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!