Details Within Details


Image from JF Rauzier

First, go play with this remarkable “hyperphotos” from JF Rauzier. Keep zooming in for more and more detail.

An online find like this is a treasure trove of possibilities for the classroom. Let’s look at how to build a deductive lesson around such a resource.

A Deductive Lesson

In deductive thinking, students move from a big idea towards details. It is the opposite of inductive thinking.

While inductive thinking is open-ended and student-controlled, deductive thinking is focused on a teacher-selected topic. This makes it easier to teach a specific concept and raise the expectations of a lesson.

Deductive thinking is also a fantastic way to incorporate those complex interdisciplinary connections.


  1. Propose a big idea and apply it to an inciting hook (in this case, our hyperimage).
  2. The whole group practices applying the big idea using a simple topic.
  3. Students split up and look for the big idea across disciplines, proving its truth.
  4. The class returns to share-out examples.

Determine A Big Idea

I’ll build on the reading skill “noting details”, and use the big idea “details contain more details.”

For example, if we begin studying one topic, it often opens up other interesting sub-topics, leading to an ongoing discovery of smaller niche topics.

Hook Them

  1. Reveal the opening image (kids ooh and aah).
  2. Explain that this image shows a big idea: details contain more details!
  3. Discuss the big idea using the image. Kids share how they see more details within details.

Apply to Simple Topic

Model this thinking by applying the big idea to something simple.

Class, I wanted to learn to play guitar. First I needed strings. As I went to buy strings, I learned about the different choices there are. Some strings are thick, some are thin, some are metal, and some are made from animal guts! Naturally, I had to read about the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Then I read about which strings famous guitar players use. I discovered that some of them use guitars with seven strings! So I started reading about the different number of strings and found even more interesting information! I still hadn’t even bought my strings yet!

Ham it up. Show how each detail leads to more and more details. We can never learn everything!

Apply To Curriculum

Now move towards content: “We’re going to hunt for examples of this big idea in our (reading anthology/science book/social studies/etc).”

Students will need a graphic organizer to keep track of their findings. A table works great, or a Tree Map, or a giant Big Idea icon.

Dr. Seuss US Government The Human Body Fractions
Every time the cat balances one item, he goes further and adds another! The country is controlled by the president, but is made up of states controlled by governors, and each state is made up of cities controlled by mayors. The body is a system which contains smaller systems, such as the digestive system. Within this system are organs which are then made up of cells. Cells are made up of even smaller particles. When we multiply a number by a fraction, we get an even smaller number. Eventually, we multiply a fraction by a fraction, which leads to an even smaller fraction, and so on!

Structuring It

In the classroom, the devil’s in the details. Here’s some ideas on structuring this lesson.

Create stations around the room themed to different topics. Stock them with resources to avoid the “I can’t think of anything” dilemma. Use your grade-level content, but also throw in some extension topics.

For our example, we might have stations about:

  • Dr. Seuss stories
  • the thirteen colonies
  • states of matter
  • fractions
  • and so on…

Include varied resources at each station, enough for each student to keep busy.

Put three or four students into each group and explain (and possibly model!) the rotation process. Set the timer and make it visible for students. I like to keep things moving a little quickly to keep them on their toes.

Use a short “rotation song” to indicate that it’s rotation time. Game show themes are great for this. Hat tip to the incredible Rick Morris for this.

Bring It Back

After the last rotation, bring students back and let them share out their ideas. Capture their thoughts with a big graphic organizer. Then put it up on a wall as a reminder of your in-depth study of how details contain more details. And, naturally, print out and include a copy of the image that started the whole thing.

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