This last week, I had the privilege of attending the Write to Learn Conference in Osage Beach, MO. Christopher Lehman spoke about “making curiosity the core” for students. I’ve been meditating on his presentation a bit this weekend. I thought about my own personal learning. As an adult, I read books or research topics about which I am curious. Often my curiosity comes from an essential question, such as, Why isn’t this student learning? Or What is close reading?
In my experience, it seems we have stepped away from curiosity in the classroom, like a child steps away from a beautiful vase at Grandma’s house that she is told she can’t touch. Afraid of getting our hands slapped if we reach out and grab it, we keep our eyes on the standards we must teach, the assessments we must administer, and the goals we much reach. All the while, we dream of the vase, resigned to the fact it will remain hands-off to us.
Last week I was asked to model a reading lesson for a new teacher. The text was Survival and Loss: Native American Boarding Schools. The book was to mirror a textbook, to give students practice in dealing with nonfiction texts. I caught myself wishing I had been invited a few weeks earlier, so that I could have had fun with maybe a literary text, or even an informational text with a more interesting topic. I wondered how many students were actually curious about Native American boarding schools. It was then that I determined I would create curiosity. Through some research, I found a few primary resources with photos and journal entries from teachers and Native American students. I opened the lesson with the question, “Would a boarding school be right for you?” One student raised her hand when I asked if anyone knew what a boarding school was. Instead of filling their heads with background information, I told them I wasn’t going to tell them what a boarding school was. They were going to look through the primary resources and annotate them with questions and inferences, looking for clues.
What ensued was surprising to the classroom teacher and myself. Curiosity had been created. So much so, that students did not want to stop perusing the sources. In fact, they were actually excited to begin reading the text.
We are the kings and queens of our classrooms. We create our kingdoms and fill them with questions and wonder and fun. May curiosity reign!