3 Ways to Encourage Curiosity in the Classroom

Being a parent of two young children has its challenges. Between the tantrums and sleepless nights, however, there are a multitude of wonderful benefits. And there is one quality that both of my children possess that brightens every day without fail: their endless curiosity.

They have questions about everything, questions that come from a real energy and fascination that never seems to die. My favorite so far this month: “Dad, what makes the sky blue?”

As the seemingly endless weekend quiz draws to a close and I find myself once again in front of a class of teenagers on a Monday morning, I have my own inner question that guides my teaching: how can I inspire a game of this curiosity in the young people that I teach?

This is a question that I believe is vital in any learning environment. Pausing for a moment to consider some of the antonyms of curiosity helps substantiate this statement: apathy, disinterest, indifference, contempt. In life itself, such an attitude seems to be a recipe for depression; in class, a complete collapse of learning.

So what practical steps could encourage more curiosity in the classroom? Although there is no magic solution, I have experimented with the following three methods:

1. Hooks

I have the chance to spend Tuesday to Friday working with future teachers on the PGDE Postgraduate Courses at Edinburgh Napier University.

In my conversations with PGDE English students, I always talk about creativity and providing some sort of hook for learners. In secondary school, young people are on a treadmill of lessons every day. The opening of the course is therefore particularly vital to set a curious tone and capture their interest.

For me, there are many ways to create some sort of awe and interest. Is there a fascinating image, quote, or object that could relate to the lesson? Is there a way to build suspense about what might happen in the lesson rather than jumping straight to the lesson objectives?

Asking young people to make predictions about their learning, to establish connections between previous learning, to debate a particularly controversial subject, all of this helps to sow curiosity for the entire lesson.


Questions are so ubiquitous in schools that they risk becoming predictable and repetitive, both for teachers and young people. The quality of any reflection (indeed of any conversation), however, arises from the quality of the questioning.

Asking questions to a class can become a great way to spark curiosity and real depth of thinking. Two sentences may help:

“I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this fascinating question…”

“There are so many potential answers to this question, what do you think?”

So we can use language to both reassure and inspire our students. This requires us to model true enthusiasm, passion, and even curiosity for whatever we teach. This in itself is contagious for young people and is often the best resource and “hook” we can provide.

Giving students space and time to answer their questions is also important for developing their interest levels, as is embracing the power of allowing time for silent reflection during lessons. .

3. Stories

As an English teacher, I have an innate bias, but there is no denying how much stories can enrich our curriculum. Something beautiful happens in a classroom when a teacher begins to tell a story: there is a silence, a waiting, a genuine interest. We directly tap into young people’s natural curiosity.

Not only does this help inspire understanding in young people, but it also helps them retain information. Aesop’s fable, The tortoise and the hareto take an example, is a story that I always think about when I feel myself moving and behaving too quickly.

The curious professor

This emphasis on curiosity not only improves our classroom teaching -the best teachers I have worked with have had curiosity as the foundation of their own teaching philosophy.

They constantly reflect on their own teaching practice: how can they grow and improve in their profession? What will help make them more effective with their learners?

They also apply this curiosity to themselves, as they recognize that true, deep self-awareness is at the heart of well-being. After all, we can’t effectively manage our stress levels without thinking about what our own trigger points are.

At the PGDE at Edinburgh Napier University, we are passionate about our own contribution to inspiring curiosity among teachers. On Saturday September 30 we will have our first “Curious Teachers Conference”», with educational experts teachers, headteachers and academics – from across Scotland and the UK, running workshops for teachers.

The program includes three different components: classroom pedagogy, teacher well-being and inclusive teaching. We are very aware of teachers’ lack of time, so we hope that the program will not only inspire participants, but also provide many practical tools to implement in your classrooms.

If you’d like to reconnect with your inner five-year-old’s curiosity, we’d love for you to join us.

Jamie Thom is a lecturer in education at Edinburgh Napier University and presenter of Beyond Survival: The New Teacher Podcast. His latest book is Talking to Teenagers: A Guide to Effective Classroom Communication. He tweets @teachgratitude1

Source link: https://www.tes.com/magazine/teaching-learning/general/3-ways-encourage-curiosity-classroom

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