Notice, Think, and Wonder: A “Close Reading” Upgrade

In the Fall of 2007, a close friend, Nancy Cook, and I wrote a piece for the New York State Middle School Association’s Journal, In Transition. The article, titled “Notice, Think, and Wonder: New Pathways to Engage Critical Thinking” asked the reader to consider using a discussion rubric that Nancy developed to increase the rigor of questions and answers around text. The link is to the entire journal, but the article and embedded rubric starts on page 15.

I still share the Notice, Think, and Wonder rubric that’s in the article while engaging in professional development with teachers. It’s become particularly useful in this age of Common Core standards and increased rigor in instructional activities, particularly around the close reading of text.

I’ve been teaching different versions of “Close Reading” to teachers, evolving over time as I strengthen my relationship with Common Core Reading for Literacy/Informational Text Standard 1: “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and make inferences from it.” What started out as teaching teachers to write text dependent questions evolved into setting strong purposes for reading, understanding text complexity, relating the close reading to personal experiences and world events, and now, coming full circle back to Notice, Think, and Wonder.

The impetus for this blog post began with another blog post around Close Reading, written by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts, authors of the popular blog, indent. You can read their blog post, The Five Corners of the Text, by clicking this sentence. In the post, they stress the importance of engagement and inviting students’ experiences into the way they think critically about the words they read. What they wrote invited a warmth back into this instructional strategy that was missing from my initial interpretation of the standard.

As I read their blog post and reflected on my current and previous work, it dawned on me that a merger of ideas and an additional instructional strategy around close reading was in order. Hence, I’m revisiting “Notice, Think, and Wonder.” The original Notice, Think, and Wonder strategy asked students to collect details around what they notice in text; what jumped off the page at them. It asks students to think about those details and make connections. Finally, it asks them to wonder about the “what if’s,” the “what next’s,” or the potential additional meaning-making that comes from deep engagement with text.

To use Notice, Think, and Wonder in a way that reflects the close reading of text, one simply needs to tweak the intentions of these areas of interaction. In this upgrade, students should be invited to do the following:


  • What are some of the big ideas in the text that’s being read?

  • What are some of the main points that an author wants the reader to know as a result of reading this?

  • What’s the major message or point of reading what we are reading?


  • Where in the text did we see support for what we noticed?

  • What in our experiences, as related to what we read, make us think of connections to the big ideas?

  • How do parts of the texts explicitly lead us to the major message?


  • What might the evidence we found in the text, as related to what we noticed, mean?

  • What potential conclusions can we draw from the evidence related to what we noticed?

  • Is there evidence in the text or in our connections to the text to support anything we might potentially wonder?

I like believing that students would be engaged by deep conversation about text–particularly texts that they are interested in reading, not just texts that the teacher thinks they should read. I’m reminded of high school, when my teachers were adept at drawing me into a text by both relating to my personal experiences while guiding me through metacognitions that created mental velcro for me. Everything stuck, from the prologue to The Canterbury Tales to my empathy for Benji, a central character in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. I want students to live inside texts the way that I was allowed to. I want them to have rich literary experiences that feed their souls for the rest of their lives but also teach them to be evaluative thinkers and questioners of the status quo.

I want students to read voluminously and develop a love of reading that goes beyond the cold and analytical “close reading” and explores what I guess I would call “Close Reading Plus.” Evidence plus experience equals Deep Learning, versus just evidence alone. If we look at the standard and the key words: “close reading,” “what the text says explicitly,” and “make inferences,” then we are doing all those things with this upgrade of Notice, Think, and Wonder. We are also inviting a deeper analysis, a raise in the rigor beyond the standard, which represents the zone to which we should aspire with our modern learners.

Contemporary Perspectives on Literacy, coming this Fall.

Mike on Twitter: @fisher1000

Addendum (10/3/13)

I thought about this a little more and decided to add some additional information to this blog post in terms of extending Notice, Think, and Wonder to writing about evidence and connections.

For one thing, the “Wonder” could include a question about claims, such as, “What claims can you make about what you read? or “What do you wonder about any bold statements that the author made in the text?”

The answers to those questions would be an excellent jumping off point for writing about claims and evidence, engaging both the Reading standards around Key Ideas and Details as well as the Instructional Shifts around Writing from Sources and Text-Dependent questions.

Jerry: Amplified

Cross posted from Smartblogs:


“Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about authentic tasks, that allow students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.”

~Silvia Tolisano from the Langwitches blog


I had a wonderful modern learning experience this past school year Skyping into a first grade class in Jacksonville, Florida. This first grade class is learning geography (as well as global perspectives!) through an activity that they call “Mystery Skyping.” The teachers connect with someone via Skype somewhere in the world. That person Skypes in and the students get to ask questions to discover where in the world that person is. I was so excited to participate and be one of the “Mystery Skypers!”

The teachers captured some images and blogged about the day I Skyped in. Click here to read it.

During my chat with the students, I was introduced to Jerry, their class stuffed animal. Jerry had traveled home with each student over the course of the year and each student recorded Jerry’s experiences in Jerry’s Journal. They wrote about what they did with Jerry and shared pictures of their time with him. I asked the students if Jerry had ever traveled outside of Florida.

I invited Jerry to come visit me in Buffalo and offered to write in Jerry’s journal as well. We also decided to do a Skype session live from Niagara Falls with Jerry, extending this lesson in geography. The teachers in this class, Pamela Lewis (@PamelaLewis1388) and Marissa Tolisano (@Marissa2309) blogged, tweeted, and stayed plugged in during the entire process!

Skype-Teaching At Niagara Falls

Jerry Back At School

When I sent Jerry back to school, I sent him back with interactive journal entries. Rather than just pasting in a few pictures and writing a few anecdotal notes, I decided to go a little higher tech.

I took a picture of Jerry with my phone, uploaded it to Dropbox and used the image to create a Concrete Poem with an original limerick:


In case it’s hard to read, the limerick is:

When I got into town for my visit;

I wasn’t prepared, I admit it.

The heat had expired,

A hoodie required,

It isn’t still Winter, is it?


I wrote another poem and a rap song and uploaded the content to Youtube. I created QR codes for the content, printed them, and glued them into the journal along with the pictures that I took. While these students had already been introduced to QR codes long ago by their forward thinking modern teachers, I wanted the students to have to access the new content in a modern way.

Here are the videos that the QR codes directed to:





The teachers here, in amplifying their classroom to open it up to global opportunities, have created multiple levels of engagement and learning for their students. Amplification essentially means that the learning is moving beyond the classroom, the way sound waves move from their source. Amplification means that learning is broadcast to a global audience, allowing for larger and more authentic experiences through different types of publishing, feedback, refining, relearning, and continual improvements. Amplification creates opportunities for global discourse and learning that make the learning louder and more impactful than it would be otherwise.

This amplification of Jerry, through blogs, Skype sessions, tweets, even the involvement of the US Mail, had several educational impacts:

  • The activity allowed students to authentically merge two learning zones: their personal journaling efforts and geography.

  • Because of the opportunity to “visit” Niagara Falls live, they were able to ask and answer questions in the moment, which offered teachable opportunities about science, specifically on weathering and erosion, as well as reflection and refraction due to the constant rainbow in the mist!

  • The activity created mental velcro inside these 1st Graders brains. They have an automatic set point now, a new knowledge base from which to construct new learning.

  • They used technology for a specific, task-dependent purpose that dictated the use of immersive digital tools that were chosen because of the way they supported the task, rather than the planning around the tool.

The activity also allowed me to jump out of my own comfort zone and teach class, over Skype, at a gigantic waterfall. It was the equivalent of “Educational Skydiving.” It was a thrill to take a risk on something like this, literally from the edge of a gaping chasm. When it was over, I felt like a million bucks! (Side note: a group of 50 or so tourists were crowded around me and watched me from beginning to end. Over half of the tourists were visiting from China and one of them, who was bilingual, translated everything I said to the group. How’s that for GLOBAL IMPACT!?!)

This learning moment was the highlight of my academic year. I was so impressed with what these teachers are doing in their classroom and so impressed with these students and their voracious consumption of knowledge.

Now that the summer is here, I hope that those that are reading this will think about their own curriculum design and perhaps use this as a launching pad for their own authentic upgrades as they plan for the next round of students in the fall.

*Author’s Note: I am going out on a limb here and sharing my rapping skills. My wife would like you to know that she tried to talk me out of it, especially since I’m writing this for a national audience, but I am throwing caution to the wind. Motivating and engaging kids to learn is way more important to me than me being embarrassed, though many of you have already witnessed “Karaoke Mike” at multiple venues around the country. If it makes you cringe, it’s okay. It had the same effect on me. 😉


Speed Geek Your Faculty Meetings

Originally posted on Smartblogs/Education at:


I love witnessing miraculous things and I love it even more when it’s kids performing the miracles.

I attended a conference last weekend called EdJEWcon in Jacksonville, Florida where I attended a “Speed Geeking” session designed and presented by 4th and 5th grade students. In the session, participants were engaged in a “Speed Dating” model but with technology. Each of the seven students prepared a five minute presentation around a technology they cared about and shared with the participants how it impacted their learning. Students shared a variety of technologies including blogging, iMovie, Frames, and more!

The whole model reminded me of a discussion I had several weeks ago at EdCamp Buffalo about student S.W.A.T. teams: Students Who Assist with Technology. These are students who help each other and their teachers learn new software and hardware tools.

This is EXACTLY the kind of student-centered authenticity that schools need more of! In fact, I would love to see much much more of this going on in schools, particularly in faculty meetings. This would be a fantastic use of faculty meeting time to not only introduce new tools but to add new tools to everybody’s toolboxes. This also invites students into design and instructional practice and gives them an opportunity to be valued as contributing members of the school.

I’ve talked with administrators all over about leveraging digital tools like Padlet or Today’s Meet or Google Docs to have “meetings without meetings.” Asynchronous, anytime available digital opportunities increase participation in discussions and ease the dissemination of information without having to sit through a meeting that was called for the sake of saying we had one.

Speed Geeking is a way to kick that up several notches and upgrade the WAY a faculty meeting is run. Imagine it: Student Led Faculty Meetings! #AwesomeAwesomeAwesome

I was so impressed with these students and was absolutely thrilled to be able to see them in action! Kudos to the 4th and 5th graders at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School!


Pictures from Jon Mitzmacher – @Jon_Mitzmacher (Thanks, Jon!)