I Notice, I Wonder

Betsy Hall, K-5 reading specialist at Albert Einstein Academy Charter Elementary School, tells us how to apply the "I Notice, I Wonder" strategy to help teachers make a read aloud more interactive, meaningful, and engaging for students.

Watch the Video


Betsy Hall, K5 reading specialist at Albert Einstein Academy Charter Elementary School in San Diego, and also a teacher leader with the California Reading and Literature Project.


My name is Betsy Hall. I’m a K5 reading specialist at Albert Einstein Academy Charter Elementary School in San Diego. And I’m also a teacher leader with the California Reading and Literature Project and I am really excited to share with you a strategy today that is a read aloud engagement strategy called “I Notice, I Wonder”.

This strategy can be used by any teacher for any level of students to make any read aloud, more interactive and meaningful and engaging for the students and for you as well.

“I Notice, I Wonder” is a strategy designed to draw students into the read aloud by asking them to pay attention to what they notice, what they see, what they hear, what they perceive, and then to ask questions that those perceptions, those noticings, raise.

Ideally, this strategy works best with a picture book as it provides multiple opportunities for direct observation by both you and the students. The pictures, and a picture book are an explicit source of information about the story and they carry meaning that’s not always conveyed by the text. So by using this strategy, you’re engaging students to look more deeply into what’s going on and to ask questions about what they are noticing.

This can also be done with a little bit of preparation with older students, if you are reading lot of chapter books that doesn’t have any picture support or has just little picture support. The key concepts are:

  • Noticing what’s happening in the story, especially in the illustrations, and
  • Wondering aloud how they connect to what they are hearing.

Ideally, you will have time to look at your picture book ahead of time and just mark some places, I’ve marked a place here in this story I’m going to share with you, marks in places that really lend themselves to this strategy places where you want to stop and draw the students more into the story.

If you aren’t able to do that, if you’re just walking into a situation and you’ve been asked to read aloud, you can do this without that preparation, you can just, as you’re going through the story, notice and wonder yourself and at the places where you notice and wonder the students can also stop and do that with you.

To start this strategy, I explain what it means to notice and to wonder. For young students, I start with the cover illustration. So if this is the book that I’m going to read with them, I would say we’re going to read the Water Princess written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

I notice that she’s carrying a really large pot on her head. And I wonder what’s in that pot? I noticed that her eyes are closed, and I wonder maybe she’s tired. I notice that the illustrator chose to draw the sun in the background as a huge ball and I’m wondering what he’s trying to tell us by drawing it that way.

After I’ve done a couple of noticing and wonderings, then I turned it over to the students and I might ask them to share something that they’ve noticed and then what does that make them wonder.

After I’ve done this with the cover, and I’m fairly comfortable that the students understand that I noticed, I wonder, I start reading the story to them, going through, reading it out loud. And when I get to a place that I think is good for noticing and wondering, I might stop and just ask them to notice silently what they see in the page.

And then after a moment of silent noticing, ask them to turn to their partner and share what they notice and then ask their partner. What do you wonder about what I noticed? Or here’s what I’m wondering about what I noticed. So that’s a great way for them to turn and talk and to be engaged.

You can also stop as you’re going through. This was a place that I chose to stop at because I really was intrigued by the picture and so as I’m reading along, I might stop and say, “Hmm, I notice these buildings don’t seem to have any windows and I wonder why that is? I wonder how they get fresh air at night. What do they do? Is their house dark inside? These are some of the things I’m wondering because I’ve noticed that there are no windows. What’s something that you notice or wondering about this page?”

So ways that you can have students respond to this are by the turn and talk. They can, if you have a chance ahead of time to have printed out a “I Notice I Wonder” response sheets, you can stop have the students go back to their desks and draw som ething that they notice and write what they’re wondering. They can write what they notice or wonder on a post-it note, if you’ve been able to prepare a T-chart ahead of time that has “I notice” on one side and “I wonder” on the other, and they can come up and put their post-it notes, such an engaging thing for students to do. They absolutely love to write on post-its and stick them on charts, and then they can share.

If you are working with older students and you’re doing a read aloud and there aren’t pictures, you might say something like:

Hmn… I noticed, in the part of the chapter that we just read, that Ms. Williams is giving Jasmine’s group all the credit for the work on the science project, but we just read it’s really Isaiah’s group who did most of the work. What does that make you wonder? And you can ask them to write this down in a response.

Older students can even carry on this strategy themselves independently in their reading by having a double entry journal where one side says “I notice” and one side says “I wonder”, and as they’re reading through the book, they can write down their wonderings and their noticings. If you’re working with really young students or perhaps English learners, it may be difficult for them to voice what they are wondering, but they can at least call out a word or two or a phrase for what they can see in the illustration for what they notice, perhaps they can share what they notice and then a partner can kind of help share what that makes them wonder.

This strategy is such a good one to keep kind of in your back pocket. It doesn’t require a lot of preparation. Really, it doesn’t require any, if you don’t have the time. And it’s something that you can bring with you and use in a situation where you’ve been asked to read aloud or your doing a read aloud with students to make sure that they are motivated and engaged by the story and that you have a chance to hear them interact with each other and for them to interact with themselves.

I hope that you have found this useful and that you will enjoy using this strategy as much as I do.

Accompanying Materials & Resources

Share with Others


At a Glance

Please give us a like if you enjoyed this resource! 

For You

Related Resources


Experts from the California Subject Matter Project (CSMP) share 3 meaning-making strategies you can use to engage students in your classroom.

The Turn and Talk

Daina Yousif Weber, English and AVID teacher in San Diego Unified School District, tells us how to apply the “Turn and Talk” strategy to empower students to make their own meaning by exploring open-ended questions, sharing their thoughts and perspectives, and building upon each other’s ideas.

WOW (Word of the Week)

Kate Bowen, retired elementary school teacher for the Davis Joint Unified School District, tells us how to use the “WOW (Word of the Week)” activity to channel students’ creativity in learning new vocabulary and developing their writing skills.

Scroll to Top

Help Us Improve!

Please help us improve the resources we offer you by answering two quick questions:​