Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wonder Jars and Wonder Wednesdays

I posted a few weeks ago about how I had started Wonder Wednesday in my classroom. It has been a grand adventure, one both of my language arts classes look forward to each week.

The vehicle that I use to tie together my thinking for each Wednesday is the website Wonderopolis with its daily wonders. But oftentimes, already this early in the year, I have found that Wonderopolis provides the springboard to even bigger thinking.

Let me give an example. Last Wednesday, I went back in the archives of Wonders at Wonderopolis, and looked at the different possibilities listed under geography. I wanted to support the teacher I team with as she was starting a unit on geography with our students. The Wonder that I chose was posted last April 22 for Earth Day, and started with a video clip about the Wonders of the World. It was one of the longer videos that I had seen, but it was a great kick-off for where I wanted to go with our thinking.

To help the students think and write more critically, we created a t-chart with questions formulated after watching the video and as we looked at the focus questions Wonderopolis provided on one side. On the other, we clearly articulated in writing any new learning we had as we read the rest of the article. Great thinking abounded!!

To further our thinking about the wonders, in word study I had a large picture of Angel Falls (a possible new Wonder) displayed on our SmartBoard. The students did a Word Storm together, brainstorming all the words and phrases that came to mind as they looked at this image. What a great vocabulary builder!! Each class filled 2 entire chart papers with their words and phrases - the power of learning and building vocabulary with peers is immense!

One of the items posted in this Wonder is the fact that there is an opportunity to vote for new Wonders of the World. Wonderopolis generously provided this link, and the students found out there are 28 places nominated for this new distinction. Students will begin doing partner research on these 28 places, share what they learn with their classmates, and then each student will have a vote on choosing the next Wonders of the World in the next few weeks.

How cool is that?! And it all stemmed from the connections we made using Wonderopolis.

I'm also grateful to Wonderopolis, because they overheard a conversation I was having on twitter this summer with a few friends about the idea of having a Wonder Jar in our classrooms, and what that might look like. They supported this train of thought, and it really has guided the type of thinking we are doing in our classroom this year.

I had to think about what a Wonder Jar might look like for me. As you can see in the picture, what has happened is that the Wonder Jar for both language arts classes I teach is from Sam's Club, and used to be full of Cheetos (what happened to them is a conversation for another article) :). I wanted this to be a year full of all students wondering and inquiring and researching topics of interest to them. I thought it would be fun to capture that wondering and make it visible to all.

Our Wonder Jar is where we put things that represent what we are wondering about. One of my students wonders about BigFoot; he put a small plastic BigFoot in the Wonder Jar. Another student wondered about how glue is made; a glue stick was deposited into the jar. Another student is fascinated about the process of making ice cream; she got a cup from Coldstone to represent her thinking and put it in the Wonder Jar. The list goes on and on.

As each student shared what they were wondering, they put a replica that demonstrates what their current wonder is. As they deposit their wonders, I take pictures of them, and have put their pictures in frames throughout the room. These pictures are yet one more visible reminder that we will be a class that wonders together. I expect to change these pictures multiple times over the course of this school year. Once we investigate and learn about one wonder, we will move right on to thinking about yet something else.

The Wonder Jar is providing all of the students an opportunity to delve deeper into topics that interest and intrigue them. I noticed that in this first sharing of wonders, the students' thinking was pretty surface level. As we continue to work with wondering throughout the year, I anticipate their level of sophistication of wonders and questions to improve.

My students and I love our Wonder Wednesdays and our Wonder Jars! Thanks Wonderopolis!!


  1. Dear Karen,

    You have a very good blog with a lot of useful information. Would you and Bill be interested in being interviewed on my new blog (


  2. Once again, I learn so much from your thinking and I am so excited to "borrow" some of your ideas. I love the picture frames perhaps I saw them at IKEA this past weekend???? We are doing Angel Falls today for Wonder Wed.

  3. Karen,
    I love this. Just hear about Wonderopoplis this week.
    Need to have a wonder jar for the library.

  4. Love your framed pics! I have some frames (not as fancy as yours) stashed somewhere...I could do THAT!

  5. The more I think about Wonderopolis the more I think that I need to make space for this learning experience in my own classroom.

  6. We LOVE Wonderopolis in my classroom too. Now, many of my students are responding from home. I am going to borrow (OK...steal) your idea of a wonder jar. What a neat idea! And the frames are fabulous. Where did you get them? They look so nice on the shelves. Julie

  7. Love your wonderful ideas I am starting to see how this could work in my first grade classroom!
    Great use of those Ikea frames too ;-)