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See Think Wonder and Jamboard. It’s like they were meant for each other. (Oh . . . and Project Zero)

We want our students to make sense of content, be engaged, and see connections to contemporary issues. That’s why we’re so bought into the idea of using primary sources. But we also know that using primary sources can be difficult. So we’re always on the lookout for handy primary source analysis tools.

Based on work done by the Project Zero people over at Harvard Grad School of Education, the See Think Wonder strategy is one of those all purpose thinking routines that can be use across grade levels and content areas. And it’s perfect for helping kids break down primary sources, especially images, artwork, and political cartoons.

So . . . if you’re not already using it, hang around. Some ideas and free resources coming up.

If you already are using See Think Wonder, hang around. Cause Google Jamboard and STW were made for each other.

The beauty of STW is that it encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. And when paired with Jamboard, it can stimulate curiosity and help set the stage for more inquiry.

STW is perfect for when you want students to think carefully about why something looks the way it does or is the way it is. Start thinking about photographs or political cartoons or portraits or artwork or maps or . . . well, just about anything. So it makes sense to use it as a hook activity at the beginning of a new unit to motivate student interest. It’s especially powerful when used with visual sources but it can also work well with text. And I love it for introducing actual artifacts or photographs of artifacts.

Because it works with so many different things, you can also use it to make connections to content during your unit of study. You might even consider using the STW routine with an interesting source near the end of a unit to encourage students to further apply their knowledge and make connections to contemporary issues.

So . . . what does it look like?

You can find tons of examples online. A simple Google search will connect you with everything from the original Project Zero Thinking Routines page to Teacher Pay Teacher pages. Or you can just stick with this one:

The process is simple. Give kids access to your primary source. Ask students to make an observations about the image, orbject, or text and to complete the chart. Encourage students to back up their interpretation with reasons and evidence. Ask students to think about what this makes them wonder about the object or topic. (This is great practice for supporting historical thinking skills, especially making a claim and supporting the claim with evidence.)

Project Zero experts suggest that the routine works best when a student responds by using the three stems together at the same time, i.e., “I see…, I think…, I wonder… .” You might find that students begin using one stem at a time, and that you’ll need to scaffold each response with a follow-up question. The routine works well in a group discussion but in some cases you may want to ask students to try the routine individually on paper or in their heads before sharing out as a class.

There may be a need to provide even more scaffolding for your students. For many younger students and even those in middle and high school, this sort of thinking is new. So providing a list or chart of possible sentence starters is a simple way to jumpstart their thinking. Here a few examples:

Download a four page PDF that includes the graphic organizer and a bunch of scaffolding questions for each column in the organizer

Student responses can be written down and recorded so that a class chart of observations, interpretations, and wonderings are available for everyone to see and come back to later. Using those big Post It posters, white boards, or a Google Doc works for this.

But . . . maybe you’re looking to ramp this up a bit? Or working with kids remotely or in a hybrid model? You need to try STW on a Google Jamboard. The interactive digital whiteboard format is perfect for letting kids quickly post their thoughts and questions in a way that lets them see what others are thinking without a lot of pressure. I like that it encourages all of your students to share out in a way that almost never happens in a typical face to face discussion.

Get a sense of what you can do with Jamboard and how to do it with this earlier Jamboard article. (There are lots of handy tips and tricks. Get more details at Google Jamboard Support.)

A quick overview?

Jamboard lets your kids post their stuff on an online whiteboard that you moderate. Using the traditional SWT format, your Jamboard can look like this:

Kids use the Sticky Note feature to post individual ideas. Both you and your students can watch the thought process unfold in real time. You can rearrange the notes, add your own, support thinking, ask clarifying questions, and move into deeper analysis. And because each Jamboard can be copied, downloaded as a PDF or image, and saved into student accounts, this can become a great way for students to go back and review.

You can also use Jamboard as an individual activity. Create a Jamboard and ask students to make a copy or do that cool thing in Google Classroom where you can shoot out a file for each kid. And then because it’s just you and the student sharing the Jamboard, the thinking might look like this:

Once your kids get used to the See Think Wonder idea, you’ll be ready to move onto the next step – See Think Connect. Same idea but now the far right column asks your students to make connections between your primary source and other topics, time periods, and content. Great way to ramp up the thinking.

You’ll want the four page PDF of this too.

So whether you use STW or STC, paper and pencil, or on Jamboard, your kids will walk away smarter.


This is just one of the many different Google Tool / Historical Thinking strategies I’ll be sharing on the road in a few weeks. Want to learn more? And you’re within driving distance of St Louis or Springfield MO? Then I would love to learn together with you face to face!

Get all the details at my Bureau of Educational Research page.

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