50 Ways to Wonder: Have a Wonder Table.

50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the ClassroomIn an effort to bring curiosity and joy back into the elementary school classroom, I decided to start a series called 50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the Classroom. I hope to keep these ideas simple and easy to implement for the time-crunched teacher. Most of these ideas come from other teachers, blogs, and books – so I don’t claim credit for them! Click here to see previous posts in the series. And without further ado, here is the next idea!

6. Have a Wonder Table.

Kids are constantly bringing in things from outside to show me. I used to say “oh thank you” and just put the items on my desk. Then I realized that kids were bringing them in because they were interested in them, and wanted to learn more! So I started a Wonder Table. It was basically a plain table with a sign saying “Wonder Table.” The rules were that kids could bring anything they found outside or at home that made them wonder. We brainstormed examples, including items from nature, interesting toys that made them think, or books that taught them something new. I also sent home a letter to parents explaining the project.

After that, the items just started flooding in! Nests, dead bugs, leaves, rocks, all sorts of natural items that the kids were fascinated by. (I put each new item in a small basket so it didn’t get super messy.) I also left magnifying glasses and our science journals at the same table. It was a favorite place to go during free choice time, and I like to think that it also helped place more value on wonder and curiosity.

Click the image below to download a sign that you can print off and tape to one of your tables to start your own Wonder Table!

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Inspiration for the weekend

allthegoldenlandsI travel to feel lonely…on purpose. What farm-to-table got wrong.

A fascinating idea of how we need to cook with the whole farm. (Farmers spend years making healthy soil by growing cover crops, but most of those cover crops just go to animal feed. If there was a market for buying those crops, farmers would make more money.)

What you think “organic” means may be different than what it actually means. (Basically, it means the food is only 95% pesticide-free. For the other 5%, they can use any chemicals approved by the USDA. Of which there are quite a few.)

40 of the best science podcasts for mobile learning. Having never studied science, I’m always looking for ways to improve my science knowledge so I can teach it to my students.

My current obsession for lunches: Kale avocado wrap.

One of my favorite radio programs has two awesome shows this week: Rethinking Schools and The Secret Language of Plants.

I used this book a lot when I was teaching at a nature center, and I forgot it existed! So now I want to get it. Growing Up Wild: Exploring Nature with Young Children.

50 Ways to Bring Wonder: Teach the word “hypothesis.”

50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the ClassroomIn an effort to bring curiosity and joy back into the elementary school classroom, I decided to start a series called 50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the Classroom. I hope to keep these ideas simple and easy to implement for the time-crunched teacher. Most of these ideas come from other teachers, blogs, and books – so I don’t claim credit for them! Click here to see previous posts in the series. And without further ado, here is the next idea!

3. Teach the word “hypothesis.”

It’s a common misconception that young students shouldn’t be taught big words. Who hasn’t met a five-year-old that can’t tell you the difference between a brontosaurus and a stegosaurus? Kids are drawn to big, complicated words, and they are often ready to handle the big, complicated concepts that come with. Early on in the year I teach my students the word “hypothesis,” defining it as something like “your best guess answer to a question, based on what you already know.” I then make an effort to pose lots of questions that allow them to form a hypothesis.

My favorite way to introduce new units is by posing a question or two, letting the students form hypotheses, and then giving them time to look in books to find the answer. For example, I kicked off my unit on turtles by writing the question “Why do turtles have shells?” on chart paper. I asked each student to draw or write a simple answer to the question, then gave them time to browse through lots of non-fiction books to look for evidence that proves them either right or wrong. I usually ask them to search with a partner, in order to stimulate dialogue on the topic.

teachthewordhypothesisIt’s amazing to see kindergarteners scrutinizing photographs and captions to find evidence that turtles use their shells for protection. I hand out sticky notes to each pair, suggesting that they mark any evidence they find in the texts. After about ten minutes, we come back to the rug and share what we learned. I usually follow up by reading a simple non-fiction text that will give us a definite answer to the question posed. But sometimes I leave it open for debate!

50 Ways to Bring Wonder: Use science journals

50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the ClassroomIn an effort to bring curiosity and joy back into the elementary school classroom, I decided to start a series called 50 Ways to Bring Wonder into the Classroom. I hope to keep these ideas simple and easy to implement for the time-crunched teacher. Most of these ideas come from other teachers, blogs, and books – so I don’t claim credit for them! Click here to see previous posts in the series. And without further ado, here is the next idea!

2. Use science journals

Science journals are a cheap and easy way to give your students somewhere to write down all their questions, observations, and thoughts about the world, without you having to manage lots of papers or activities. I just bought cheap notebooks and used rubber cement to glue these covers on the front. They have lasted all year. You can have students use science journals for all kinds of science-related activities, including:

  • making KWL charts at the beginning of a unit
  • recording observations about animals or plants
  • drawing what they see on a nature walk
  • writing down questions they have
  • recording results from science experiments
  • writing new facts from non-fiction books
  • reflecting on what they learned at the end of a unit

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I keep my students’ science journals where they can easily access them , and encourage them to use them however they see fit! Some teachers do very involved science journaling, which I admire and wish I had time for! I keep it simple, though, and basically use them for my students to record what they observe about the world.

Here are some places to find more info on science journaling (also called science notebooks).

The Science Penguin
Science Notebooking
Kristen’s Kindergarten
Little Miss Hypothesis
Kindergarten Kindergarten

Sight word picture frames!

Here is a really easy and simple way to get those sight words in the kids’ line of vision all the time! I used these rainbow chevron supply labels from Little Miss Primary (the 4×6 version so they would fit into a picture frame). Then I got these picture frames for $1 from Ikea! The kids love them, I love the splash of rainbow color added to the room, and it means the kids will see the sight words every time they sit down at their tables. Anything we can do to help them memorize!