Questions to Inspire Close Observation
to Teacher Guide)
As you come across photos and videos on the Journey North Web site, try
using some of the following questioning strategies. It's best to ask these
types of questions before students (or you) have read photo descriptions
or explanations from experts. You can have the class focus on just one
image at a time OR observe entire photo sequences or collections.
more time and opportunities students have to carefully observe photos,
the more detailed their observations will be. Here are some questions
and instructions to engage them:
do you see? (Record one thing you notice and one question you have about
looking for another minute (or more). Now what do you see?
- Add to
your list one new thing you notice and another question you have.
- Make a
“tube” with your thumb and fingers so you can look at just
one small area or look at the photo from a different angle. What new
things do you notice when you change perspective?
do you wonder about what you see? How could you find answers (e.g.,
observe more closely, conduct research)?
- How many?
How long? How often? How much?
- How is
it the same as? Different than?
does it remind you of?
- What is it bigger than, smaller than, the same size as?
What You See
* Help students
distinguish between observations (which are made
by the senses and can be verified by other people) and inferences
(interpretations of observations, which can vary greatly among people).
you think just happened? What do you think might happen next?
do you know from looking at this photo?
do you assume/infer from looking at it?*
- How would
you explain _______________?
- What caption
would you write for this photo?
do you think would happen if _______?
- How has
what you’ve already experienced or learned influenced your response?
- How might
someone else see or interpret this same photo? (As students share ideas
with classmates, ask, Have your ideas changed after hearing from
your classmates? Explain how.)
students have mined all they can from a photo, consider adding a new bit
of information (or show the next photo in the sequence) to spark new thoughts
and interpretations. For instance, consider this photo from the Mexican
Monarch Sanctuary. If students didn't wonder about the monarchs perched at the top of a branch, ask these questions
one at a time, as necessary:
- Do you
notice anything surprising or unusual? Describe what you see.
- How would
you explain it?
if I told you it was a cold day? (Give students time to come up with
if I said if it’s too cold, monarchs can crawl but not fly?
- About the photo: Monarchs struggle to stay off the forest floor. It's often too cold for them to fly up into the trees, so they can only crawl. The forest floor is dangerous for monarchs. They can be killed by frost or predators (mice).
Journaling and Discussion Questions
new questions did your observations spark? How might you uncover
you were teaching younger students to be good observers, what advice
would you give them?
you look at photos differently since we’ve explored them up
close? Explain what has changed.
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