What is a Circus?

As we open this integrated unit called Sandy’s Circus, we are simultaneously seeking to unpack students’ thinking about what they know about the circus, introduce them to classic images of the Big Top and initiate conversation about how the circus has changed over time and why.

We began this process with a Visible Thinking Routine:  See, Think, Wonder.  A gallery of paintings of circus acts and characters by famous artists were posted around the classroom.

We modeled the routine by doing the it together with this Toulouse Lautrec image:


What do you SEE/OBSERVE in this picture?  What do you THINK is happening here?  What do you WONDER about?



Observations were made about the characters, costumes and even the medium that was used to create the painting.  One student even noticed the “red rose” on the whip that we teachers hadn’t yet observed.  Wonderings included, “Is the small animal a dog dressed as a lion or a small lion?”  There was much debate about if the larger animal is a horse, pony or donkey and different children referenced different reasons to explain their thinking.

We then asked students to mill through the room, find circus images that intrigued them, spend a minute closely observing the image and then write on Post-it notes an observation, thought or question about the picture.  We numbered the images and asked the students to write the number of the picture on their Post-it for reference.

We collected the Post-its on chart paper.

We will continue to develop this routine throughout the project.  A template of this routine on eBooks will be pushed out to each iPad in the coming weeks and students will create a digital book to document their thinking on their excursions through the Big Top.