A few days ago, I finished reading a fantastic book recommended by my previous vice principal, Kristi: A Place For Wonder. As a teacher that first started exploring inquiry last year (in Grade 5) and am eager to explore it again this year (in Grade 1), I loved the ideas presented in the book.
The author, Georgia Heard, got me thinking about numerous ideas including,
- a wonder window (special seating under my large classroom window would be ideal)
- Wonder Centres (to infuse wonder into the literacy block)
- a Wonder of the Week (to get students investigating and thinking about wonders)
- a Wonder World (where the classroom actually becomes a place of wonder)
- student organization of books (this provides the perfect real world example of sorting (math), while giving students more ownership over the classroom library)
- classroom pets (what are my options that do not include a book of forms? 🙂 I’m definitely thinking about Nintendogs (as virtual pets), but also looking at caterpillars/butterflies, worms (for composting), and maybe a hermit crab (which may result in a lot of forms.))
- boxes of wonders (I love how the students featured in the book added ideas to their boxes even over recess time)
- Listening Walks (I even see a possible musical connection here; maybe even linking music, literacy, and Science)
- a Wonder Club (this could even extend to recess time as well, or provide a great opportunity for reading, writing, and oral language during the literacy block)
- Heart Wonder Writing (I see the overlap here with reading comprehension strategies)
- Research Wonders – exploration and writing (I love the link to nature, which aligns with the Full-Day Kindergarten Program Model)
The more that I read, the more that I shared: both publicly, through Twitter, and privately, through email. It’s this sharing that got me thinking. Many books like this one almost provide a cookie cutter model to inquiry. I know that inquiry is not about reproducibles, and Georgia Heard is definitely not suggesting that it is, but she is giving teachers a formalized structure to follow. I think that many people like this, and at one time, I did too. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that another teacher’s structure, explicitly as outlined, doesn’t necessarily work for me, or more importantly, for my students.
So with this in mind, I need to make a choice: do I say that I’m already using inquiry and stick with what I’ve already done, do I embrace this new structure and just follow the book, or do I explore the various ideas and look at different ways to make them work considering my students and their needs? I tend to go with the last option, and this book is no different.
- Maybe students can select their own way to share their new learning instead of just creating a book.
- Maybe students can initially work together so that they can support each other, while also exploring individual contribution options.
- Maybe I’ll try some guided writing groups to further support those students that need it.
- Maybe I’ll begin Research Wonders during guided reading, so that I can support students during the research and the writing, while tailoring the activity to the different learning needs.
- Maybe I’ll explore the editing component in small groups (at least initially), so that I can change my approach and focus depending on students and their needs (i.e., providing different feedback to students depending on their writing).
- Maybe I’ll look at some technology options that can help students with the writing for those that need it. Dragon Dictation could be a good first option. There are also Story Apps that allow students to orally record their ideas. Puppet Pals and My Story could be two great possibilities!
- Maybe I’ll look at different ways to keep anchor charts — from stacking options to duotangs — so that students don’t become visually overwhelmed by all of the items in the classroom. I can’t help but think of Stuart Shanker as I see the classroom displays. I begin to wonder about the impact on self-regulation.
One thing that I love most about reading these educational books is that they make me think. They make me realize what is possible, and they also make me realize what I may need to do to make these ideas work in the classroom. These “maybes” provide new options and new opportunities for learning. How do you take the ideas of others and make them work in your classroom? Maybe we can all share some of our “maybes.”