Do you know when the first toothbrushes were made?
Me neither 'til I looked it up. My son asked me this question the other day, and after I googled a quick answer, I found myself clicking on websites to find out where they were invented and by whom. These searches led me to other questions and answers I didn't even know I wanted to know. For instance, modern looking toothbrushes were invented in 1498, and boar bristles were commonly used until 1938.
So, what's all this have to do with teaching? Well, it's a strategy I use all the time to spark interest and generate questions. Presenting unusual or unexpected information makes kids - especially middle schoolers - curious. This curiosity sparks questions that can inspire future learning.
For example, just before Christmas break, we were learning about ancient Egypt, and my students were losing focus and things were getting a bit stale (no mummy jokes please!), so for my question focus, I showed a picture of a pyramid.
Big deal, right? Egypt is full of pyramids, but so is Cahokia in Illinois! We had a brief discussion about how pyramids aren't just an "Egypt thing", why pyramids exist in the first place, and why they had never heard of the Cahokian ones. Then, with a new-found curiosity and enthusiasm, we learned about Egyptian pyramids!
By the way, an early form of toothbrush existed as long ago as 3000 BCE throughout the ancient world. Who knew?