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Curiosity As An Intervention?

It continually amazes me just how much we can learn from children, if we choose to listen. I am fortunate to partner with a local school district to run an after-school reading club for students in Kindergarten and first grade. These amazing children stay after-school each week to teach my graduate students about literacy intervention. And each week, they continue to teach me a thing or two about literacy intervention as well.

This week, I was reminded of just how important it is to involve students in their own learning, to follow their curiosities and give them choice and ownership. In a classroom setting, many teachers utilize the workshop method, giving whole group instruction in the form of mini-lessons and then giving students the freedom to choose the books and topics they read about. Yet, when it comes time for literacy intervention, I have found that much of that ownership and choice our most vulnerable readers deserve is given back to the teacher. Admittedly, there is good reason for that. In a literacy intervention setting, teachers carefully sequence skills and strategy instruction to ensure student success and transfer those skills to real reading and writing. We take great care to carefully choose books based on both level and interest, craft word work opportunities for students to develop their alphabetic knowledge and apply that to their reading and even support comprehension and spelling development with writing engagements. All of these elements are needed for a successful literacy intervention program. But, as I sat with a student who clearly told me he did NOT want to read THOSE books about THAT content, I realized he needed a stronger voice. He needed more choices. He needed to feel in control. And I couldn’t blame him. After all, that is what we work to provide in the classroom and what we as adults would demand. This realization cut close to home as well.

The other day, my youngest son presented me with an impressive list of ski resorts that we might visit. He independently engaged in his own research and created a document that listed the name of the resort, the height of the mountain, how far it would take us to drive there and the hours of operation. I was shocked as this was the child who typically avoided reading and writing at home. Of course, I made a big deal out of his efforts and asked why he chose to do so much reading and writing. He looked at me and said, “Because I wanted to find out”. Isn’t that what drives learning? Because we want to find out things? Between this exchange and my conversation with the Kindergarten student, I knew I had to find out a few things of my own and came up with this question to lead my journey: Can curiosity be an intervention?

How can curiosity drive literacy intervention (or any intervention, for that matter)? How can we ensure that students have just as much choice and voice in supportive literacy instruction as they would in the classroom? How can we ensure that they have even MORE control over their own learning paths to ensure differentiated and personalized instruction for those that need it most?

I hate to end a blog post with more questions than possible answers, but this is where I am at and I would love to collaborate. Can curiosity be an intervention? What would this look like and sound like while ensuring that students receive the skills instruction we know they need? This is more than just choosing books based on students’ interests, it is about changing the way we look at literacy intervention. And I’m up for it. I am starting by reading The Curious Classroom and using the study guide to reflect on my own learning ideas. I’m going to bring this topic up at my literacy think-tank sessions with coaches and specialists and I am reaching out to my virtual PLN for ideas. 

Who is with me?


  1. I am in a loop of reading The Curious Classroom and other leacher tests. I might just have to blog a response to your questions. ")

    1. Please do! I know what this looks like in a classroom setting, but I really want to wrap my head around what it could look like in an intervention setting as well. THANK YOU!

  2. What an interesting perspective. I work in a district that follows a true workshop model and this idea really interests me. When you think about what motivates you, it's the things that you wonder about enough to take the initiative to learn. Of course it'd be the same for students!

    1. I completely agree! Does your district carry this thinking over into their literacy intervention as well? I would love to learn from you!

  3. I adore the list your son presented you with! Perhaps he's a budding travel writer. :)

    Glad you're joining us this month, Stephanie.

  4. I'm so glad you are here Stephanie! I've seen and heard so many examples of kids learning content without curiosity or wonder. I loved The Curious Classroom. I would love to find more ways to engage my students too and let their curiosity drive our learning.

  5. I would say that being curious and wanting to learn more about something is key to learning. When I tossed out the ancient concept of research and challenged my students to generate questions they wanted to answer, the whole tenor of our classroom changed and real research happened!

  6. I love your thoughts on curiosity and how it drives student learning, yet we often exclude the kids who really need that "spark" when they end up in intervention. I've had The Curious Classroom in my nightstand pile for a while--thanks for inspiring me to finally open it up! I look forward to reading more from you this month!

  7. I agree that if you let students explore things they are passionate about, they will be more engaged. It is definitely a part of the Inquiry journey and should be encouraged in the classroom. Thanks for the book suggestion!

  8. So thankful you posted this piece Stephanie. This has been one of the most powerful shifts I've made in my teaching, to recognize that students need a more active and meaningful role in their learning. Your post resonated with me deeply!


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