Allow your students to respond in ways you can’t predict

Our Grade 2 students are currently learning about emotions and emotional intelligence. They went on a field trip to the cinema to see Inside Out and the movie has inspired some very interesting thinking.

Cathy, one of the G2 teachers, gave her students a blank piece of A3 paper and asked them to draw what’s inside their heads. She got back a combination of ideas from the movie and original ideas developed by the students. This kind of open task brings out creative ideas, misconceptions, interesting language and unique interpretations that can drive inquiry in ways that teachers would not be able to predict. All too often, teachers provide their students with closed tasks designed to elicit predetermined responses that the teacher determines to be right or wrong, good or bad. When they design ways that create space in the learning for the students’ genuine responses, things are very different!

When I saw the drawings, I immediately wondered what it would be like to photograph them, put them in one of our green screen studios and film the students inside their own heads taking us on a trip around what’s inside their heads! This extended the task into new territory as the students stretched their ability to explain their thinking and to coordinate both sides of their brain as they watched themselves live on the monitor!

So, next time you’re trying to think of a way to find out your students’ ideas, thoughts or feelings, don’t design a closed set of questions to which you can anticipate the answers. Instead, design something open that creates space for them to release information that you couldn’t predict – it’ll be much more interesting.


  1. prashanigamagehani

    Hi Sam,

    To watch their thinking unfold is unremarkable. Enjoyed listening to key words such as headquarters. long term memory and subconscious.The illustrations were beautiful and very detail. Today Grade 1 did a similar inquiry activity with homes. We gave them 3 families and different living conditions they had to design a home suitable for that particular family. The thinking and designing was beyond words could explain. The detail that each students put was incredible. I am thinking recording their responses would be the way to go. Do you have any idea what else I can do to get their response.

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  3. jan hawkins

    What a brilliant idea adding the green screening.
    We in New entrant class use the drawing idea a lot to share thinking, predict endings etc, etc but to add the image as well hmm
    Thank you

    • sherrattsam

      Its very effective. You could paint a green rectangle on any wall. We are looking to do this in our Early Years classrooms.

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