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Tip of the Week: Visual Discrepant Event Inquiry Modified

Several years ago, I shared a great activity that I call a Visual DEI – with DEI a shortcut for Discrepant Event Inquiry.

The basic idea of a Discrepant Event Inquiry is to present your kids with a puzzling, paradoxical, or discrepant event or story. Students ask questions, pose hypotheses, analyze and synthesize information, and draw tentative conclusions while attempting to find an answer to the inquiry. The cool thing is that you can use a textual or visual version of the strategy.

I love both versions but I really love using the visual side of things. This is what a Visual DEI looks like using PowerPoint or Keynote:

Where was the following photograph taken? When was it taken? What is taking place in the photograph?





Whadda ya got? Ready with your final answer? Go here to get the final reveal!


This all works great but it can take a bit of time and effort. You’ve got to find the image, download the image, import the image into Keynote / PowerPoint, edit the image, save it, and then share it with your kids by projecting.

With technology we have other options that can make the whole process a bit easier. And today, as our TAH group worked with Jim Beeghley of Teach the Civil War fame, Jim highlighted a way to do a similar sort of TEI activity using the Zoom feature found in different types of software.

1. Find an image, graphic, or political cartoon that is potentially confusing, distracting, or misleading. Or it could just be something that is just a bit weird. You want your kids to experience some cognitive dissonance as they view the image.

2. Once you’ve found an image, download and open the image using a piece of photo viewing software. (On a Mac, use the pre-installed software called Preview. On a Windows computer, download and install the free software called GIMP.)

3. Divide your kids into groups of two or three and tell them that they need to solve a problem.

I am going to show you a photograph and your job is to figure out where and when the photo was taken and decide what is happening within the photograph.

4. Make sure that you have zoomed into the image before showing it to your kids. What you are going to do is to start the zooming process incredibly close and gradually zoom out of the image so that all of the image is revealed. Provide time for kids to discuss possible solutions to the problem after each zoom. Have groups share ideas with each other and then with the whole group. This step is very important because it helps to activate prior knowledge.

5. Slowly zoom out until all of the image is revealed. My suggestion is that you zoom out and reveal only part of the image, waiting until the next class period to finish the zooming process. This not only generates a lot of buzz outside of your class but also prevents the students from 1st hour passing on the “answer” to your remaining periods.

6. Finish zooming out and have kids compare the actual answer to their first few guesses. Use this conversation to lead into your instructional unit.

This particular image is a political cartoon from October 1861 depicting Jefferson Davis.

Have fun!

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