Launch Learning with Wonderings

At the start of any new learning segment, allowing students time to explore “why” the learning is important is the first step in helping them understand how this new knowledge or skill might be useful to their lives beyond the classroom setting. Taking deliberate steps at the outset of learning to dive into the “why” behind learning can be highly impactful to your success as a facilitator as well as your students’ academic growth. Setting the stage for learning offers you the opportunity to grab students’ interest at the start of learning and increases both the levels of engagement and enjoyment students will experience throughout it. Opening learning with inquiry-based, anticipatory activities can also dictate how much students are willing to invest themselves in the learning we have designed for them because they begin to see the value in it.

One way to captivate your student audience early is to invite them into Wonderings just before you begin a new lesson. This involves a 3-step process of inquiry that is structured to get students curious about new knowledge or skills and helps them to better comprehend why they can’t afford to go without this learning. Here’s how you can implement Wonderings in your next lesson:

  1. Provide students with a brief overview of the new topic: what it is about, the learning targets you will be focusing on, the need for this instruction, etc. Keep this quick. You want to make sure students spend more time on inquiry than you spend telling them what you want them to discover on their own. You could share a quick video you or someone else made. You might have students look at a sample of what you’ll be learning, or you could have students complete a short, related diagnostic assessment or anticipatory set to expose them to the topic.
  2. Next, give each student their own copy of the Wonderings handout (below), then walk them through each of the questions on the handout so they are clear about what they are being asked:
    • What is this learning about and why does it matter?
    • What might you be able to do with this new information?
    • How might this learning help you in your life?

Give students time to ask any questions they might have and follow with independent time for students to complete their responses.

  1. Once they have completed their responses, with their handouts, engage students in the Three-Step Interview Process:
    • Have all students stand, then invite them to go find one other student in the class with whom they can conduct a Pair-Share based on the responses they constructed on their handouts.
    • When all students have a partner, give the group about 3-4 minutes to discuss their responses with each other. 
    • After students have had the chance to converse, now ask the two students to find another group of two students with whom they can have another conversation, thus broadening their conversation about the importance of the learning by bringing in even more perspectives. Plan to spend another 5 minutes or so here.
    • Once the second round of conversation has concluded, ask students to return to their seats and invite them to share what their peers inspired them to think about. Ask students to respond with “(Peer’s Name) helped me to realize that…”

From beginning to end, this activity should take, at most, about 30 minutes to complete. This will be time well spent as it allows students to find purpose in the learning into which we are inviting them. This process doesn’t have to be done with every lesson you teach, but doing it regularly does help students form positive habits surrounding finding value in the learning process. If we can foster the kind of thinking about learning that allows students to fully invest themselves in it because they see its value, then we are grooming them to become lifelong learners, better citizens, better parents, better humans. Wonderings are just the spark some kids may need to get them excited about learning something new!


Connie M. Moss and Susan M. Brookhart, Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today’s Lesson (Alexandria, VA: Associati on for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2012).
Harvard Kennedy School, Using Small Groups to Engage Students and Deepen Learning in HKS Classrooms,'s%20Office/Guide%20to%20Small-Group%20Learning.pdf