This activity encourages students to develop their curiosity about a topic by asking authentic questions in the form of a poem. Using the poem “I Wonder” by Jeannie Kirby as a model, students express their own questions through the structure of a poem.
Make a copy of the poem “I Wonder” by Jeannie Kirby for each student. Consider creating a large visual display of the poem. Decide if you want students to create free-form questions about any topic, or if you want them to generate questions about a narrow topic, such as a unit of study or a text.
- Teacher distributes the poem to the students. Teacher reads the poem aloud as students follow along. Teacher leads students in a brief discussion of the poem, asking questions such as: · Why do you think the poet wrote this poem? · Do you wonder about
You may want to introduce this activity by discussing the importance of questioning and curiosity, and the association between developing curiosity and effectively learning.
- In pairs or individually, students generate a list of questions they have.
As mentioned above, this activity can guide students to generate questions about a specific topic, or just to generate questions in general. Encourage students to ask only genuine questions. Let them know that it doesn’t matter if questions seem big or small, important or trivial, but it is important that they reflect real questions that the students have about the world.
- In pairs or individually, students turn their brainstormed questions into a poem.
You can decide if you want students to follow the form of the Kirby poem, or if you want them to have more leeway with the form. You can also consider creating a scaffold for students for whom this task is challenging by making a graphic organizer with the words “I wonder” and blank lines. Remind students that poems do not have to rhyme, but that poets do usually consider how a poem sounds and that students should try to be mindful of the sound of their poems. Circulate as students are writing, asking them what they are noticing and thinking, and helping them to advance their thinking and writing.
Adaptation for the Math Classroom
Math texts often remove so much of the wonder that has driven the study and development of mathematics, yet at the heart of mathematics is true creativity and curiousity. Although it may be necessary in the math classroom to provide a sample of an I Wonder inspired math poem, students would benefit from being encouraged to think of things that are surprising or curious about what they are studying. The meaning or scale of large numbers, the fact that primes go on forever, the suprising situations that generate pi or e are all worthy of contemplation and would be better understood by creative and abstract thinking.