Featured, Inquiry, Science

Talking Inquiry: Making a Wonder Wall

Creating a wonder wall is a great tool to use in inquiry to build a space where students can
  • get students thinking
  • share their learning throughout their inquiry
  • keep ideas concepts and questions visible
  • interact with others
  • share standards, learning goals, and assessment criteria
  • share evidence of learning

 

This post is part 1 in my inquiry series.  To learn more about inquiry click through to see my many other posts about inquiry.

Also why not connect and stay up to date on all things inquiry by joining my teaching with inquiry facebook group.  

 

What’s a Wonder Wall?

Wonder wall boards are built at the beginning of a unit and are kept alive throughout student learning.  These are living examples of student learning throughout the unit.

Wonder wall boards are built at the beginning of a unit and are kept alive throughout student learning.  These are living examples of student learning throughout the unit.

Building this board starts when you begin to provoke students thinking about the topic you are beginning to study. Students will look at artifacts and ask questions about what they are seeing.  They activate prior knowledge and share this with others in a knowledge building circle.

Type of Display Board

This is an example of the board that I use for my wonder wall.  It is a trifold board.  One side is for my fourth graders and the other side for my fifth graders.
Sometimes I use these trifold boards and other times I just use my bulletin boards but this is great if you are lacking wall space and it also works to move around the classroom for students to use when you are working with them.
Here are some of the wonder wall boards from my classroom

Artifacts

I use artifacts to help provoke conversations and interests in a topic at the beginning of a unit.  Artifacts can be many things

  • real objects
  • pictures
  • words
  • videos
  • stories
Most of the time I use pictures that I print out in colour. Especially if I don’t have access to real life objects.
If I have easily accessible artifacts like my rock collection or some small appliances from home I might use those as well.

The Role of Questions

To use a wonder wall at the beginning of an inquiry means that you provoke students thinking about a topic.  Providing them with artifacts that gets them thinking.

Having them ask questions is the next step.

Students will take sticky notes and ask questions about what they see.  Use these doodle notes in my resource library to help your students keep track of what they are thinking.

As students share thier background knowledge and their questions the board is built.  These questions are the driving force behind your learning.

Group their questions into themes, use them to develp learning goals and success criteria and to find gaps in their knowledge that may require a teacher directed lesson to fill.

Put student questions beside the artifact or picture on the wonder wall and throughout the learning strive to answer these questions and keep track of unanswered questions.

It is through student questions that learning is constructed.

Lessons Learned

Another thing I learned while implementing my wonder wall is that when students ask questions I really really want to answer them.  I want to share my knowledge and have them soak it all in and teach them something.  I am a teacher!! this is what I do!! I know stuff and teach about it!! STOP STOP STOP.  I had to get myself to stop!
This was not what inquiry was about.  Sure, I am a teacher, but I am not as powerful or as knowledgable as Google.  I mentally needed to stop myself and concentrate on not answering their questions but to ask them to add their questions to the Wonder Wall and allow them to figure out the answers for themselves.
I  knew that I was going to lead them through my lessons to these answers but I needed to stop just giving them the information.  They would now have to start working for this information because I was not going to give them an easy way out.
Sure later on in the unit, we would have a discussion on certain topics and I would explain different concepts to them.  BUT we did this together.  I was not teaching them I was facilitating their learning.
Giving them the tools to let them find the answers to their questions on their own.

Results

And you know what…a funny thing happened.
They started learning faster than I had expected.
They took those questions home and found out the answers to them.  They would read books during independent time and find the answers to our questions.  They were discussing these things with their parents at home.
 It was amazing to see how excited they were about learning these concepts which in turn also allowed our discussion at school to become more vibrant and engaging.
Sure there were times when a teacher directed lesson was necessary especially in the technical aspects of the units.  But overall it was great to see them apply their learning in new and interesting ways.
If you would like to see how I made my Wonder Wall for these units check out my Video below
I now include wonder wall cards in most of my units to help teachers get started with artifacts for students and teachers to use to use as a provocation to get started with the units that they are teaching.  If you are interested in the cards that were used for the wonder wall on the video you can get them in the two units below.
   
Learn more about inquiry.  Next up in my inquiry series

 

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11 Comment

  1. Reply
    Brain Ninjas
    August 9, 2015 at 2:40 am

    Hi Patti, I came across your blog looking for other Canadian bloggers to link up and discovered your AWESOME wonder board. We also have a 4/5 combined class and so we are always looking for inquiry based tasks that can work with both grade levels. This is SO great. We're going to have to try it.

    Maybe we can link up or touch base on some other ideas about teaching combined classes? Stop by and let us know. 🙂
    ~A & E from the Brain Ninjas
    Brain Ninja Notes

    1. Reply
      patti
      August 20, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks so much!! I would recommend that you consider joining some of the amazing TPT product and promotion sites on Facebook. That is a great way to connect.

  2. Reply
    Kathy
    August 15, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing your wonder wall! What a great way to organize your "minds on" part of a unit – introducing and getting the students to activate their prior knowledge of a subject. So simple, yet so useful. =) Love the idea of making it portable too, since you have only so much wall/bulletin board space to keep things posted. The perfect inspiration to get me going on my planning today. Kathy

    1. Reply
      patti
      August 20, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks Kathy I am so glad that you found it helpful.

  3. Reply
    Emily
    August 20, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    This is an awesome idea! I've currently been working on a new unit plan for a combined 3/4 social studies unit and after reading this post I changed my first lesson because this is such a great way to start inquiry! I really like the idea of using a tri-fold board so that you can move it around, and because I have a serious lack of wall space. Even my word wall is on tri-fold boards for portability (and wall space). Last year I had an "I wonder…" window, where the students would put up questions on sticky notes onto the window. That worked well enough but I really like how this wonder wall provokes their thinking. My school has had a huge focus on the inquiry based approach for a couple years now (big time last year) but I hadn't heard of a provocation table. Thank you so much for sharing this approach because I think it will really strengthen my units for this year!

    1. Reply
      patti
      August 20, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Wow thanks so much for posting this. I am a total convert to the power of the Wonder Wall. I am glad that you found the post helpful!! Let me know how it works out for you.

    2. Reply
      Emily
      August 20, 2015 at 2:45 pm

      What won me over last year to inquiry was the power of questioning alone, and like you mentioned not answering the students but letting them find it themselves or discover it together. I think the wonder wall will improve those questions. I just started my own blog so I will most likely write a post about using the wonder wall and will definitely be crediting the idea to you, and will link your button and blog. But that probably won't be until September sometime when I get to use the wonder wall. I am really looking forward to using it. I wish I had this last year and my crew then would have loved it.

  4. Reply
    Kim Owen
    August 28, 2015 at 3:03 am

    Your story was relatable on so many levels. I believe we all can manage a wonder wall now if we are truly stepping back and allowing the students to gain more control over that path. How did you ensure the students stayed on topic? In my experience many students confuse inquiry with random facts they want to know about the topic posted. Would be very interested to see how you structured it. Amazing work, Patti.

    1. Reply
      patti
      August 30, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      I often get random fact questions I do try to focus on how to ask questions to ensure that they are deeper questions but the part about inquiry is that if they are asking it then it is generally something they want to know about. Sometimes allowing them to follow the initial random question will lead to more meaningful questions.

  5. Reply
    AdRa
    May 11, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    I'm so glad I came across this post! I'm an intervention teacher who works with Kindergarten through 5th grade! I love the idea of putting wonder walls on trifold boards! I don't have enough space per grade level and this would allow me to pull out the boards unique to each group!
    Your ideas are great and I plan on implementing them next school year. Thank you!

  6. Reply
    Anonymous
    June 22, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    Do students use their interactive notebooks to answer there inquiry or wonder wall questions

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