Monday, April 30, 2012


Betsy at Teaching Young Writers is hosting a Chalk-a-bration.  Today after our Terra Nova testing, we grabbed the chalk and headed outside to "chalk" some poetry to celebrate the end of National Poetry Month.  We have been busy writing poetry since the end of March and will be really celebrating next week with a Mother's Day Poet-tea, but today was a great way to spend a wonderful, warm and sunny afternoon.

If you are looking for more poetry ideas check out Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's website, The Poem Farm which was featured in the Wonder of the Day today, #575 What Is a Poetry Slam?
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One Little Word

I can't believe it is the end of April and I am once again reflecting on my One Little Word (OLW) for the year, JOY.  April has been an exciting month, as it has brought the end to my master's program.  I under took the program 18 months ago with three fellow teachers at my school.  They have each brought "joy" during the program for different reasons (see below).  As much as I hated writing my papers every other Saturday (yes, I would put them off until the last possible moment), I looked forward to meeting with my group each week.  It was more than just talking about our "discussion questions".  Each of the teachers are at different stages in their lives and each time we met, I enjoyed hearing about what they were up to.  We also talked about school and any weekly rumors we had heard, our classrooms and how stressed each of us was.  It was a "joy" to be supported by such amazing educators during the program.

Rachael-We share a modular unit and our classrooms are adjoined.  It seems that we have naturally clicked both personally and professionally since we began working together 4 years ago.  During our master's program she was trying to get pregnant and is now almost 22 weeks pregnant with twins (a boy and girl).  It's been a "joy" reliving one of the most exciting times of my life as she shared each week about her pregnancy.

Katie-During our master's, Katie met the man of her dreams and got married this month.  What an exciting time for her.  It was pure "joy" hearing about her wedding plans and the excitement she would share with us each week.

Ashley-While Ashley is still looking for that perfect person to spend the rest of her life with, she took the plunge during our master's and bought her first house.  It was a "joy" hearing about the process and the highs and lows of being a first time home buyer.

I am so happy to be finished with my master's work, but will miss our weekly meetings.  I feel blessed to have been able to take on this journey with Rachael, Katie and Ashley.  I also feel blessed for the "joy" they brought me during the journey.

Please check out other OLW participants:
Maria at Teaching in the 21st Century
Tracy at Thinking Stems
Melissa at Figuring out how the pieces fit...
Tara at Teaching Life

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Importance of Commenting

In March I participated in the Slice of Life Challenge at Two Writing Teachers sponsored by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz.  During the challenge the comments that others would leave for me on my blog helped encourage me to continue writing.  On the last day Cathy Mere blogged, Do You Reply to Comments?  I began to think about not only the importance of commenting on blogs, but responding to those comments on my own blog.

Cathy Mere's post also made be reflect on what an amazing job Wonderopolis does responding to every comment left on their website.  As part of our morning routine in my second grade class, we will leave a class comment about once a week about a Wonder.  I have done this to model how, why and the importance of writing a quality comment.  Our comments include predictions, new learning or to tell what we thought of a Wonder.  Everyone likes to know that their comment matters and is valued.  Wonderopolis makes us feel valued each time we leave a comment, which in turn makes us want to continue leaving comments and keeps us coming back.  After leaving class comments, we look forward to checking back later in the day to see what their response is.
We have also created a class checklist for leaving comments.  We created the checklist after noticing that some other comments left at Wonderopolis were kind of silly and didn't really pertain to the Wonder.  I was also noticing some of the comments my student were leaving were not very good.  The checklist has help improve the quality and content of the comments my students leave.  Originally, I was going to make the checklist a rubric, but later changed my mind.  We did discuss as a class what a 4, 3, 2 or 1 comment would look like and spent time scoring other comments left.
I do not make leaving comments a job or any kind of in class or out of class assignment.  As part of our morning routine with Wonderopolis, we will read the comments that students in our class have left both in and out of class.  This is always an exciting time for students to see what comments others wrote, to see their own comments posted at Wonderopolis and see what the response is from Wonderopolis.

I encourage having my students leave comments on Wonderopolis because:
  • Students are writing for a purpose.
  • Students are reflecting on learning and thinking.
  • It is authentic writing.
  • It improves writing skills.
  • It enhances written communication skills.
  • Motivates students to leave more comments (write more).
I encourage you to not only use Wonderopolis, but for you and your students to leave comments!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Using Wonder Journals on a Field Trip

As part of our class field trip to the Boonshoft Museum in Dayton, Ohio I made small individual Wonder Journals for each student to take with them.  In addition, each student group chose a Wonder out of our class Wonder Jar to explore at the museum.  Read below to find out more about both.

Wonder Journals
I cut regular copy paper into fourths and stapled six sheets together.  I passed out the journals the day before the field trip for the students decorate their cover and come up with the page headings inside.  I gave little guidance other than to tell the students I wanted them to leave the first page blank for their group Wonder.  After we looked at the website for the museum, I encouraged them to write some Wonders they had for the trip. Today during the field trip, I was excited to see so many students with their journals open writing.  Below are a few examples of what students did before, during and after the field trip with their journals

Field Trip Wonders
The museum sent us a scavenger hunt for the students.  I used the scavenger hunt and the museum website to make up Wonders for each group to explore while on the trip.  Before leaving for the field trip, I had a member from each group pick out their group's Wonder from the Wonder Jar.  By giving each group a Wonder, students had something to focus on and encouraged them to not only look at the exhibits, but read, wonder and learn more.  In addition, it gave us something educational to do when we got back from the trip.  Students shared their group Wonder and what they learned.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Connections to Wonder #566 "Why Is It So Fun To Monkey Around?"

This morning as I read through the Wonder of the Day, Why Is It So Fun To Monkey Around.   I immediately had two connections to the Wonder.

First, I thought of the perfect picture book to go with the Wonder.  The Wonder mentioned Jane Goodall because of her work with chimpanzees.  Earlier this year I read the picture book, Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell to my class.  When we read the book, I remembered thinking this is a great book to encourage readers to  Wonder.  

The book describes Jane Goodall as a child and all the exploring and wondering Jane did with her stuffed chimpanzee.  These adventures are what later led her to do her research with chimpanzees.  One page describes some of the wondering and exploring she did, "One day, curious Jane wondered where eggs came from.  So she and Jubilee snuck into Grandma Nutt's chicken coop....."

The simple text makes this picture book an easy read aloud for children of any age group.  The book can be used to encourage Wonder, as an introduction to biographies, to teach children about the love of nature, following your dreams, details in illustrations and many other ways.  I can't wait to see how many of my students checked out the Wonder today and see if they connect it to Me... Jane on Monday.  I am also excited to pull this book out and revisit it again.

My second connection to the Wonder of the Day was to the "monkeying around" part.  As I have mentioned before, as part of being chosen to be part of the Wonder Year Adventure 2012, my family got to go on a WONDERful adventure to Louisville, Kentucky over New Year's.  One of our stops on our adventure was to the Louisville Zoo.  While at the zoo we got to meet some of their orangutans.  One of the orangutans, Bella, enjoyed showing off for us and "monkeying around."  Bella had me take everything out of my purse and then pointed to have someone else in our group do the same thing.  We were quite entertained by all of Bella's "monkey business."

The video below was recorded by my 10 year old daughter who you can hear and tell laughed throughout Bella's antics.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wonder Journals

Each morning as my students come into the classroom, the Wonder of the Day is projected up on the white board in my room.  Students write predictions, what they think, what they know and wonderings they may have about the Wonder.  Later after attendance and lunch count are taken and everyone has had time to think about the Wonder, we start our day discussing and reading together.  Before reading over the Wonder together students have time to share their thinking and predictions with a neighbor and then a few share out.  While we are reading over the Wonder, students are encouraged to write down new learning or something they have found interesting.

I haven't put an amount on what they have to write either before, during or after we discuss the Wonder of the Day.  I want this to be an authentic and meaningful learning experience.  The experience won't be as authentic if I give them a set amount of writing they have to do.  As the year has progressed, I have encouraged students to write more because they are more familiar with the routine.  Furthermore, we've spent time discussing that the Wonders are like any other text we may read.  When we are more text we are interested in, have more background knowledge and more thinking and wondering, we write more about that text.

I have been asked several times how much time I devote to the Wonder each day and student Wonder Journals.  Students arrive between 8:30 and 8:50.  They have to do their Wonder Journals each morning and a Number of the Day Journal.  We usually start going over both at around 9:10.  We usually spend about 10-15 minutes discussing, reading over and sometimes leaving Wonderopolis a comment.  It really depends on the Wonder, how interested and engaged the students are in the Wonder and how it pertains to our curriculum.

Students also use their Wonder Journals for other things.  They often write in their Wonder Journals during reading workshop, because they wonder about the book they are reading or they want to write what they have learned from a nonfiction book.  They also will write Wonder Words in their journals that they would like to try using in their own writing.

Below are two examples of student Wonder Journals with the link to the the Wonder.  The second example is something students have started doing on their own as they have become more comfortable with using See, Think, Wonder in our classroom and with the Wonder of the Day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Wondering about Hummingbirds

This week in 2nd grade, we did lots of wondering and learning at Wonderopolis.

On Tuesday, we learned about why and how foods are graded with #555 Does Your Food Make the Grade?  At the bottom of the Wonder the clue for Wednesday's Wonder was, "Fly back to Wonderopolis tomorrow for a Wonder of the Day that will have you humming a new tune!"  After reading this, Max yelled out, "I know it's going to be about hummingbirds."  The students then shared their wondering about hummingbirds.  My students love to see their comments published and what kind of positive response Wonderopolis will give us so, I typed their wondering in the comment section.  Along with sharing our wondering, we talked about whether the word hummingbird is a compound word or not (hence why it is both ways in the comment below--what a great little review of what a compound word is).  On Wednesday, we found out that our prediction was right, the Wonder of the Day was,  #556 Do Hummingbirds Really Hum?.  Many of our wonders were also answered in the Wonder of the Day, which is always exciting.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wonder Wednesday

Prior to starting the school year, I wanted to incorporate weekly Wonder into my schedule (besides using Wonderopolis daily).  Last summer, I read about someone using Wonder Wednesday.  I honestly can't remember where I read it.  I decided to give Wonder Wednesdays a try.

To introduce Wonder Wednesday at the beginning of the year, we made a list of topics we wondered about and then as a class, we voted and chose one for our first Wonder Wednesday.  We asked questions and as a class looked for the answers to those questions.  I also created a form to help organize information (see below).  As a class we filled out the form as a shared experience.  Gradually as the year progressed students started forming their own small groups to work on their own Wonders on Wednesdays.

Each Wonder Wednesday begins like any other writing workshop, with a mini-lesson.  Some of the mini-lessons have included, how to write "focus" questions to help focus our wondering, what to do if you can't find the answer to one or more of your questions, what kinds/types of questions extend your thinking, how and where you get ideas for Wonders, and using a nonfiction book as a focus for wondering.

Each Wonder Wednesday includes a new Wonder.  Being that we do Wonder reading and writing at the most once a week, it is much easier if the students start with a new Wonder each time.  Occasionally, they will carry over a Wonder and finish it up on Thursday.  Most students have gotten very good at manage their time and using it wisely, so they can find out as much as possible.  If students are engaged (which they usually they are), we will carry the Wonder Wednesday into our science/social studies time.  We also usually carry over some of the sharing to Thursday and Friday.

By doing Wonder Wednesday, my students are interacting with more nonfiction text than they otherwise would.  According to Routman (Writing Essentials Raising Expectations and Results While Simplifying Teaching, 2005), "through reading nonfiction, students gather information, encounter writing models and ideas they can emulate, and come to understand the features of nonfiction texts" (p. 127).  I know they will be better readers, writers and thinkers in general from participating in each of our Wonder Wednesdays.

When reflecting on Wonder Wednesday and thinking ahead to next year, there are several things that I would like to incorporate or change.  One thing I would like to change is to have the students use the information gathered to create their own writing piece.  Currently, students are just gathering information and are not doing much with it.  I'm not sure that I will have them create something every week with their information gathered, maybe once a month.  I would like to have students take the information they have gathered and create their own book or maybe use Wonderopolis or other texts as a model for organizing their information.

Below is a Smilebox of some pictures and video I have taken during a few Wonder Wednesdays.  If you use Wonder Wednesday in your class, I would love to hear how you are organizing and using it.

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Slice 2012 A Big Win

This morning, like I do every morning when I first get up, I checked my email.  While checking, I found that Stacey at Two Writing Teachers had posted the winners of the prizes for the Fifth Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I anxiously clicked on the link to read more.  I enjoyed reading through how she chose the winners and then read through how to claim your prize.  As I scrolled down, I was surprised and excited to see my name as the winner of the registration to the Seventh Annual All Write!!! Summer institute.  I attended the conference last year and my district was unable to send me this year.  I had considered paying the fee myself because the conference is, "that good", but had decided against it.  The prize for the Slice 2012 truly was in writing and what I learned every day about myself as a writer, but this prize is the cherry on top.  Thank you again Ruth and Stacey for organizing!  Can't wait for next year!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ukrainian Painted Eggs

This morning when I went to Wonderopolis, I noticed the new background of the beautifully painted eggs.  Immediately, I thought of the book by Patricia Polacco called, Rechenka's Eggs. The story is about an old woman, Babushka who is painting Ukrainian eggs for an Easter Festival.  She finds a wounded goose (she names Rechenka) outside of her house and nurses it back to health.  As the goose is getting healthy, it knocks over all the paint and breaks the beautifully painted eggs.  Renchenka then mysteriously lays beautiful eggs to replace the broken ones.  Later while Babushka is at the Easter Festival winning first prize, the goose flies way.  Before leaving, she lays one last egg.

The background also reminded me of making Ukrainian painted eggs with a class many years ago while doing an author study on Patricia Polacco.  I couldn't remember how we made them, so I went on a search for child friendly directions on how to make painted eggs.  My daughter was having a friend over and I thought it would be a great activity for them to do together.  I found the directions for Patricia Polacco inspired Ukrainian painted eggs and the girls spent a couple of hours making artwork out of our white eggs this afternoon.  While the eggs didn't quite turn out like the Ukrainian painted eggs in Patricia Polacco's book, they had a wonderful time talking, sharing and thinking of unique ways to decorate their eggs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Connections to Wonder #549 "Who Was the Great Bambino?"

Yesterday's Wonder reminded me of the trip to Louisville that the 2012 Wonder Leads and families went on over New Year's.  As part of the trip we got to do some "wondering" at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.  While at the museum and factory, we got to see how the famous "Louisville Slugger" bats are made, tour the museum and some lucky members of our group went into the VIP "bat vault".

Upon our arrival at the museum we were given our family Wonder, What is a billet?  Our family learned that a billet is the round pieces of wood that are made into a bat.  One highlight for our family at the museum and factory was seeing and touching the billets waiting to be made into a bats for Joey Votto (1st baseman for our hometown team, The Cincinnati Reds).  

The other highlight of the trip for my husband was going into the vault to see carved bat prototypes of famous players such as Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth (The Great Bambino)

Below is a Smilebox of some of the pictures taken of all the Wonder Leads and their families while at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Slice 2012 An Awkward Moment

I was sitting in the last pew of a beautiful historic, shaker style church at my friend's wedding.  The wedding was over and she and her new husband were dismissing guests from the pews.  The bride and groom dismissing guests is bit less awkward than the dreaded receiving line.  I leaned over and said to my two friends, "I never know what to do in these situations.  I most certainly will give Katie a hug, but what about Rodney?"  I had only met him briefly prior to the wedding.  I didn't feel comfortable hugging him, but a handshake seems so odd.  As they approached, I actually got a bit nervous.  I gave Katie a hug and told her how beautiful she looked.  To my delight, someone came up from behind and started talking to her new husband, so the entire "awkward moment" was avoided. --Thank goodness!

Monday, April 2, 2012

OLW - March

This year I have chosen "Joy" as my OLW (One Little Word) to focus on.  Each year as an end of the gift for my students, I put together an iMovie and burn it to a dvd.  This morning I began working on it.  As I was going through the pictures I began to the think of the "joy" my students have brought to my life this year.  Each child has been a gift to me and has brought joy to our classroom.  When I look at the pictures of each student from the first day of school (see Smilebox below), I am reminded of how awesome and unique each child is.

Check out these other bloggers participating in OLW:
Maria at Teaching in the 21st Century
Tracy at Thinking Stems
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