Notice/Wonder

Last summer I watched Annie Fetter’s Notice/Wonder video at a training led by Sara Van Der Werf.  I instantly knew this was something that I needed to be using in my classroom, and I was able to use the questions “What do you notice?” and “What do you wonder?” while tutoring over the summer to try it out before the school year.  Right away, I was amazed by how those two questions changed things for me while tutoring, but I was unsure how to implement it into a classroom setting compared to a one-on-one tutoring session.

When I first started using it, I wasn’t sure how to do it.  I wondered if there was a “right” or “wrong” way to do it, so I was more hesitant to use it in my classroom.  As I started using it more, it gradually became a common routine, both formal and informal, in my classroom.  I was curious to see the how I used Notice/Wonder over the course of the year, so I went through my files from the year and pulled out the images I was intentional about using with Notice/Wonder.  As I look back on the images from this past year, I would put most of them into one of the following categories.

  1. Students noticed/wondered about a problem before beginning to work on it.
  2. Students noticed/wondered things about several similar but slightly different images, and then we discussed how these slight differences impacted the math we were talking about.
  3. Students noticed/wondered things about a new concept on connected it to what they already knew.
  4. Students noticed patterns and/or put new concepts into groups.

The first two usually happen more in the middle of a unit, while the last two were typically how I started a unit.

The routine in my classroom for this is that students work individually for a few minutes writing their answers down.  I typically tell them something like, “Write down 7 things you notice and 5 things you wonder.”  Sometimes when they finish, I do a stand and talk (read about them here– scroll down to #4) before going over their responses as a class, other times we go right into a whole class discussion.

I saw this on Twitter a while back, and I like this idea rather than giving students a specific number of things to notice or wonder.

Here are some things I noticed about how I used this over the course of the year.

  • I was surprised by how often students were able to connect the new concepts to what they already know.  This was HUGE for me as a teacher because it helped me to realize I don’t always have to start from ground zero when introducing new concepts.  It also helped my students see how math builds off of itself.
  • When students noticed the differences among what we were talking about and made the connections I wanted them to make, it stuck better than if I would have just told them.
  • It gave me as the teacher a ton of insight into where my students were at with the math.  Some students would comment on the size or color of what was on the board.  Other students would connect it to what they had learned in the past.  The vocab they used when talking about it also gave me clues as to where I needed to go with what we were talking about.

As the year went on I found myself asking “What do you notice?” much more informally in class.  I would use it when I put a problem slightly different than what students had seen before, or if we were working on a problem and students were hesitant to participate.  Asking them what they noticed was a much safer way for them to participate than jumping into the problem right away.

I also found that I asked students what they noticed MUCH more often than “What do you wonder?”

Is every Notice/Wonder I do awesome?  No.  Are there more effective things I could be doing?  Most likely.  But this is where I’m at right now with this.  It’s made a HUGE impact on myself and my students, and I’ve seen growth in myself when it comes to using this in class compared to the start of the year.  After doing Notice/Wonder more often with students, it became easier for me to find new ways to incorporate it into my lessons, and I saw an improvement in the images I used with my students.

**Update:  I had this post written and saved in my drafts before going to another training by Sara Van Der Werf where she talked a lot about Notice/Wonder and was encouraged to have her validate many of the ways that I’ve been using this in my classroom.   I will try to remember to link Sara’s blog post on this training when she posts it.**


Here are some images of how I used Notice/Wonder with my 8th graders.

I used Notice/Wonder the first week of school with Fawn Nguyen’s Noah’s Ark problem to get them to think about the problem before starting.  This idea was completely stolen from Sara, and it was a great way for me to start using this with students.

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This is another example of a time when I had students Notice/Wonder before they actually started solving the problem.  I was especially hoping they would talk about the exponents.

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While grading quizzes, I finally saw where the misconceptions were coming from with some of the mistakes my students were making, so I created a notice/wonder to talk about those and the differences between the following terms.  This ended up being one of my favorites from the year.

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Here are several examples of when I used Notice/Wonder to introduce new concepts.

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I used this one to help students see the differences between the various forms of linear equations.

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Rather than just giving students a new formula like I would have in the past, I used Notice/Wonder.  Students were able to tell me the variables they were familiar with, so the formula didn’t seem completely new to them, and we discussed the variables they hadn’t seen before.

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In our unit on sequences, I used Notice/Wonder a few times in hopes that students would notice patterns and connect the sequence to the formula.

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I felt that I didn’t use Notice/Wonder as well with my 6th graders, but there were a few times throughout the year that it worked well.

I used it at the start of the year to introduce the game Set.

This spring I saw this Tweet.  I’m always encouraged when I see that someone else confirms that something I did in my classroom was a good idea.

After seeing that, I was reminded to use it again to introduce the rules to this Kenken puzzles.

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I used the following image when introducing the idea that there are 180° in a triangle.

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A few days later I put up these images to talk about the interior angles of polygons.

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