Cultivating Curiosity: Reasoning at Any Level

School Stifles Curiosity

When we come to school we’re learned a-la-cart for our entire lives. We see something we haven’t seen before, and we ask about it, or investigate it- often with our mouths. (People are gross!)


When the bell rings for that first day of school, that all comes to an end. We are now learning what our teachers and schools decide.

This is when we become best acquainted with the phrase “because you have to”, and the even lamer phrase “its on the test”.

From then on, its learning to ask when and how you may use the bathroom. Asking when, if ever, a topic you like will be covered. You start to learn to patiently wait for the answer, because there is one, and only one.

There are some exceptions but even the best and most exploratory teacher is beholden to the STATE STANDARDS and the accompanying perfunctory testing. It seems this is inescapable.

Then we come to writing.

Writing follows none of these rules. Do you need a hook? Well that depends. Where do I find the reason why? Well that comes from your head now. What does a good paper look like? Well, you’ll know it when you see it.


Writing is when we ask for the curiosity and creativity that has been trodden underfoot for years to instantly re-awaken.

When kids or adults can’t do it, we bemoan the person and not the system,

Waking the Brain Back Up

Like any other muscle, the brain needs to be exercised. This may mean taking time away from THE STATE STANDARDS to go off script.


One should start simple and explain the difference between a facts and the reasoning derived from a fact. In order to do this I made this simple powerpoint to show the difference and have the students try it out.

How Fact Turns to Reasoning (1)

From there, I’d make thinking into a weekly or even daily practice. I already do this through my mindful journaling, but in that I rarely ask them to use novel facts.

For that I made some simple exercises using fun and odd pictures. Some are optical illusions some were taken during events. I don’t include what is really happening in any of them, because the point of the exercise is to think about what you see and what that means. (If I were working with blind students I would find interesting audio clips).

What Happened there_ Evidence and Reasoning Activities

Once students are more accustomed to thinking through  some facts and finding reasonable inferences, they’ll be ready to apply that skill to your content.

To applying deeper thinking to a specific problem, you can’t beat a classic. I use socratic questioning with my students all of the time. I rarely accept an answer without asking why it is the answer.

Warning! At first this freaks people out. They’re paranoid that they’re wrong. You have to assure them they’re not wrong, you just want to know how they arrived at the answer.

For those of you not super-familiar with socratic questioning here is a nifty infographic. Share it with your group of learners and encourage them to ask these questions of each other.


There are many ways to wake brains up around you. Some of the best activities are debates, mock trials, defenses, and problem-solution presentations.

I, for one, would like to see more people who know how to think than those who know what to think.

Happy Reasoning Everyone!


I'm an 11 year special education teacher who has worked in every grade level in three states. I have a masters degree in special education from Loyola Marymount University.

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