Mike Radue
Educational Technology
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Middle School
6, 7, 8
Investigate, Iowa K-12 E-Curriculum, Planning, Real World Examples, Research
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

Education Standards (1)

I Wonder Why...?


21.6–8.TL.4.1 Identify real-world issues and analyze technological resources for developing and refining questions for investigation.

This activity challenges students to sharpen their observation skills and ability to wonder.  Know that virtually any source material/topic could be used.  This activity uses the topic hunger as an example.


See, Think and Wonder Activity


1.  Curate a shared storage space or develop a collection of websites to access images for this activity.  Possible websites include: Smithsonian Institute  Library of Congress  National Archives

2.  Select one or several images around a theme or concept.  For example, Poverty, Hunger.  Prepare them to be shared with students electronically.

3.  Discuss with students the process of observation and the importance of only documenting what they can see.  Clarify how you would like them to record their observations.

4.  Reveal the images and support students working quietly to record all the detailed observations that they see.

5.  After 60-90 seconds (depending on the complexity of the image), have students share their observations with an elbow partner either verbally or electronically.  With their elbow partner, identify 2 important similarities between the two lists.

6.  Call on each group to share their two words/ideas with the class.  Record those words/ideas on the board or electronically.


SEE - Make observations about an image.

1.  Get a piece of paper and something to write with.

2.  Silently, on your own, look at this image and simply write down all of the words you can think of to describe what you CAN see.  Do this for 60-90 seconds

hungry child

need a timer?

3.  Share your words/ideas with an elbow partner.  Compare lists to find 2 important similarities.  Be ready to share these with the whole class.


1.   Guide the conversation from observation to interpretation.  You may have had the opportunity to address this when students thought they were sharing observations but were really sharing interpretations.  There is a difference.

2.  Explain that interpretation involves thinking beyond what you see in the image.  What does the image make you think about that isn't observable.  For example, in this example, we can't technically see that the child is hungry.  This step in the exercise challenges students to think about and articulate what they "don't see" in the picture.

3.  Have students answer the question with their same elbow partner:  What does the image make you think about?  Students should record their thoughts either on paper or electronically.


THINK - Discuss and record your thoughts regarding this image 

1.  Take 60-90 seconds to answer this question...What does this image make you think about? Record your thoughts on the same piece of paper or electronically.

2.  Discuss with your partner what the image makes you think about.  Listen for similarities.

hungry child

need a timer?


1.  Direct students to shift their thinking to the final step which is "wondering."  The essence of research is a developing a question that needs to be answered and thinking carefully about where to find answers.  

2.  Have students think about and record their answers to the prompt: "This image makes me wonder why..."

3.  Also, think about and respond to "I wonder where on the internet I could find an answer..."

4.  Encourage students to come up with as many "wonderings" as they can.

5.  Call on several students to share their wonderings and provide a model of how that wondering could be shaped into a research question.  It is this research question that students will begin to answer in the days following this activity.


WONDER - Thinking of questions to ask.

1.  After observing and thinking for a minute...what do you wonder about when looking at this image.  Go beyond what you see and have thought about.  One thing I wonder about is how old the person is in the photo.  What does this image make you wonder?

2.  Flip the paper over that you've been writing on.  On the back of the paper, jot down what you come up with.  Take 60-90 seconds to do this.  Refer back to your observations and thoughts if necessary.

hungry child

need a timer?


1.  After modeling with several students and providing time for students to shape their research questions and where they could find information, give them time to organize their thoughts and submit a research question to you electronically.

2.  Once the question has been approved, the student may begin identifying important resources to use during the research process.  


Reflect on this process.  First, you simply observed what you saw.  Next, you were asked what the photo makes you think about.  Finally, you were challenged to wonder about the photo.

Review the words that you have written down.  Can you put a plan together to research a topic or idea from this exercise?  

Circle/Highlight one word or phrase from your documentation that "could" be a good 4-5 day research project that you would be interested in.

Post your potential research question to a page on your website.  Your question will be approved or modified before class tomorrow.