Teacher Scholar Voices

teacher and student engaged in a book

Teacher Leaders Promote Curiosity

Teacher Scholar Voices

What does it look like for teachers to promote curiosity?

Our Teacher Leaders support their colleagues’ thinking in many ways. Here’s an email that Beth Levine, a Teacher Leader at Montalvin Elementary sent to her colleagues. It’s an excellent example of how colleagues can promote curiosity and wonder among their teams.

Beth Levine and students

Beth Levine with some of her students

Beth generously shared her email with us. Here it is.

Dear Everyone,

Thank you for opening the email… I wanted to check in to see how your curiosity was going about your focal students and intervention and share a little of my path of curiosity.

My inquiry focus is about reading comprehension. I chose to be curious about Ajan (some of you might know him). When I interviewed Ajan for my focal student interview, he explained to me that he didn’t like to read chapter books and didn’t want to read them.

He started the year somewhere as a 3rd grade reader (according to STAR) and so I knew that to get Ajan reading at a higher level, I would have to support him to read more complex text (meaning chapter books). Also, I knew that to increase in his level, his VOLUME of reading would need to increase.

For the beginning of the school year, he read ever single Berenstain book I had in my classroom. They are actually at a 4th grade reading level, but they are short.

The first step I took in my inquiry process was to try an intervention small group with him and my other focal student focusing on fluency. We practiced reading with expression from the Berenstain Bears book, having the characters take on different voices. In 4th grade we are trying to get away from “robot” reading and away from reading like a curmudgeon to reading like GOLD.

I casually encouraged chapter books…the casual approach did not take. So after a feedback session with Julia (our wise Mills mentor), I decided I would sit and read the first chapter of a 3rd grade chapter book to Ajan.  This would be an example of one on one intervention! I read, we discussed. We got to know the characters. I had already read the book, the Jasper Johns series, so I knew that it would be of some interest to him. That approach worked. He completed one of the Jasper John books and got a 100% on the quiz.

I also know from my experience (and Lucy also strongly encourages) that at this stage of reading sticking with series books are very helpful for growth. I checked out a couple more Jasper Johns books from our school library for Ajan.

Then….he forgot his backpack (with the chapter book inside). My curiosity was truly sparked at this point. I was curious if he was avoiding the chapter book. Was this a strategy to go back to picture books? He went back to the Berenstain Bears books (I didn’t have time at that moment to intervene one-on-one again.) I did continue to ask him daily about the book. A few days later (it might have even been a week) the backpack arrived, with the book in it. Ajan finished the book and got a 100% on his quiz. I handed him another Jasper Johns book. I learned once again that nothing always goes in the forward direction. Setbacks and huge amount of GRIT is needed to keep persevering to support Ajan on his path. My next step for Ajan will be to continue supporting him in small groups. He loves basketball so perhaps I will be able to find some chapter books and nonfiction text which will support his love of basketball.

My other focal student, Ana, was in a similar situation…but I haven’t made significant (or possibly any) progress with her. I am turning my attention to her this week!  One student, one step at a time!

Thanks for being curious with me and reading my inquiry path…to date.  I would be happy to listen or read your story as well.

Julia will be here this Wednesday. She is an incredibly skillful listener and can ask great questions to help you on your next step of inquiry.




This artifact is a great promotion of curiosity, vulnerability, and collaboration. A big thank you to Beth for sharing it with us.