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Teaching Issues

Creating curiosity: Ten stimulating starts to enquiries

If we are to create outstanding learning and learners, we need to engage our pupils to become curious in the classroom.  One way to help engage learners and create curiosity is ensure that all enquiries that start in an intriguing and stimulating way. This isn’t a new and revelationary idea. Good teachers have always done this.

This is fine in principle, but the practice is more difficult. We need to hook our learners in and get them to want to find out more right from the start. This essentially means that they need to be given some kind of problem or puzzle to solve, or a hypothesis to test. However, familiarity breeds contempt and if we start each enquiry in exactly the same way then our pupils will become bored.

The best teachers get around this by having more tools in their toolbox. They develop a whole host of different strategies that they can call on when planning the starts of their enquiries. This ensures they grab the attention from the start and make the youngsters want to find out more.

Once curiosity has been created, the best teachers develop a whole host of other strategies to help pupils find and sort the information they need to solve the problem that has been set.

In no particular order we have briefly described some tried and tested attention grabbing starts to lessons.

1.  Speaking object – this simple idea works really well if you use an object that has hidden secrets. Starting with either a picture of an object, or the real thing, quite simply show the object and get your kids to ask questions about it. Record these questions on the board, then introduce a few tantalising facts about the mystery object – imagine it would speak, what would it say? What stories might it tell? Michael Riley shared a brilliant idea that he had used at a recent conference – What stories would the Akan drum tell?  The Akan drum was found off the East coast of America in the 1700s and was taken to the British Museum. For years it was believed to belong to the Native Americans. It was then discovered that actually the drum was made in West Africa. How on earth did get to America? What questions does this raise? This is a great idea for the start of an enquiry – imagine the drum could speak? What stories would it tell? What a fab way to start an enquiry on the slave trade.

2. Beat the textbook/ website / expert – this is an all time favourite. Quite simply start with a textbook, website or even historians account of the event you are going to be looking at. Often these summaries miss out hugely important facts about the event you are going to look at. Next ask the class how they know that the expert is correct about this? How can they find out? Simple as that – the next steps involve getting the class to investigate to find out information about the event, and to see if the new information agrees, then as an end task, get them to evaluate the original account and either improve it or write a letter of complaint to the said expert.

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