Tools for Igniting Curiosity

Classroom-Ready Techniques for Increasing Engagement and Inspiring the Love of Learning

Get 21 tools and activities for sparking and sustaining your students’ curiosity.

Cognitive science and teacher observations make it pretty clear: A strong sense of curiosity is the key for student engagement and developing a lifelong passion for learning. But how can teachers help students nurture their curiosity so that they ultimately take charge of their own learning?
Tools for Igniting Curiosity, co-published by Silver Strong & Associates and McREL International, answers that question with tools that capitalize on key levers proven to pique student curiosity—levers such as mysteries, controversy, missing information, personal experiences, and emotions.

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For purchase orders and bulk discounts, contact McREL at store@mcrel.org or 800.858.6830

Cultivating curious, self-motivated learners

Teaching and learning activities aligned to brain science

The 21 tools—ready made classroom activities—are arranged in alignment with the cognitive path that students follow as they become initially interested in a topic, engage with new content and ideas, and then develop deeper, more sophisticated and applicable knowledge.

Three-phase cognitive path

Sparking Students’ Curiosity
Fanning the Flame
Creating an Inner Fire

The writing team of Bryan Goodwin, Harvey F. Silver, Susan Kreisman, and Matthew J. Perini thoughtfully chose the 21 curiosity tools for this book, ensuring they are supported by research and align with the three-phase cognitive path.

Tools for Igniting Curiosity is part of the award-winning Tools for Today’s Educators series and stems from the same partnership that produced the best-selling Tools for Classroom Instruction That Works, which revolutionized educators’ practice by building upon the what and why of research on best instructional strategies and diving into the how of classroom-ready teaching activities.

Book Reviews

What sort of resource do we want as educators? Something that addresses a need, something grounded in research, something easy to grasp and implement, and something that makes a difference for our students. With Tools for Igniting Curiosity, that’s exactly what the authors have provided.

Pete HallProfessional development agent, former principal, co-author of The Principal of Influence

I love it! These tools are a must for teachers to spark and keep the interest of their students.

Nicole AnloagueMath teacher, Millennium Community School, Columbus, Ohio

Information & Resources

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Unleashing Curiosity Quick Guide Series

Our Unleashing Curiosity guides are part of McREL’s Curiosity Works® resources. Based in part on a successful system-wide effort in Melbourne, Australia, that improved student achievement by unleashing student curiosity, these resources give teachers and school leaders tips, suggestions, and ideas to encourage professional dialogue with other teachers and increase student curiosity. Combining these insights with McREL’s analysis of best education practices from around the world, our Curiosity Works resources support a better way of transforming schools—not through top-down pressure, but through helping teachers and school leaders work together to develop shared professional expertise and leverage the power of motivation and curiosity.

The six key practices in the series are:​

  • Creating challenging learning tasks
  • Providing feedback that motivates
  • Helping students commit to mastery
  • Encouraging dynamic cooperation
  • Framing quality questions
  • Committing to assessment for learning

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Out of Curiosity: Restoring the Power of Hungry Minds for Better Schools, Workplaces, and Lives

Do you feel like misplaced priorities are preventing a breakthrough at work? That your kids’ school has all the potential for greatness but keeps turning in flat results? That connecting deeply with others seems more difficult than ever? You’re not imagining it: Like many of us, you may feel like you’re running out of curiosity. Join Bryan Goodwin, a former business writer and high school teacher who now heads one of America’s leading education research and consulting firms, as he explores this uniquely human yet easily overlooked characteristic.

Learn how curiosity can be intentionally cultivated to:

  • Avert calamitous boardroom decisions.
  • Inspire innovative teaching and student learning.
  • Spark more meaningful conversations and relationships.
  • Generate higher levels of happiness.
  • Regain civility in our civic and political worlds.

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Curiosity Works: A Guidebook for Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation

Curiosity Works: Moving Your School from Improvement to Innovation dives into McREL International’s Curiosity Works approach for school improvement and innovation. It’s for K–12 educators and school leadership teams who are ready to drive what goes on in their building and harness the power of curiosity to advance student learning and teacher effectiveness. This guidebook leads school leadership teams through a six-phase journey toward powerful improvement and innovation, and includes 17 practical tools to help your staff work together toward great outcomes. This approach incorporates key elements of McREL’s What Matters Most framework and Balanced Leadership® program that tens of thousands of teachers and leaders globally are already using to gain actionable insight into their profession, and layers on improvement pathways and phases of development to guide you and your team.

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Free White Paper | Student Learning That Works: How Brain Science Informs a Student Learning Model (2018)

Surgeons learn about the body before operating. So why don’t more teachers learn about the brain before educating? In this free white paper, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin makes the case for incorporating brain science into the practice of teaching. Knowing how memory works can suggest classroom tactics that aid the acquisition and recall of information. Furthermore, adopting a model for learning rather than relying solely on the increasingly common (and increasingly detailed) instructional framework can help teachers layer innovation upon tradition, in the much same way that models help screenwriters and composers to be creative within the audience’s expectations.

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Classroom Instruction That Works®

Improving instruction for better student learning is about science, not guesswork. McREL’s research and analysis of hundreds of instructional strategies used in thousands of classrooms and, most importantly, their impact on student achievement, reveals which ones work best. Together, these nine best categories of instructional strategies form the heart of McREL’s Classroom Instruction That Works (CITW) books, resources, and professional learning services for teachers, instructional coaches, and school leaders worldwide. CITW gives educators a clear, consistent approach to instruction, providing recommendations and tools for developing stronger lesson plans, effective classroom delivery, and a common vocabulary for teaching and sharing of best practices across schools and districts. In addition, we help teachers use the nine strategies most effectively within a three-part instructional planning guide designed to: create the environment for learning; help students develop understanding; and help students extend and apply knowledge.

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Instructional Coaching

Use effective instructional coaching practices to create a unified, collegial, and supportive environment for teachers to collaboratively learn with, and from, each other. McREL can help your school or district create effective teacher teams that use peer observations and feedback to address specific instructional goals and spark innovative practices to improve overall instructional practice and support better classroom learning and management.

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