Friday, August 26, 2016

My Wonder Wall

Kids have a lot of questions, but how often do we give them an opportunity to ask them? This year I am trying out a Wonder Wall in my 5th grade classroom. Whenever students have questions, they can post them on the wall, and periodically I will give them a chance to research some answers.

Here’s what it looks like so far:

My goal is to work up to Genius Hour, but I want to scaffold up to it in a way that teaches students how to ask a good question and how to research effectively. So far, I’ve given them interesting sources, a chance to discuss them, and a designated space for wondering.

One routine we have every morning is a practice of noticing. I put an image up on the projector and they pull out details. We have worked on the quantity and quality of their noticings, and are working to define quality descriptions of details. It’s a great start to the day when students are asked to look at details, write about them, and have a chance to discuss their ideas. It only takes 5-10 minutes, but it is my favorite morning routine. I have seen these skills transfer into writing, speaking, and listening.

Here is one image students worked on:

Students silently wrote down a few details they noticed about all 4 quadrants and then chose the most interesting detail that they wrote. They shared that idea in a circle of friends where others listened and responded with, “I agree with you because…” or, “Interesting, I would like to add on to your idea.” From that discussion, they were encouraged to post a question on the Wonder Wall.

Students wanted to know
  • Why there was smoke coming out of the ground?
  • Where the bulls were going?
  • And how many animals there are in the world?
I wouldn’t have known they were curious about those things if I had just moved on.

We read an article about the Refugee Olympic team together at the start of the Olympic games, and that generated some great questions for the wall.
  • Why did people have to leave their country?
  • Why would someone want to make children become soldiers?
  • Why is there war?
  • Why doesn’t the refugee team have any medals?

I also showed them the website Wonderopolis. They had a chance to read whatever they wanted, explore the site, and come up with wonders.

They only had 15 minutes on it, but they posted the following questions on the wall:
  • Why do peaches have fuzz?
  • Why do we have emotions every single day?
  • Why does your stomach hurt when you eat?
  • How do websites remember so many usernames and passwords?
  • Who invented numbers and letters?
  • Why did the Greeks have a different alphabet?

I am so jazzed about the potential this wall has for sparking curiosity. These kids are going to do a lot of reading, writing, speaking and listening this year.

My next steps will be to investigate the difference between a Googleable question and a BIG question. We will practice crafting BIG questions, and I’ll give them some time to research. We’ll hone our searching skills, and practice writing and presenting. Eventually, we’ll work up to a larger Genius Hour type product. I can’t wait to see what they create!

And by the way, there are a bunch of standards we are covering with these activities. BAM!

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