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In the last post, we were considering how to create “Curious Fridays” as a response to the Judith Wynn Halsted’s quote:

gifted children must … learn to take responsibility for finding ways to satisfy their intellectual curiosity and to express their creativity. from Using Books to Meet the Social & Emotional Needs of Gifted Students

As I considered the best way to set this up, I used Sandra Kaplan and Bette Gould’s book Independent Study as a guide.

Pick A Topic

Since this is our first set of Curiosity Fridays, I’ll give my students their topic. In this case, we’ll all be investigating chess. In the future, they’ll pick from a set of choices and then eventually graduate into a truly independent study.

Refine The Topic

Since chess is an enourmous topic that people devote entire lives to, we’ll need to refine the topic (note that this is a valuable skill in itself). Google’s Wonder Wheel is a perfect tool for finding sub-topics.

Google Wonder Wheel

The Wonder Wheel is located on the bottom left of any Google search. After you search, simply click “wonder wheel.” The Wonder Wheel sets students free to refine topics on their own and avoids the “I can’t think of anything” problem. Here’s how it works:

  • My first search for “chess” brought up a wheel with these topics:
    • “chess openings”
    • “chess against computer”
    • “play chess”.
  • Clicking on “chess openings” brought up a second wheel with these topics:
    • “chess openings for black”
    • “ruy lopez”
    • “sicilian defense”

Now these chess topics are more manageable. Even though we’re all using chess as our topic, students are free to pick a smaller sub-topic of their choosing.

Develop Questions

Now students will develop questions to guide their exploration. They’ll create sophisticated questions by combining a question word (who, what, where, when, why, how) with the icons of depth and complexity and the content imperatives to form specific questions.

Also consider bringing in these key words (a subset of words developed by Sandra Kaplan): significance, function, types, conditions, consequences, purpose, traits, reaction, evidence, and influence.


  • What are the advantages and disadvantages (ethics) of the Ruy Lopez opening?
  • What is the effect (contribution) of using the Ruy Lopez opening on the middle game?
  • How have points of view about the Sicilian Defense changed over time?
  • What are the consequences of using the King’s Gambit?
  • What patterns of traits are there in chess openings for black?

The Differentiator will help create interesting objectives.

Above all, these questions should be intriguing to students. Casual Fridays must be fueled by interest.

Next Time

Our Curiosity Fridays are coming together nicely. Students have refined their topics and formed questions they’re interested in answering. Next we’ll look a little deeper into helping students who are interested in conducting experiments to satisfy their curiosity.

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