Wonder Wednesdays have been a fixture in my sixth grade classroom for the last three years, mostly because it’s one of those learning adventures that I began tentatively and then was swept forward by the enthusiasm and curiosity of my students. I have learned that if my kids are excited about doing something, my best teaching bet is to just go with their flow.
So, every Wednesdays, we gather together to share what we learned through their Wonderopolis of choice. This is usually a lively discussion time – a noisy share and respond session. Our first Wonder Wednesday of the year was a success, on the surface. My kids loved their chosen Wonders and I heard many positive things as I listened to their conversations: engagement, curiosity, and investment. But there was something missing, there was a surface quality to their answers, an inability to fully explain what they had learned. Later, reading through their written responses (here’s my template:http://bit.ly/1yilo7q), I knew that we would have to go back, and take another look at how I had launched this project if we were to make a meaningful experience of this yearlong project. Because, even though we had spent time exploring the site to figure out how to find topics and navigate through the text, my kids were clearly missing information and, more importantly, making connections and inferences and asking new questions based on what they were reading and viewing.
First, we compared notes – how did we read our Wonderopolis? what features of the page did we pay attention to? how did we sift through the article to discern what was our new learning and what we already knew? Some glaring missteps became immediately clear: few viewed the videos, even fewer studied the pictures, and fewer still made use of the glossary to clarify the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Time to reteach!
We began with a Wonder I knew would grab their attention:
# 1518: Do Bulls Hate the Color Red?
Then we examined some strategies one by one – how could these help us get the most meaningful information out of the Wonder of our choice?
After some discussion and questions, we went back and explored #1518 more carefully. We began with the video and photographs, jotting what we learned; then moved on to read the text, pausing to look up words which were unfamiliar. Since we also used the “listen” feature for pronunciation. Finally, each student used their notes to jot down one new piece of information that they had learned. When we compared these notes to the ones completed for homework, my kids realized that they were able to connect the information from the visuals to what they had read to jot down richer notes that were more detailed an interesting. Best of all, when they were sharing these notes, they had a much better understanding of the topic itself, and could answer questions or pose inferences.
Big improvement. Tomorrow, my kiddos will show up a new set of Wonders…I can’t wait to hear what they have learned!