Using “I Notice, I Wonder” for the First Time

Last week, I wrote about the general structure of my classes anchored in the “discussion protocol”. One thing that I mentioned was that prior to students exploring a particular question, we give them a couple of minutes to read and understand the question.

The questions have been pretty short that I feel pretty comfortable not having a teacher guided section where we make sense of the question as a class.  Having a co-teacher for all my classes also ensures that when we make our rounds, my co-teacher and I can make sure that students actually have a good sense of the question.

However, I’ve had my heart set on using  “I notice, I wonder” after I read about it on a few blogs since delving into the #MTBoS.  I was so happy excited, no, no…I’ve got it: EXUBERANT when “I notice, I wonder” would fit wonderfully in a lesson I was preparing, especially since I do have so many students who are not on reading level or are beginner ELLs, do not have confidence in their math abilities, seem lost when longer questions or situations are thrown at them and don’t know where to start.

Goal of the lesson: I wanted students to be able to describe describe different strategies for finding the GCF.  Up to this point, students had been listing the factors and finding the common factor. I expect students to continue doing this, but at the very least I wanted them to be aware of other approaches.

I had students do a series of quick 2 minute think-pair-shares and then jotted down their thoughts on the board.

Analyzing Strategies


So much stuff

The Results

I really wished I had saved my chart from the smart board!

  • I had a lot more students than usual participate voluntarily. I had to resort to the Bowl of Destiny very few times.
  • The “I wonder” questions naturally led to the students delving deeper into the prime factorization strategy which was really foreign. (Example: I wonder why Derrick thinks prime factorization will help him find the GCF? I wonder why 2 x 2 x 3 is written differently  than the other numbers?)
  • In fact I used those last two questions as the focus questions for the rest of the period so they could really make sense of the prime factorization strategy before answering “Does this work for other numbers?” It also forced them to go back into the text because they don’t read everything!!
  • Students came up with their own questions and I had them answer them. There seemed to be more “buy-in” to explore the question of a peer rather than the “questions the teachers ask me to explore.”
  • This also made me realize how selective the students are towards reading in math. As I went around I asked, “I wonder what Derrick and Sasha trying to do?” So many of my students had skipped over the first part that explains EXACTLY what Sasha and Derrick are doing and just focused on the numbers and making their own hypotheses about what those numbers meant.  So I wonder if reading aloud together would help?
  • I learned just how valuable talking about a problem/situation can be to make sense of it.

I’m currently working on my next unit plan and I’m looking forward to using this frequently in my classroom.


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