Monday, September 5, 2011

I WONDER What's In the Bag?

       Picture this: I receive a text from a good friend that reads: ‘I have something for you. You are going to love it.’ My friend and I were preparing to meet later that afternoon for pedicures. I could hardly wait to see what this treasure might be. Possibly an edible treat! She is magical in the kitchen. How about a lovely jeweled bobble? She is a wizard with beads and jewels. Maybe a new book to share? This friend is a true book lover in the purest sense of the concept! I could hardly wait to get there to check out my good fortune. So, when I arrive, and she is already plopped in the bowl with her pedicure in action. I take my place beside her eager with excitement and kindly getting the niceties out of the way while awaiting my treasure. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a bag of bones! Road kill. She begins to tell me about her find which you can read for yourself at: Immediately we were enthralled in this tale of discovery as we were getting pampered. The girl who was working on her had the most curious or possibly confused look on her face.

          Now most of my friends wouldn’t bring me bones! This is a true friend who knows where I am heading in our first grade classroom. This will be the second year I have used A Place for Wonder, Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough. After my experience last year, I can hardly wait to get started.

 Last year, our classroom was a culture of researchers who were exploring from an authentic starting place. The children and parents were invested in the commitment of ‘wonder.’ We explored centers that evoked a sense of wonder while promoting literacy. We ended up having two writing times a day! One was for a traditional Lucy Calkins approach to a writing workshop and the other was completely based on wonder and exploration. The kids were begging to write! Students enjoyed a ‘Wonder of the Week’ in which we explored topics such as, “I wonder if turtles get water in their shells.” and “I wonder how our bones stick together.”  Each week the children got to weigh in and give their personal opinion before we researched the particular Wonder of the Week during our weekly Ponder Time. During Ponder Time, we explored the current wonder of the week while researching it in books, on the computer, magazines and we even asked experts to come in and help us out! The children took to it like ducks to water. I think I learned as much as they did! We also enjoyed a Pet Observation Center in which we brought Goldie and Daisy into our classroom. I am certain this is the first and only time if a parent offers to buy books and I requested gold fish instead! The children learned to write like researchers from their observations. They loved it! Observations such as; ‘Goldie is swimming faster than Daisy. I wonder if Daisy is sick today.’ Often they would measure the fish and record their thoughts and predictions! The children also enjoyed our Observation Window in which they could record the events they saw taking place which ranged from the changing of the seasons to the baby birds leaving the birdhouse in our Outdoor Classroom. We formed a Wonder Club that met every Tuesday during lunch to simply discuss what they were wondering.  The children became better listeners because they were truly learning on a sea of talk. The synthesis was observable.

We experienced so many terrific activities together regarding ‘wonder.’ I highly recommend the book! The activities eventually lead to the children creating nonfiction books of their own. They were amazing. Our class motto became, “Never stop wondering. When you stop wondering, you stop learning!” We even created our own t-shirts with this slogan! We finished the year by inviting the parents for an evening event called A Celebration of Wonder. We watched videos of all the activities the children experienced and the children got to showcase their beautiful books.

So was I disappointed to see the bones? No… the bones made me grin because I am thinking about the fun that is in store for my students and me! I can hardly wait to discover what this new class is curious and passionate about! Next week I will be inviting the children in our class to bring in treasures from nature for our Discovery Table and the bones will be front and center!


  1. Thank you for describing so 'wonderfully' about your class investigations and wonderings. At my school each child chooses a topic of study to follow and research all year, sometimes two, and they love it. I can see from your description that your class is so invested & excited about this. I love that they even want to meet on Tuesdays. What fun that must be. And-happy you got the bones!

  2. You put the magic into the wonder for those students. You let them know that it is so smart to wonder and think all the time. They are a lucky children to land in your room. Maybe next time it will be a book or a bauble. You never know.

  3. Love those bones and your Wonder of the Week during our weekly Ponder Time. Ponder time. We need more of your ponder time :)

  4. A friend that cooks, beads, and brings you bones! What could be better than that? Excellent description of using questions to motivate kids to research, read, and write. I love the "wonder of the week" and "ponder time."

  5. I love this post. Good for you for fostering a love of inquiry at an early age. So many times we drum the wonder right out of kids. I was writing a post on books and I wrote about spork. Got me thinking...what's the deal with sporks? Life is so interesting when we wonder.

  6. The Heard and McDonough book was excellent. I think having time to just wonder is WONDERFUL. Kids and adults need that.