Every day you are greeted by approximately thirty eager faces each class period, looking at you with anticipation and a motivating desire to learn! Hmmm, maybe not every day! But we can assume that you see these beautiful faces each day, and whether or not they are eager to learn about your content, your students’ minds are filled with questions and curiosities they may not choose to verbalize. How do we tap into this vast resource of intrigue? Try a little game I call “I’ve Always Wondered”.
The concept is simple: Students finish the statement “I’ve always wondered…” with questions about life, school, friends, and the world around them. When you first implement this activity, keep the question open-ended with few restrictions. I typically set 3 expectations: “Make sure your question is appropriate, not offensive and that you are comfortable with it being read out loud in class.” The question does not have to apply to the content you are currently teaching.
Distribute one 3x5 card to each student. Students anonymously write their “I’ve always wondered” statement on the card and return the card to the teacher. Punch one hole in the upper left-hand corner and fasten with a ring or clasp. Keep these cards in your desk drawer, or hang in the front of your classroom. At the conclusion of a class period, to reward students for positive work ethic and behavior, take three to five minutes to address one or two questions. Read a question out loud. Ask students how they would respond. Add your insight if you like. You will find that some questions are specific, scientific questions which may require students to further investigate the query (a great extra credit or enrichment activity). You are also likely to encounter many social questions, such as how to deal with friends or tough situations. This is a tremendous opportunity to engage your students by helping them find relevance and safety in your classroom, while addressing issues they feel are important.
Take this a step further by later narrowing down your guiding statement. For example, if you teach biology, you may frame the activity with the statement, “I’ve always wondered _____ about biology.” You can also give each student a few index cards and have them interview friends to find out what is on their mind. You will quickly have a large stack of questions which will help you bridge the gap between student interest and your classroom.