways to show them through videos and pictures. Of course, it’s not like i’m often showing them something they haven’t seen before….but I am sometimes allowing them to question what they are seeing for the first time, often leading them to new understandings. Last year I did a Unit of Inquiry on Ecosystems and used pictures posted all over the classroom in order to get students to compare and contrast different types of living environments.
During my current Unit of Inquiry, which focuses on how our families influence our identity, I decided to have my students do a See, Think, Wonder routine where I posted the pictures shown below around the classroom with large white poster paper next to them. On the large white paper I put 3 columns. One with the word See at the top, one with the word Think at the top, and one with the word Wonder.
Students spent about 20 minutes walking around writing what they See, Think, and Wonder about each picture. The routine comes from a great website about Visible Thinking that describes the routine as a way to “encourage students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. It helps stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry.” My students made some great observations about different types of families, their sizes, traditions, generations, and many more. It allowed them to think more about their families and make some great connections to their own family relationships. Following the walking and writing part we had a large discussion about what they observed and generated some new questions together. Following the activity they wrote reflections about their findings. Overall, it was an activity that we could not have done without some great images. I look forward to doing more lessons like this in the future.