Posts Tagged ‘Wonderopolis’

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

“I write to know what I am thinking.” Someone said this. Someone wise. I can’t remember who because there are days and people and ideas between hearing these words and today. But this is exactly what I am doing. Trying to process my thinking from NCTE15 through writing.

My trip home from Minneapolis was long. My brain is full to overflowing with words, ideas, love, and hope. At NCTE, teachers are honored. Teachers are fed. Teachers are inspired.

At NCTE15, I discovered…

Teachers are rock stars to authors. The work we do in the classroom around books is why authors do the work they do. They love hearing the stories of what we are doing with their babies (books).

Allow students to explore what they are passionate about.  Real authors like Kate Messner, Laura Purdie Salas, Laurel Snyder, and more are driven by their endless curiosity.  We need to allow wondering and wandering to ignite passionate research for our students.

Kate DiCamillo says to give young writers the gift to be themselves. “Break the rules and find yourself.”

Sharon Draper says, “Words are Power!”  We need love–connections–peace, and books are how we do that.

The books authors write are their babies, and when you love their babies, you love them.  I watched author after author brighten up when I talked to them about how their books affected me and my students.

“Literature can empower young people. Books are like amusement parks.  Sometimes you have to let the kids choose the ride.” Kwame Alexander.

Schools should be scavenger hunts, places where students can feel safe to wonder, wander, and discover. Georgia Heard, Wonderopolis breakfast

When I look through my notes, I notice that most of what I heard affirmed my teaching philosophy: Open the door.  Be safe. Be curious.  Expand the horizon. Reach for the stars. 

At the Children's Literature Awards Lunch with Julianne Harmatz, me, Laura Purdie Salas, Catherine Flynn, and Heidi Mordhorst.

At the Children’s Literature Awards Lunch with Julianne Harmatz, me, Laura Purdie Salas, Catherine Flynn, and Heidi Mordhorst.

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Poetry Friday round-up with Tricia at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Poetry Friday round-up with Tricia at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Every once in a while a volume of poetry comes along that blows me away. The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry is an anthology that will keep my poetry self satisfied for a while. Edited by J. Patrick Lewis, the poems are illustrated by amazing images. This glossy book even smells good.

book of nature poetry

Laura Purdie Salas posted last week about her poem Brinicle which is included in the Book of Nature Poetry. This was a totally new subject for me, so I took the chance that it was new to my students. They were transfixed by the video she posted. Then we read and discussed her poem. Laura gave us lots to talk about. (free verse, imagery, personification, metaphor, and sounds)

The assignment: Turn your Wonder into Poetry Using Animoto. Since I am traveling to NCTE this week, I wasn’t sure how or if my students would write their poems and make a video. I’ve checked in on their kidblog site, and they have been posting some cool poem videos. I’ll share a few here.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

My students are wild with wonder. They don’t really know it, but when I see their eyes light up and their attention focus, I know it’s there. Inspired by Tara Smith of Two Writing Teachers, this year I instituted a new tradition, Wonder Wednesdays. The process is really very simple.

  1. What do you wonder about?  Create a question.
  2. What do you already know about this question?
  3. Research your question.  (Use Wonderopolis.)
  4. Write a paragraph including at least 5 new facts and 2-3 wonder words.
  5. Burning question: What more do you want to know?

I give my students the option to turn a Wonder into a Wonder Presentation.  For me, this option works well because I don’t end up with every student in the class having to do a presentation.  Since we blog, presentations can be posted for others to see as well.  This week I had 3 students choose this option, so we had a presentation day.  Presentation requirements vary somewhat from the Wonder response.

  1. Main idea: Thesis statement
  2. Support with evidence.
  3. Graphics support the topic.
  4. Your opinion is included.

Emily was inspired by a popular song to research Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. 

Emily emaze Vesuvius

Having Wonder Wednesday as a regular occurrence each week inspires my students to question and wonder all the time.  On Two Writing Teachers today, Tara writes, “I am a true Wonderopolis believer, and I know that our Wednesdays lead my kids to think deeply about science, geography, and the way things work.” Encouraging students to wonder every week makes inquiry a natural ingredient in the ELA classroom.

One of my new students jumped right in to wondering and blogging.  He wondered about cells in the human body.  As Noah (4th grade) and Vannisa (6th grade) walked back to class on Wednesday, they discussed cells.  Really?  The wonder spills out of the classroom all the way down the hall.

Wonder kidblog post

If you are wondering and writing about Digital Literacy, please link up.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

When my student Vannisa wanted to write a fall poem, she looked to the skies. She wrote this poem including the science of meteor showers that occur in fall.

As We Fall

As we fall into winter,
the weather chills
and the leaves come down.
They fill the ground with
a fiery red
and blazing orange.

As we fall into winter,
we can no longer watch fireworks
like 4th of July,
but we can watch
the shooting stars of
Orionids and Leonids
and watch the days get shorter
until Spring comes back again.

She had a blog comment on her poem asking her more about the Orionids. When she was looking for something to research for her Wonder of the Week, I suggested the meteor shower. Each week I have my students use Wonderopolis to read nonfiction and respond by writing about what they learned. They then have the option to create a class presentation using technology.

Vannisa had to expand her research beyond Wonderopolis and this was my intent all along, that some little spark would send my students into real, authentic research.

Click the image to view the Emaze.

Click the image to view the Emaze.

Know: Orionids is a meteor shower that occurs in late October. A shooting star is a meteor and not an actual star. The name for the shower is Orionids because most of the comets will be toward the constellation Orion.

Wonder: What Causes a Shooting Star?, Where Is the Big Dipper?, How Many Stars Are In The Sky?

Learned: A meteor is formed from rock that burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to look like a streak of light in the sky. A piece of a meteor is called a meteorite. The Big Dipper is mostly referred to as a constellation, but it’s actually an asterism. Our galaxy has about 200 billion to 400 billion star. Scientist predict that there are 100 billion to 200 billion galaxies in the universe. Based on the latest estimates, astronomers guess that there are 300 sextillion stars in the universe which is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is 1 billion times 1 billion times 3!

Burning Question: How did they find out how many stars there are?

Days when learning and creativity come together I realize the true joy of discovery. I strive to give my students the open door that will lead them on their own journey of learning, not down a path I have designed, but one they have chosen. It doesn’t happen every day. But with Vannisa and her spark of interest in meteor showers, these two paths converged and made meaningful learning. Through blogging, she was able to share it with others. Win. Win.

Add your own Digital Literacy posts here:

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

This year I am trying out a new weekly assignment, Wonder Wednesdays. My students are required to choose their own wonder from Wonderopolis, read the information, and write a paragraph or two about their topic. I thought this would give them practice in nonfiction reading along with practice in writing informational paragraphs. I also wanted the element of choice involved. The students have been getting so excited about what they are learning that they can’t help but want to share. So I told them they could do a Wonder Presentation once each grading period.

Emily was the first to present this week. She became interested in electric eels. This proves how important choice is. I would never have thought she would be interested in eels, of all things, but her family went to the Aquarium this summer, and she saw a live one. When she discovered from Wonderopolis that electric eels are not actually eels, she wanted to “trick” the class. Not only that, she created a quiz and kept up with points making the whole presentation totally engaging.

electric eels

https://app.emaze.com/@AIRTFIRQ/are-electric-eelsPowered by emaze

Andrew, 3rd grade, researched optical illusions. I had no idea there were different types. I encouraged him to try Emaze as a format for presenting his topic. Andrew is a gamer who is no stranger to technology. He created this presentation with ease. I love that this is a format that even my youngest students can use. Click on the image to see his presentation.

optical illusion

I am pleased that Wonder research has materialized into a student-led classroom. I value learning that is student-driven, when I can stand on the sidelines coaching, troubleshooting, and cheering them on.

Link up your digital literacy posts.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

wonderopolis logo

Wonderopolis is a wonderful site for nonfiction reading. Last year I used the site once a week with my students. I picked out the “Wonder,” and created a Wonder worksheet for the week that included other language activities. While this method worked well for me as a teacher, it wasn’t so great for my students. They enjoyed the site, but they hated the other activities. And why not, they were teacher-created. They became a burden to them rather than a learning tool.

This summer I was thinking about how to change this plan and still take advantage of the Wonderopolis site. I read this post by Tara Smith. She talked about choice. She gave her students a form to fill in with a Wonder of their own choice. What a great idea!

Last week I started classes with my gifted students. I introduced the idea of Wonder Wednesday and choosing their own Wonders. For my birthday (on Tuesday), Lani had given me a small rubik’s cube. One of my boys, Tobie, couldn’t stop playing with it. He decided his Wonder would be about how to do a rubik’s cube. He found the question on Wonderopolis! Then he watched a video. He got other students excited about learning. (I could say he distracted others with his enthusiasm.)


After watching the excitement spread, I decided to give my students the option to present their Wonder learning using technology. I will present different tools in the coming weeks: Piktochart, Canva, Emaze, Powtoon, Animoto. One presentation each nine weeks will be required.

Teaching a variety of grade levels has its challenges. Wonderopolis has given me a way to differentiate nonfiction reading, empower students through presentation, and generate enthusiasm for learning. Here is a link to my student form.

Please join the DigiLit Sunday Round-up with your link.

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Dig poetry


My friend who doesn’t write sent me the joke poem above.  My response was “You understand me. I dig deep.”  I have committed myself to write everyday this month about poetry.  I am not promising an original poem each day (but who knows?). To share our poetry activities this month, we are using #digipoetry.  Leigh Anne (@teachr4) made this button for our blog posts.  Feel free to use it, too.


DigiPoetry buttonWednesday is a good day to wonder.  I wandered over to Wonderopolis and found a wonderful article about dolphins and echo-location.  To think about writing a poem, I collected words and phrases from the article.  After many false starts (rough drafts), I read about Nikki Grimes’ tanka contest.    Nikki Grimes’ contest for kids in grades 3-6: Tanka writing

Sometimes when writing doesn’t come easily, a form gives you the structure you need to create.  A tanka is similar to a haiku. There is no rhyme and a syllable count of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7.   Nikki Grimes has a book coming out in May, Poems in the Attic, which includes tanka.  (Click the link for more information.)

I used PicMonkey to create this image poem.









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