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4. Ideas for classroom practice

Some ideas to encourage a Noticing frame of mind.

In the early stages of building your students’ learning power your role is to; make them aware of the behaviour; talk about it (what, how, why, when, if); celebrate its use; give opportunities to practise it, both in lessons and elsewhere; reflect on it to improve it. This staged start is reflected below…

  1. Firstly… make students aware of the use and importance of noticing…when, where, why, how they are or could be doing it
  2. Then… explore noticing a little more through the language of noticing
  3. Try… using noticing as a lesson starter to tune students into using it
  4. Then start… blending noticing into the way you teach the content. Use specific noticing strategies to deepen content understanding.
  5. Ensure… students reflect on the success or otherwise of their noticing frame of mind.

1. Make students aware of Noticing

How you make your students aware of the words that describe the behaviour and why it is important to use it.


Give noticing a high profile

For example, create a Noticing table with magnifying glasses and interesting objects …. shells, coins, dead insects, flowers …… and lots more! Spend a few minutes each day for children to report on what new things they have noticed about the objects.



Give time to think … and share ideas

What do experts notice? – A painter will notice subtle differences in colour, shape or texture. What about other experts … gardeners, doctors, musicians, drivers, sports-people, actors, cooks, mechanics?

Choose a couple of experts from the list or from your own ideas and think about what they notice and how and why they might have learned this.


Introduce games that require noticing behaviours

For example… use the familiar Kim’s game where students have to look carefully for a given time and then try to remember the group of articles. This simple format has numerous variations…what’s missing, what’s been added, what’s the odd one out?


Introduce intriguing pictures to provoke noticing

2. Explore the language of Noticing

How you might extend the language and understanding of this behaviour


Discuss noticing others

Invite some students to be Learning Detectives. Task them with watching how children play team games. Their job is to watch out for how to do the activity best, what works and what doesn’t work. You will need to model this regularly, it won’t matter whether they are throwing bean bags into buckets, jumping through hoops or balancing on bars, the noticing and coaching will make a real difference to their learning. If possible capture examples of effective learning on camera / video. Build the outcomes into a display that helps all students to become more aware of the effective habits of others.


Extend the language of noticing

Collect words that tell you how people learn to notice detail.

Relate noticing to well known sayings

What do we mean when we say …


I’ve gone through it with a fine-tooth comb.

Keep your eyes peeled


3. Use Noticing as a lesson starter

Use a quick starter to key your students into the learning behaviour you want to concentrate on in the lesson. i.e. here you are starting up their noticing behaviour


Intriguing Images

For example have an intriguing picture ready on the whiteboard before the lesson starts. Students look forward to looking carefully at pictures where all is not as it seems.


Finding shapes

Offer students a random set of dots (or picture of the night sky). Invite them to seek items such as:

  • A letter of the alphabet
  • An animal
  • A regular shape
  • A face
  • Or something linked to the content of the forthcoming lesson

As you develop greater understanding of noticing you will need to design learning activities which, by their very nature, will deepen students’ tendency to Notice AND their understanding of the content.

Here is an idea where, by using noticing, students will gain an understanding of the content AND will develop a Noticing habit.

4. Focus on Noticing as a learning strategy

Draw out the noticing behaviour being used in a thinking routine.

Primary and Secondary

Visible Thinking Routine

See, Think, Wonder:

  • Invite students to make an observation (see) about an object (artwork, image, artifact) or topic.
  • Follow up with what they think might be going on. Encourage backing up their interpretation with reasons.
  • Ask students to think about what this makes them wonder about the object or topic.
  • 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…”. If not you need to scaffold each response with a follow up question for the next stem.

This routine encourages careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. It helps stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry. Use it at the beginning of a new unit to motivate student interest. Try it with an object that connects to a topic during the unit of study. Use the routine with an interesting object near the end of a unit to encourage students to further apply their new knowledge and ideas. Go to visible thinking website for more examples and information about thinking routines.


And here is an idea that will help students to understand the noticing process.

5. An activity to highlight and strengthen Noticing

Design specific activities to highlight and strengthen the behaviour

Viewing Frames:

Use sets of interesting pictures together with cards with a viewing window cut into them. Students place the viewing card over the picture in seeking a range of different features. E.g.  something red, made of xx, something denoting happiness, something which suggests what might happen next. It’s a good idea to look firstly for concrete features before moving on to abstract features. You could:

  • use a poem. Use the viewer to find the stanza that is most descriptive, that makes them happy, that uses the best simile…
  • or use a geometrical image, use the viewer to find corresponding angles, perpendicular lines, a reflex angle…
  • or an image of the water cycle, use the viewer to find where water vapour is rising, where water is moving downwards, where it would be best to site a farm, a village,  a wind turbine…
  • or . . . .



6. Reflect on Noticing


Make reflecting on noticing part of everyday lessons

Here is a very practical example of how you might develop the emotional climate of the classroom and make it Noticing friendly

Learning Mats


Learning mats are  A4 laminated sheets that show various aspects of a learning habit. Keep them on desks/tables or as part of a wall display.


Alert students to noticing across subjects

A useful resource for tutor time to guide a wide ranging discussion







Primary and Secondary

What do you think?

  • Can you see a use for any of the suggested activities?
  • Have you raised awareness of attentive noticing with your students?
  • Does your class have an agreed set of good noticing behaviours?
  • Which two ideas from above do you want to try out?
  • How long will you keep them going before you decide whether they have worked or not?

Make a note of…Little_r

  • What happens in your classroom in response to any of the above ideas.
  • How students’ behaviour changes over about 3 weeks of becoming more familiar and talking about the behaviour.
  • How your behaviour in the classroom changes as you use these ideas over time.

NB. None of the suggestions above will lead to instant understanding in students nor instant changes of behaviour. You will need to drip them in over time and keep building and refreshing your language of learning.

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