Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Wonder Year

I am looking at my classroom this year with a different lens. Instead of being a self-contained class as I have been for most of my career, I am teaching two separate sections of language arts, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

When I tackled this endeavor, I knew it would be critical to mesh the thinking/goals/learning of both classes with my teaming partner.  We sat down this summer and had several long conversations about what we wanted for our classrooms, and hashed out some big global thinking we wanted to have.  The biggest take-away from our conversations was that we wanted our students to wonder/inquire/research/investigate/think critically/analyze.  It wouldn't matter if it took place in a math/science/social studies classroom or in a reading/writing/word study classroom.  We felt these were critical life skills we wanted our students to learn.  These skills will permeate everything we do this year.

With that in mind,  I borrowed some thinking from two colleagues and friends who were doing very smart things in their own classrooms.  This past year, Maria introduced me to the power of Wonderopolis in her classroom as it helped her students think critically about important questions and learn to investigate topics that might be off-shoots of the original Wonder of the Day.  Another colleague, Andrea, has shared much about how she looks at nonfiction on a regular basis with her students.  Much of this thinking I have garnered through her articles for Choice Literacy.  But, we had the opportunity to be together at a Choice Literacy workshop in Michigan this summer, and then share a 3 hour car ride home.  During that time, Andrea so graciously shared with me ideas about creating community when teaming with another teacher, using nonfiction to wonder in the classroom, and teaching her students to both read and write like scientists.

So much great thinking.  Now I had to find a way to make it my own.  Here is my current version, though I expect to have many revisions of this thinking throughout the year.  To start the year, I am establishing a routine with both classes called Wonder Wednesday.  In a nutshell, this is how it will break down in the beginning:

Writing workshop -- we will experience the Wonder of the Day on Wonderopolis as an entire class.  I will be modeling how I would take notes about the topic, thinking critically as a scientist.  Then, I will invite students to find another Wonder they may be interested in or find a nonfiction text in our room that makes the wonder, and take notes on their own.
Soemtimes the writing we do will be about the wonders we put in our Wonder Jar (more about that in an upcoming post).  We will be digging deep into things we wonder about and asking good questions and reflecting like scientists.

Word study -- actually this week, we will be doing something my friend, Andrea, calls "Word Storm."  I will give each student a visual, and then have them use words to think about the picture.  Some weeks on Wonder Wednesday, we might pull one of the words from Wonder of the Day and do a word observation.  This will be our day to think about words in a different way.

Reading workshop - My mini-lessons will focus on multiple ways of understanding nonfiction text.  For example, this week and next, we will be looking at the text, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night.  If you know this text, you know that we learn from both the poems in the book as well as the nonfiction text.  It is important in this day and age to make sure our students have the tools to read a variety of nonfiction text.

These are not things I will only teach on Wednesdays; they will be infused throughout the year.  But, on Wednesdays, all 50 of us will know we are wondering hard about how to write critically, read critically, think critically, and observe words critically.  What's even more exciting is that my teammate will be joining me soon on these days to wonder with our students about her topics.  They may wonder about science inquiry, they may wonder about a topic in math, or they may wonder about a concept in social studies in a deeper way. 

I am so looking forward this year of wonder!


  1. Excellent post and I love your thinking for Wed. and how well you are connecting every area. I will be borrowing many of your ideas again :)
    Thanks for posting.

  2. Great thinking-I can't wait to hear more about how you use wonder with your students.

  3. Inspiring thoughts! We look forward to wondering and growing with you this year. Can't wait to hear more about your experiences. Keep the updates coming!
    Emily Kirkpatrick
    Wonderopolis/National Center for Family Literacy

  4. Reading your post made me realize how we need to get together to chat!!!! Your vision for the coming year made me realize how much I love all of the promises that September holds for learning. Enjoy!

  5. Karen~
    Thanks for sharing your WONDERFUL plans! I am wondering about ways I incorporate wonder in my 1st grade room and your post are so helpful!