Earlier this week, I asked for feedback on the Lens Lab I’d written for physics. Kelly, David, and John helped me focus my thinking with their comments. I want to tell you now about how I incorporated some of the comments. It all began with something I learned in St. Louis at Twitter Math Camp.

The Activity

Given a large magnifying glass, and a look at the image formed of objects located outside our classroom window, I asked kids, “What do you notice? Be specific.” Here is one group’s noticings:

Next, I armed each kid with a marker and sent them on a gallery walk. If they spotted something interesting on another board, they put a check. If they disagreed, they put an x.

Crediting My Sources

This idea is part of a strategy I learned from Max Ray this summer at Twitter Math Camp. From his blog:

The strategy we call Understand the Problem: Included in Understand the Problem is the core activity I Notice/I Wonder, which gives an entry point into the problem to students of all levels, but which can be perfected and improved even by expert problem-solvers (see, for example, the world’s hardest easy Geometry problem). I Notice/I Wonder begins to orient students towards recognizing givens and constraints, identifying mathematical quantities or objects in the problem, and describing relationships among them.

Based on feedback from Kelly O’Shea, I used “I Notice” to open a lab this week. She suggested I begin with a demo, which I did (hold a magnifying glass up to form an image from the window on a sheet of paper). Then, she suggested I move on to:

Ask for observations. You’re not looking for anything specific. You’re just letting them get their brains going. Challenge observations (by putting it back to the group and/or by letting them observe again, this time for that specific thing) that conflict with each other (or that are obviously not true), but don’t try to push them in any specific direction overall.

The check-x system helped the kids challenge each others’ observations in a non-threatening way. It also allowed me to quickly assess what they noticed.

The entire activity took 10-15 minutes during which kids engaged with each other and the material in a meaningful way. Can’t complain about that. Y’all have a great weekend, I’m off to pick apples in North Georgia.