Engaging Students in Conversations with See-Think-Wonder
Often one of the most challenging tasks in a classroom is having the students participate in an effective discussion with one another.
Therefore, See-Think-Wonder is an extremely easy and straightforward activity that can be used in the beginning of a lesson when first introducing a topic in order to get students thinking about the content and engaged in a mini discussion.
Since many students benefit from visuals, See-Think-Wonder is a great activity to help them analyze a picture and ask questions.
In order to run the activity, you will give the students a chart that says See-Think-Wonder. It is helpful to write prompting questions such as what to do you see, what to do you think, what to do you wonder in order to guide their thinking.
So let’s say that we have this image.
For each column, the students will fill in what they see, think and wonder about the image.
You can do this for as many pictures as you want, however, I think three is an ideal number.
Once the students have completed the chart, there are several different routes you can go.
First, you can have students share their answers for the See column. This question, and the students’ answers, are not high-level but are very basic. However, they are the building blocks for the overall activity, which is why it is essential.
Once students have responded to the See column, they can then share their responses to the Think column, This is the part of the activity where you can start to initiate a discussion. Once a student states what they think, other students can be encouraged to respond to the statement by either agreeing or disagreeing.
You can even create a question formula where students will have to give their response in a certain way; “In the first picture, I think that this might have to do with the Declaration of Independence because it looks like they are presenting a document, and that is the English flag in the background.”
Another student can then respond with another formula such as, “I agree with you that this has to do with the Declaration of Independence because the man in the center is Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the Declaration.”
By using a formula for students to state their opinions, you are supporting the students who might have something to say, but not know exactly how to formulate it in a sentence to be shared.
Finally, you can have students share their Wonders from the images. This can also initiate a discussion because once a wonder question has been asked, if another student thinks they know the answer, they can respond.
Since there are multiple ways to participate in this activity and at multiple levels, you can mandate that students speak at least once during the activity, and that you cannot speak a second time until everyone has spoken at least once. This will encourage all students to share, and they can choose whether they speak in the beginning, when the questions and discussions are cognitively lower, or, at the end, when the questions and responses are deeper.
If you have many students who are not comfortable sharing in a group, or would like the students to have smaller, more intimate discussions, you can have them complete the same activity but in a small group of 3-4 students.
Students can then either individually or with a partner reflect on all three images and develop a question. Each group could then share their question with everyone in order to engage in a class discussion. In addition to encouraging discussion, this activity also helps them analyze the image and build upon one another’s ideas.
Once students are comfortable using the See-Think-Wonder strategy with an image, you can then advance the activity by using a text.
For example, here is an excerpt from John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government:
When legislators (lawmakers) try to destroy or take away the property of the people, or try to reduce them to slavery, they put themselves into a state of war with the people who can then refuse to obey the laws.
So instead of writing what they see, think and wondering about an image, the students will do the following:
See → what is the text explicitly saying?
Think → what does this mean?
Wonder → how does this connect to the claim or another piece of information?
Again, the students can then share their responses for the see, think and wonder columns in order to engage in a class or group discussion on the text.
See-Think-Wonder is a great activity for students just getting comfortable asking questions and engaging in a class discussion. Although the teacher might lead the activity, the questions, statements and responses should be student driven.
Another great aspect of this activity, is that it is extremely flexible so you can shorten or extend it to suit the time you have. Therefore, you can change the amount of images or text that you have the students respond to, and you can also decide whether to have a full classroom discussion or just have the students share and discuss in small groups.
If you are interested in more questioning and discussion strategies, be sure to check out our new Questioning and Discussion course, available here.
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