So it was at least three years ago that I first saw the video of Annie Fetter’s Ignite talk about the instructional routine, “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” (I might have even heard about this routine at the summer institute I did with Lucy West’s company, Metamorphosis). I think it was mid year that I began incorporating it into my class, and I remember being pleasantly surprised at how I heard from students who had been silent in class for much of the year.

Last year, I began the school year with it, using it so much with my co-teachers that Katie and Kathleen would often tease me about it (though we started using it also in our grown up teacher tasks: what do you notice about these student test scores?). This year, I’ve also been using it right from the get go (in fact, it’s like the second thing in my kids’ notebooks and there are at least three or four N/W charts). I often do it in three stages: draft a list independently, share one or two with a partner and add to your list, share out as a whole class and expand or confirm your list with plus signs for new ideas and checks for ideas you also had.

Last year, I started to run into a problem with my students that arose yesterday (when I began this post!). My students do “ok” (at worst, sometimes much better) with the noticing, but their wonderings are much less specific and mathematical. Sometimes, I think it might be because I’ve chosen to have them notice/wonder about something that’s insufficiently substantial. Other times, I worry it’s because I haven’t done enough modeling or reflecting on our noticings and wondering about what makes a good one.

Yesterday, I gave my 7th graders a “probability table” to wonder about. It showed the chances of Nina getting a phone call at her work at an office.

They noticed things like the probability was written in fractions, they summed to 1, the denominators were multiples of 3, and that she typically got fewer phone calls (they didn’t state that they noticed she got between 0 and 4 phone calls).

They wondered who was calling her, why she had so few calls, where she worked, did she have a good phone plan/what was her rate, Samsung or apple, how long were the calls, what her phone number was. Only the question about how long the phone calls were seemed to me that they could be potentially relayed to the probability, but in the moment, I didn’t make any connections. I just recorded all of their observations and questions.

In class, after we did this activity, I had my kids answer a few questions about some probabilities and they seemed to do pretty well: but I didn’t make any explicit link between the intro activity we did and how that helped them answer the questions (like P (0 calls) = or what was the number she was most likely to get).

I’m wondering now how to improve upon my use of notice/wonder. I went to an MfA PD tonight about the instructional routine, Contemplate then Calculate that uses the notice part without the wonder in the beginning of the task and it made me wonder if sometimes, we should just use the notice part.

The other thing I was thinking about is how awesome it is when we’re able to leverage the wonder part to become the questions we investigate, so it seems like we’re delving into what the kids were asking about (but secretly, it was anticipated and aligns with the objective of the day).

I was also reflecting on the way I began tweaking the routine a bit last year at the end to say, “what could you wonder mathematically about this? ” or what questions could this answer or what mathematical questions could we all about this? I’m wondering now if I should try those again this year.

The other thing (really big picture for a moment) that I realized at tonight’s PD is that there are apparently LOTS of instructional routines to use in class to teach better: WHY didn’t we learn about any of them when I was in grad school? Did other people? If not, there’s something broken with how we’re training teachers (which I already believe, based on my experience in Teachers College).

Anyway, I guess my closing ideas are this:

How do others use Notice/Wonder?

Does the item you choose affect how well students are able to do this?

How do you model it and teach kids the routine?

How do you help students get better and improve at the routine?