I love Sandra Kaplan's concept of Depth and Complexity "Unanswered Questions". We use it daily; not only encouraging the kids to jot down questions they have on our Wonder Wall (right now we have "does President Obama ever get nervous talking to people?" and "how do they take the photographs of dangerous animals?". We save those so we can look up the answers at more opportune times than in the middle of a lesson. But also with literature and photography-what don't we know about this story/photograph? Another teacher chuckled the other day overhearing a student of mine in the hallway the other day asking another student "I have an unanswered question-why is it so loud in the gym? What are they doing?"-- Gotta love 'em! Hey, a real-world application, right! :)
So this year, for something different, I am adding this activity to my math warm-up. The kids look at the picture and tell me what math-related questions they have...what don't we know? I have posted before, I love the site : MSNBC This Week in Pictures to find good photos. They post new ones every week from around the world. I would not let kids just go on the site independently, because some of the pictures can be graphic (like soldiers fighting or ones that are just sad--they had one recently of a poached elephant), but usually find lots of pics to use for this task.
If we are using this photo, for example (which comes from that site):
They can ask: How many balloons are there? Which color is there the most of? How far off the ground do they go? How much does one weigh? What temperature is the hot air? How much does it cost to fly one? And I'm sure they could come up with many others! My kids love this activity and surprise me every day at the way they can think in math terms. I think it has helped them better understand what math is when we talk about that as well.