Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One Little Word

At the beginning of January I read on a fellow Wonder Lead's blog about choosing One Little Word (OLW) for 2012 and focussing on that word.  http://teachingin21.blogspot.com/2012/01/happy-new-year-are-you-willing-to.html  At the time, I thought, "I can't do this, I just don't have the time."  All month the OLW has been in the back of my mind and last night as Maria was chatting about writing her end of the month blog, I "reflected" on a word again.  As I woke up this morning, my word came to me!  Before sharing my OLW, I feel like I need to build background knowledge.  Isn't that what all teachers do?

I began my teaching career at Ridgewood Elementary School in Hilliard, Ohio.  It was a WONDERful place with WONDERful people.  At some point in time some of us formed a "bird club".  The "club" wasn't really for watching birds, but more for fun.  There were six of us in all.  We got together about once a month.  I managed to meet up at the dinners about two or three times a year after moving away.  Several years ago after one of the members was re-diagnosed with cancer, the "birders" started going away for a getaway in the summer.  We have shared many laughs and much fun over the years!

About two weeks before Halloween this past year, we got word that after a short stay in the hospital our dear friend Joy was being sent home with Hospice.  About a week later she died.  We all gathered for her memorial service on Halloween night.  At the memorial service "the birders" shared lots of tears, memories and even some laughter.  It was hard saying good-bye to such a wonderful person.

At Joy's memorial service, I was amazed at how many friends, fellow teachers, former students and church family had come to celebrate her life.  She truly touched everyone that came into contact with her.  Joy found "joy" in everything she did and as one of her daughter's said, "she never had a bad day."  Even as she was battling cancer for the second time, you would never have known it.

So... as a tribute to my friend Joy (and the rest of the "birders"), my One Little Word this year is going to be "joy".  I am going to focus on the joy in little things that I often let go by.  The joy I get when I spend time with my family.  The joy I get when spending time with friends.  The joy I get from teaching.

The "Birders" last summer, Melanie, Carol, Erin, Cathy, Me and Joy

Saturday, January 28, 2012

See, Think, Wonder

I was introduced to See, Think, Wonder by Tanny McGregor early this year during a professional development day.  I was immediately drawn toward it and wanted to learn more.  After a little research I found a book called, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison.  I highly recommend all educators read this book.  One teaching strategy featured in the book is See, Think, Wonder.
See, Think, Wonder can be used with pictures, photos, objects, paintings, short videos and short pieces of text.  According to Ritchart, Church and Morrison (2011), "--in fact, almost anything that can be observed, interpreted, and wondered about (p. 55).  I use See, Think, Wonder in my second grade class, but I think it could be used with any grade level and across all subject areas.

See, Think, Wonder is broken up into five steps, Set Up, See, Think, Wonder and Share the Thinking.  In the "Set Up" step, students should be able to see the object and ample quiet time should be given to view the object and think about it.

During the second step, "See" students are asked to think about what they "see" or notice about the object.  They should share anything concrete.  For example, if the are looking a picture of a penguin, they might share colors they see, something about the peak, etc.  

During the third step, "Think" students should share or write about what they are thinking.  They should share their thinking based on what they see in the object.  I try to encourage my students to support their thinking based on what they see.  For example, if they say, "I am thinking the penguin is in Antarctica."  I might say, "what in the picture makes you think that?"

The fourth step, "Wonder" encourages students to think beyond the object.  Questions and thoughts students create during this step may help focus a unit study or something students may want to explore further.

The fifth step, "Share the Thinking" may be done throughout or if you do a written See, Think, Wonder can be done at the end.

During a WONDERFUL trip to Louisville, Kentucky, Wonderopolis.org gave each lead a "Wonder" Jar.  The jar was full of different objects to explore from past wonders.  I let each child in the class pick out an object.  They then had time to think about the object before going back to their seats to write their See, Think and Wonder.  While they were writing I interviewed many of the students.  Below is link to some video clips of our See, Think, Wonder using our items from our "Wonder" Jar.  I encourage you to try this in your classroom and would love to hear about how it goes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Connection to Today's Wonder: "Do All Animals Leave Tracks?"

When I shared today's wonder at Wonderopolis.org, "Do All Animals Leave Tracks?" http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/do-all-animals-leave-tracks/ with my students, I immediately thought of this picture hanging above my desk and shared my connection with my students.  It is always an exciting time when we can share our own connections with the "wonders" in my classroom.  I love hearing the students' connection and occasionally, like today, I will share my own connection.
The picture is of my own two children on a wonderful snow day a few years ago.  We are fortunate to have woods behind our house with lots of wildlife.  On this particular snow day we were back by the woods trying to find animal tracks.  Not only were we spending time together wondering and exploring, but we were building memories as a family.  While all the tracks you see in the snow were made by us and we didn't find any animal tracks, we had the best time looking.
Below are some more pictures from our snow day off.  The day included many activities suggested in Wonder #463 "What's the Best Thing to do on a Snow Day?" http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what’s-the-best-thing-to-do-on-a-snow-day/.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Creating Wonder with Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

I've decided to participate in the non-fiction picture book challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfbp2012) organized by http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/ and http://nonfictiondetectives.blogspot.com/.  I am going to try and post a non-fiction book or series that I have used in my classroom and has created "wonder" for my students.
The first book that I have chosen to feature is Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner.  Kate Messner has written a couple of other books that I have read to my second graders, Sea Monster's First Day and Marty McGuire.  She is a wonderful author and person.  On top of being an author she is also a teacher.  You may want to check out her website http://www.katemessner.com/.

Over and Under the Snow is a story within a story.  The story is about a girl and father cross country skiing through a forest.  The story within is what happens under and over the snow with animals during the winter months.  The illustrations also show what the animals are doing under and above the snow.  The book gives just enough detail about each animal to hook a student to want to learn more about them.
Below are some wonders from wonderopolis.org that you may want to explore with your students after reading the book.  They gave my students some more information to extend the book.

#51 What do Bees do in Winter?  http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-do-bees-do-in-winter/
#144 Do all Birds Fly South in the Winter?  http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/do-all-birds-fly-south-in-the-winter/
#188 Are frogs and Toads the Same?  http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/are-frogs-and-toads-the-same/
#203 What is the Difference Between a Rabbit and a Hare?  http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-the-difference-between-a-rabbit-and-a-hare/
#410 Who takes the Longest Nap?  http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/who-takes-the-longest-nap/
#469 What do Animals Squirrel Away for Winter?  http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-do-animals-squirrel-away-for-winter/
#410 Who Takes the Longest Nap?  http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/who-takes-the-longest-nap/

Besides using the book to create wonder and the links above to extend the book, some other ways to use Over and Under the Snow in your classroom are:
  • cutaways (non-fiction text feature).
  • mentor text (repeated lines, "Over the snow..." and "Under the snow....")
  • mentor text (descriptive language/word choice)
  • mentor text (how to organize text)
  • details in illustrations (perspective)
  • vocabulary

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wondering Through Disney

Last week our family took a trip to Disney World in Florida.  We haven't been there in four years, so everyone was excited to return.  Since we our "wondering through 2012", we decided to jot down some of our wonderings about Disney.
 We wondered:
  • How many lights do they use to decorate the park for Christmas?
  • How much food to they go through daily, weekly and yearly?
  • Do the characters in one show perform in others?
  • How far does the average person walk in a day? (Our feet really hurt each night)
  • Why isn't the Wilderness Lodge (where we stayed) on the monorail, since you can see it from the resort?
  • How far in advance do they plan new rides/attractions?
  • Why were there so many large tour groups from Brazil?
At each park I found myself thinking back to all of the daily wonders at Wonderopolis.org that would make Disney not only more educational, but help answer some questions and help everyone make connections to rides, attractions and characters.

At Magic Kingdom when seeing Cinderella's Castle lit up, being surrounded by princesses and fairy tale rides I thought about wonder #21 What Fairy Tale Ending Would You Change?


When riding the Winnie the Pooh ride and meeting Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet, I was reminded of one of my favorite wonder's, #376 Where is the Hundred Acre Wood?

The day after we road Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom Wonder #465 Where is the Highest Mountain was posted.

(The picture above was from our last Disney trip--boy have our kids grown!)

When we went to the Finding Nemo Show and road the ride, I was reminded of several past wonders: 
While riding the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios (one of Ben's favorite rides), another Wonder came to mind, #199 How Are Acoustic Guitars Different From Electric Guitars?

We had a wonderful family trip filled with wondering, fun, learning and made lots of memories.  If you are planning a family trip, be sure to check out wonderopolis.org to see if any connections can be made to your trip.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Where I got my wondering from.....

After being selected to be a Wonder Lead for wonderopolis.org, I began thinking about where I got my drive to "wonder" from.  All of my thoughts led back to my mom who still does quite a bit of wondering at the age of seventy.  Below is a picture of her with her seven grandchildren on her 70th birthday.  She has instilled in all four of her children to wonder and learn.  She is also passing this down to her grandchildren.  
One example of how she is instilling wonder in her grandchildren occurred this past Christmas Eve.  Early last year a strange piece appeared in my mom and dad's living room.  My mom enjoyed sharing with her grandchildren that it was called a German Christmas candle pyramid.  She also shared with them the research she had done and what she had learned about it.  Just before Christmas my mom spent time shopping for just the right candles to use with the candle pyramid to make the paddles go, so the pyramid would rotate.  After dinner, we all gathered around the dining room table for the candles to be lit.  We were all wondering how long it would take for the paddles to start and the pyramid to rotate.
We sat and waited and waited and waited for the spinning to start.  Unfortunately nothing happened. As we were waiting, everybody was wondering why the pyramid wasn't working.  We wondered if the candles were too short, we wondered if it was everyone moving around so the candle flames couldn't heat up the paddles and we also wondered if we were doing something wrong.  Everyone was rather disappointed but we enjoyed our time spent together wondering as a family (all 17 of us).

Later after everyone left my mom researched why it wasn't working.  She again shared her findings with us.  She learned that there is a piston in the center and it could be damaged.  She also learned that the paddles have to be at a 30 degree angle.

In closing I would like to borrow a quote from a fellow Wonder Lead, Sarah Nichols.  She sums it up best by saying, "Wonder is the first part of learning.  You must be inspired by somthing in order to investigate the 'Why?' that fuels all aspects of learning."  I am fortunate to have a mom that still models wonder and learning for not only me but my children too.

If you like to wonder and learn, I encourage you to visit wonderopolis.org with your family and/or students.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Cat's Out of the Bag

The Cat's Out of the Bag!

When thinking about writing this post a Seinfeld episode came to mind.  The one where everyone finds out that Kramer's first name is Cosmo.  To this Kramer responds, "I guess the cat is "meeeoooww" out of the bag!"

It is finally official, I was chosen to be a Lead Ambassador by NCFL's Wonderopolis.org Wonder Year Adventure 2012.  I have known since early December and have had the hardest time keeping the secret. Like Kramer, I feel the "cat" is finally out of the bag.

We (Dennis, Barbara, Ben and Betsy) will be using this blog to share our journey through the year.  I will also be sharing how I use Wonderopolis.org in and out of my 2nd grade classroom.

If you would like to follow our journey...
on Twitter: @WonderPhillips
on Facebook: Wonder Lead Barbara

My class blog is:

Look for more posts to come soon!  Next week we are heading to Disney and will be "wondering" lots!