Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Announcing.... A #Wonderchat on Twitter

Twitter has been an incredible professional tool for me.  I have used it as a resource to enrich my teaching, learn about using technology in my classroom and learn about professional and student resources.  One resource that I found on Twitter was  I came across Wonderopolis last summer and began using it in my 2nd grade classroom this past fall.  I have found it to be an awesome addition to my classroom.  There are so many valuable ways to use it in any setting with children.  I have read many Tweets about others using Wonderopolis in their classrooms and have read some incredible blogs about its uses.  So.... I think it would be great to bring other educators together who are using Wonderopolis and Wondering to facilitate learning and have an hour long chat about it.

The first hour long chat will take place on Monday, March 5th at 8:00 pm EST.  The first topic will be, how do you facilitate learning using Wonderopolis?  Please use the hashtag #Wonderchat

If there is enough interest, I would like to continue the #Wonderchat monthly.  It would take place on the 1st Monday of each month.  Here are some ideas I have for future Twitter Chats and would love to hear other ideas you may have.
  • Nonfiction books that help facilitate Wonder?
  • Picture books that help facilitate Wonder?
  • How does Wonderopolis and Wonder fit into the new Common Core Standards?
  • How do you nurture a Wondering environment and still cover everything?
  • How does Wonderopolis and Wondering tie into all content areas?
  • How do you nurture an environment for Wonder in your classroom?
I look forward to chatting about facilitating learning using Wonderopolis this Monday, March 5th at 8:00 pm EST.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

OLW - February

It's that time.... Time to think about the "Joy" in my life.  "Joy", my one little word I am focusing on during 2012.  Over the past few days I've been reflecting on my life and what I should include in my February OLW.  I've decided this month to focus on the "joy" that I get from Twitter.  This may seem somewhat silly considering, I have a wonderful husband and two great children, but professionally speaking much of my "joy" comes from Twitter.  Why, you might ask?  Here are 10 reasons I get professional "joy" from Twitter (in no particular order).

1.  I get validation for spending time outside of school reading professional books.
2.  My thinking and practices are both validated and challenged on a regular basis.
3.  I have choice in who I collaborate with.
4.  Every time I sign on to Twitter I learn or hear something new and get incredible ideas.
5.  I can connect and collaborate with colleagues from all over the country and world.
6.  I can access the professional development on Twitter whenever I am inclined to do so.
7.  I don't have to go anywhere to access this professional development.
8.  I can interact and communicate with "experts" that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to interact with.
9.  Twitter is my favorite price for professional development...  FREE!
10.  My students are the ones who benefit most from me being on Twitter.

If you haven't found the "joy" in Twitter yet, I encourage you to try it out.  

If you are wondering why I chose "joy" to focus on for 2012, check out my past blog post,  One Little Word.

Check out these blogs participating in OLW

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dublin Literacy Conference 2012

When I go to a conference or professional development, I always like to think about what I "take away" from the experience.  Below are my "take aways" from a wonderful day of professional learning at the Dublin Literacy Conference.

Session I (Opening Session)

First up at the conference was Eric Litwin and James Dean.  I'm sad to say that I arrived a bit late and came in at the tale end of them singing.  My students will be very disappointed when I tell them this as we read Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes on the first day of school and made our own VoiceThread using it as our model.  I did get our class book signed and am sure this will be a hot ticket tomorrow.

The first speaker was Donalyn Miller.  I read her book several summers ago and have been a follower of her on Twitter.  I was really looking forward to hearing her speak.  Her slideshow from her presentation should be up at  There were several important points that she made that hit home to me.
  • The single factor most strongly associated with student achievement is independent reading.
  • "Kids who don't have parents who read out loud have missed out."
  • 56% of unenthusiastic readers have teachers who are non-readers.
  • 64% of enthusiastic readers have teachers that read.
  • "A lot of kids don't know what kind of books they like because they haven't read many."
  • Reading "inspires you to write and try on an author's clothes."
  • That I need to evaluate my own reading experiences and commit to reading more.
  • Donalyn also spoke about the power of Twitter.  If you do not have a Twitter account, I highly encourage you to consider getting one.  It is the BEST professional development.
Session A

The first break out session I attended was "You Can Build Community with Writing" presented by Tony Keefer.  I chose this because as a teacher, writing workshop is something I am constantly working on refining in my second grade classroom.  I enjoyed listening to him speak and his passion for teaching was evident during his presentation.
  • I need to work on establishing a positive tone for how my class verbally communicates.  He encourages his students to NOT raise their hands.  
  • "Commit to create a place where all writing is valued. --regardless of where or what level they are on." 
  • That choice is important in writing and even with the new common core standards we should be able to give students choice in their writing.
Session B

I presented during the session.  My presentation included an overview on using Wonderopolis in the classroom.  I shared how can be used in many different content areas.  I also shared ways it can be integrated in and out of the school day are endless.  Feel free to check out my Dublin Literacy-Wonderopolis Presentation.

Session II (After Lunch)

Sharon Draper spoke after lunch.  She has written the wonderful book, Out of my Mind.  She was a very inspiring speaker for teachers, especially in this ever changing educational world of testing and data.  My take aways from her were:

  • "If we wish an elephant to grow, we feed it, not measure it."  She said this in regards to testing our students.
  • "Never ever, EVER give writing as a form of punishment!"  I personally think this is true for reading too.  If we want children to enjoy reading and writing, they have to see it as enjoyable activity.  What better way to squelch that, than to use it as a form of punishment?
  • A final quote from Sharon Draper that evoked reflection in me was, "you have to read enough books so you can offer something that will resonate with them."
Session C

During the last session I went to see Ruth Aryes.  I've read her book and saw her speak last summer at the AllWrite! Conference in Indiana and gained lots of practical ideas.  Once again she didn't disappoint me.  
  • I loved that she said, "Mini lessons are about finding a need and filling them."  Sometimes I get in a rut of focusing my mini lessons around the standards and forget that I need to plan my mini lessons based on my students needs.
  • She also shared that we need to Tell+SHOW.  Seems simple enough, but again as educators we often forget that students need repeated exposures and we need to show them, not just tell them.  In addition, this made me reflect that I need to also give lots of time for guided practice and practice.
  • Ruth also gave a practical idea of including our goals and how we will get there.  ________________ by _________________.  For example, my students will write interesting leads by ________________________.
  • Finally, Ruth shared about her Slice of Life March Challenge.  She talked about this being a great way to practice our own writing.  She shared how this makes you reflect on yourself as a writer.  I am very busy in my life right now, but am strongly considering taking the challenge.  
As I drove the two hours home last night, I had lots of time to reflect about the day.  I felt so fortunate to be surrounded by such awesome educators and listen to some amazing educators share about what they do in their classrooms.  I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday and am looking forward to going again next year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Making Predictions

Each morning when my students come in the Wonder of the day is projected up on the board.  The question and picture is the only thing posted.  Each morning the students write in their "wonder" journals what they think the answer is and what they know about the topic.  Last week, I pointed out that the picture often gives us clues and helps us to build background knowledge to help us make a better prediction.  I talked about using the picture with last week's Wonder #500 What is a Smokejumper?

The next day we did Wonder #497 What is a Red Tide? (we don't always go in order).  When I first put up the Wonder, I wasn't showing the picture, just the question.  Several students quickly set me straight and informed me they needed the pictrue to help "build their background knowledge" to make a better prediction. 

Yesterday's Wonder #506 What are Mukluks? provided another opportunity to use the picture to help make a more reasonable prediction.  Below is the comment that we left for Wonderopolis before reading and finding out what mukluks really are.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Our Random Acts of Kindness from (Wonder #502) Pay it Forward

The Wonder today was How Can You Pay It Forward?.  None of my students had ever heard of it.  Many thought it had to do with paying for something or paying ahead of time.  Before even beginning to discuss what Pay it Forward meant, we had to discuss what a Random Act of Kindness meant.  We also learned that February 17th is Random Act of Kindness Day.

While we were having our discussion about paying it forward, one little girl made the connection to Why Do Hermit Crabs Live In Borrowed Shells?  I was explaining that if I do a random act of kindness and then that person passes it on and they pass it on many, many people can be affected.  She raised her hand and said, "It's kind of like the hermit crabs who line up and give each other their shells."  I thought this was pretty insightful on her part.

After our discussion while we began Reading Workshop, I gave the students the opportunity to write down a random act of kindness that they could do this weekend at home.  This was an optional activity, so not all of my student chose to participate.  See the Smilebox below for those that did choose to participate.

Later when we were coming in from recess two boys in my class ran to the front of the line and said they would hold the door.  I asked them to make sure and wait on another student who left his lunch box out on the playground.  As they were entering the cafeteria I said, "Thank you for holding the door and waiting for Caleb."  The one boy said, "no thank you needed, just pay it forward!"  Now I need to figure out three acts of kindness to pay forward this weekend.  I encourage you to think of an act of kindness that you can give or show someone over the weekend too!
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Another free digital slideshow by Smilebox

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What is a Smokejumper? What I Learned Today

This morning, like I do every morning one of my early morning activities is to preview the Wonder at  This morning's Wonder was, What is a Smokejumper? As the Wonder popped up on my computer I thought, "I have never heard of a Smokejumper."  I did what I always tell my students to do, look at the picture for clues.  The picture showed an obvious fire and it appeared mountains.  My interest was certainly piqued.  I then clicked on "read more".  There I found out what a Smokejumper is.

Later after I arrived at school, I posted the Wonder up on the board for the students to write in the "wonder" journals about the Wonder like they do every morning.  The first student in the room saw the Wonder and immediately responded, "I know what that is."  He obviously had lots of background knowledge about Smokejumpers as he shared what he knew with me.

When we were going over the Wonder as a class, I asked how many students had heard of a Smokejumper.  Only a few hands went up.  After reading through the Wonder we discussed why we don't have background knowledge.  We discussed that we lack knowledge because we don't live in an area of the country where they are required.  The one boy who shared all the information with me earlier in the morning, shared that he learned about them from reading about Smokejumpers in a magazine about fire safety.  During our discussion, we also reviewed how we could use the picture and clues to help determine what a Smokejumper might be.  Another student pointed out there was a clue in the word Smokejumper that helped us too.

I found myself reflecting several times today about the interactions I had this morning with my students.  How often as a teacher do I take for granted that students might not have the background knowledge needed to understand a new concept, topic or text?  Furthermore, I enjoyed having the opportunity to use Wonderopolis for authentic learning for my students' and myself.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Follow Up to Focus Questions and WONDERS about Valentine's Day

Yesterday I blogged about asking focus questions and how we asked Wonder questions about Valentine's Day.  Today we used the Wonder of the Day, "Who is Your Valentine?" to answer many of our questions.  We had our Valentine's party this afternoon and "party" days in primary grades are always a little crazy.  It was great to tie in some inquiry and learning yesterday and today to make the day more educational.
Answers to Our Wonders about Valentine's Day
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Customize your own photo slideshow

Monday, February 13, 2012

Focus Questions and WONDERS about Valentine's Day

We have been spending time each morning talking about the "focus" questions uses to help guide their writing for each "wonder".  A student noticed last week that the first "focus" question is always the "wonder" question of the day.  The other two questions "focus" our attention to what we will be learning in the text.  We've also spent time in class experimenting with writing our own "focus" questions and what good "focus" questions would be for other non-fiction texts we have read.  We have also discovered, if you can't answer the "focus" questions, you probably were not paying attention.

In preparation for Valentine's Day tomorrow, we made a list of our own "wonders" about Valentine's Day, keeping in mind what we have learned about "focus" questions.  Tomorrow I will be grouping students to do some research to answer our "wonders".  Then as a class we will write our own non-fiction text about what we learned, using our "focus" questions as our guide for our writing like Wonderopolis does.

Below students share their "wonders" about Valentine's Day!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Personalize your own photo slideshow

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Connections to Wonder #491 "Do Dogs Really Eat Homework?"

I always preview the wonders on in the morning before sharing them with my class.  When I saw Wonder #491 Do Dogs Really Eat Homework? on Monday, I immediately thought of my own dog, Sally.  She has been known to eat many things that she shouldn't, including some graded homework.  I shared a few of my naughty dog stories with my students while we were discussing the Wonder.  Of course this sparked lots of discussions of different things my students' dogs have eaten and done.  We discussed how the connections to the "wonder" helped us better understand the text we were reading.
My daughter Betsy and our sometimes "naughty" dog, Sally

The connections to the "wonder" didn't stop there.  Later in the week as I was reading aloud some poems from the book called, I Didn't Do It by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest we had even more connections to the "wonder".  The poems are all about puppies, from the first poem, "Shhh... I'm Here (about puppies being born in a closet) to the last, "Every Night" (about a dog sleeping in bed with an owner).  The poem that we felt the most connections to was, "I Didn't Do It".  It's about several things a puppy insists it didn't do including chewing slippers.  The puppy also then tells who did the things.  While I was reading through the poems, I didn't have to ask the students if they connected to the "wonder", many hands went up early on in the book with comments, such as "Mrs. Phillips, this is like the wonder the other day" and "the wonder the other day helps us understand this book better."  Not only did we connect to Wonder #491, but it helped us to better connect and understand the poetry we read later in the week. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Unexpected Learning

One reason that I really love using in my 2nd grade classroom is because of the unpredicted learning that takes place.  The wonder was projected this morning like it is each morning for my students to respond what they think or know about the wonder in their "wonder" journals.  This morning's wonder was, When is a State Not a State?.  While reading through the response, we reviewed what a country, state and city are.  We also learned something new, what a "commonwealth" is.  We then got down to the "Try it out!" portion of the wonder.  I began asking students the questions about our state of Ohio.  I was quite surprised to find that my students really didn't know the answers.  They were pretty sure the state bird is a robin and had no clue who the governor is.  This lead to our unexpected learning today.  I decided to squeeze researching these questions in at the end of the day.  As a class we looked up the answers to the questions on the internet.  Not only did they learn the state bird, tree, flower, governor, etc, but they also learned what the words scarlet and population means (several students thought it had to do with being popular).
Below are the unpredicted things my students learned about our WONDERful state of Ohio:
  • Our state bird is a cardinal.
  • Our state tree is the buckeye tree.
  • Our state flower is the scarlet (red) carnation.
  • Our state's nickname is "The Buckeye State".  It got that name from all of the buckeye trees that grow here.
  • Ohio became a state on March 1, 1803.
  • John R. Kasich is the governor of Ohio. 
  • The capital of Ohio is Columbus.  It is also the largest city.
  • Some famous people from Ohio are Neil Armstrong (astronaut), Thomas Edison (inventor), John Glenn (astronaut), Pete Rose (baseball player) and Drew Carey (actor/Price as Right MC).
I was reminded today that some of the best learning is unexpected and can't be predicted.  I encourage you to try with your classroom or family and see what unexpected learning might take place.  I'd love to hear about any unpredicted learning that has taken place using

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Creating Wonder with Darrin Lunde Non-Fiction Picture Books

I stumbled upon a "new to me" author of non-fiction picture books, Darrin Lunde.  Hello, Bumblebee Bat was the first book I read by Darrin Lunde. From the first page, students were intrigued by the book and off and wondering.  It is written in a question/answer format.  Don't let the simple text fool you.  There are lots of details about the bumblebee bat included.  I used all three of Darrin Lunde books in my 2nd grade class as a mentor text to model an alternate form of writing non-fiction.  The books have created some amazing focus for students to try in their own non-fiction writing.  Many students have grasped the idea of starting with questions and answering those questions in the voice of the animal they are talking about, just like Darrin Lunde does.  In addition to reading Hello, Bumbebee Bat, we also read Hello, Baby Beluga and Meet the Meerkat by Darrin Lunde.

Here are some perfect Wonders that go along with the books above from