Talking Inquiry: Making a Wonder Wall

Talking Inquiry: Making a Wonder Wall

Learning about Inquiry in part one of this video series.  Learn what a WonderWall is and how it is made and used in the classroom through this video series by Madly Learning. inquiry based learning | activities | projects | science | math | process | boardCreating 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

 

The Making of a Rock Cycle Video

The Making of a Rock Cycle Video

Get creative when teaching science. Check out this awesome video about making a rock cycle video, and learn how to make one yourself. science | elementary | teaching | students

In my classroom right now my grade 4s are learning about Rocks and Minerals.  I have tried to focus more this year on using experiments and inquiry in my units.  I have taught the rock cycle before but it has always fallen flat.  This component of the Rocks and Minerals unit needs to be taught in a more engaging way.  So in doing research for my TPT unit I cam across an activity that uses crayons melted over hot water.

On Monday I knew that I wanted to do this with my class but as usual I wanted to try it out first at home just to make sure that it worked well.  Students are rarely good when an experiment doesn’t work out the way you need it too.  So to prepare I stole some crayons from the little ones craft cupboard, ruined a cheese grater, and began to prepare the materials for my at home practice experiment.

But then I had an idea…..

A few days before a student showed me a video he had made of him drawing a picture with his iPod touch.  He had used the time lapse feature in the photos app to film himself.  It was great! So sitting in my kitchen I thought that filming this experiment of the Rock Cycle would be a great opportunity to try filming with Time Lapse Video.  However of course I could just simply film the experiment I was inspired so I decided to write a story about the rock cycle to go with the experiment so that I could use it to help reinforce the concept of the Rock Cycle in a memorable way.  So my Video was born.  Check it out below, then keep reading and I will tell how I made it.



Writing The Story
Once I was inspired to add a story to the video I needed to plan it out and think it through.  So I wrote it out a rough draft of the story.  Once this was done I made sure that my draft was off to the side when I was writing live on the video so that I reduced the amount of mistakes that I made when writing.  Writing out the story as I video taped was nerve wracking but very easy.  The time lapse feature makes is look very cool on playback.

Steps in the Experiment
Each step of the experiment was a different video clip.  I filmed these one at time.  This was imperative that did this correctly because I didn’t have additional crayons so I needed to make sure that although I could rewrite the script I couldn’t redo the experiment portion.  I rehearsed it then filmed it.  I put my phone in the kitchen cupboard above my counter and turned on the under cabinet lights to reduce the shadows.

Putting it All Together
This was actually the easiest part.  I used iMovie and this app is so user friendly to create a stunning video.  I simply selected each video in order, zoomed and flipped the original videos so they were how I wanted them to look.  I cut and clipped each video to make them fit together and transition nicely.  To zoom in to certain parts and focus on the writing I duplicated the same video and then zoomed into the bowl so that you could see the crayons melting into an igneous rock.

Finally I switched to KeyNote and made my opening and closing slides then opened the slides to see them full screen and screen captured them.  I added the new photos to my video and recorded my voice over the final image so that it would direct people back to by blog here or to my TPT product.

 

In the Classroom…

My students loved the video and it helped to consolidate their learning and review the steps that I had just demonstrated to them in class.  They were also very inspired to go out and try to create their own videos about things.  I am sure that I will have a lot of time lapse videos in my future.

If you would like to check out my Rocks and Minerals TPT Unit see it here.

Get creative when teaching science. Check out this awesome video about the making of a rock cycle, and learn how to make one yourself.

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Teaching Science to a Split Grade Class.

Teaching science to a split grade class can be a struggle, especially since science is a very interactive subject. Learn how to do it with these tips! classroom | students

Teaching science to two grades is always a juggling act.  Lots of preparation needs to go into how you are going to teach two separate units to two different grades.  I always teach a 4/5 and generally have the students for two years.  So combining the units and teaching one lesson like I can in math and language does not work well.  So it comes down to focusing on what is important, borrowing strategies from other subjects, organization and teaching independence.  I teach in 20-30 min time blocks to each grade.  Then they will have to learn independently as they do the task.  However over time I have learned that sometimes students miss the point of the lesson this way as I am not there to guide them.  However I have learned that there are some key strategies to make sure that the time students are working independently that they are learning the stuff I want them to learn.

Struggling to plan for a split grade class? Learn how to teach science, a more interactive class, to a split grade class with these tips!
Focus on What is Important

It all starts with the assessment and the cycle of assessment 1) Learning Goals and Success Criteria

First thing I do is share my learning goals and success criteria.  For each lesson for each grade I post it share it, make a big deal about it.  Students should always know what they are doing and why they are doing it.  I also make sure I post it.  I have a science board.  All things Science are on this board if students are not so sure then they can look here.  They also know that if it is posted on this board they will and can be assessed on it.  They must know the topics listed on this board.  I start with the daily goals on the board (smartboard or chart cart)  Once students have learned this we then transfer it onto the science board.
For example.
Today we are learning to identify and describe different types of Energy
 – we will read about different types of energy
– we will conduct experiments to see different types of energy in action
– we will use this experiment to help us describe each type of energy
– we will reflect on what we learned to help us figure it all out.

2) Borrow from Math

So the latest instructional strategy in math is to use a three part lesson plan in math to teach different concepts
  • Getting started
  • Working on It
  • Reflection
I thought if it works in math why not in science.  So I started with this question:”How do I build reflection into science so that I can use it for formative assessment purposes?” My solution…
INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS
these are very popular on TPT right now and I thought how do I use these in authentic ways.  I don’t just want cut and paste activities that have no meaning.  I did struggle with why would I spend the time having students assemble these if they could simple answer a few questions in their notebook.  However I like the look of them and feel that students will want to use them and decorate them.  I will structure my notebooks in this way.  On the left students will put their notes and interactive notebook activities on here.  On the Right students will complete their reflection activity.  Many of the interactive notebooks are based on the 3R reflection response that I completed in teachers college.  The 3R’s represent Retell, Relate, Reflect.  The left side represents the Retell portion and the right side represents the reflection section.  The relate portion is weaved into both aspects.  I find that with student reflection and retell I can gauge what students have learned and where we should focus.  I don’t mark these, but I do read them and make note of student needs.  They are great formative assessment.
Struggling to plan for a split grade class? Learn how to teach science, a more interactive class, to a split grade class with these tips!

Organization

Ok this is a goal and always will be.  It is inevitable that as a teacher you must organize and organize well. As a split grade teacher there is no option  you must put on your OCD hat and organize like a crazy person.  (this is why everything in my classroom has labels, students have numbers, books are colour coded, and why I hate paper.    Even your planning needs to be organized.  For this purpose I am constantly making tables and charts to organize my lessons and feel like I live with timers dinging and signaling me to change what I am doing.  I also feel that whenever possible you should utilize student and parent volunteers.  I know I cannot do this on my own but I do have very helpful students (who love to stay inside instead of going out in the snow) or parent volunteers.  I use these volunteers to organize my centers, fill buckets, order papers, photocopy or whatever else I need help with.  I know I cannot do it all so I ask for help from whom ever is available and willing to help.

Teaching Independence

I have blogged before about my tips for teaching a split grade here but in science this is a very important skill.  For a science class in a split grade students are often not completing a quiet activity.  They are engaged in hands on activities or group work.  This means that it is imperative that students learn how to work together and work independently as a group without you.  You have to be okay with a bit of noise and you need multiple teaching spaces.  Independent students does not mean quiet students independent students means engaged students.  Check out my guide to Teaching Independence Free on TPT.

I have finally finished my next combined unit for my 4/5 plans.  In January I go back to work from my maternity leave.  If you follow my 4/5 long range plans you would know that I have planned to teach two science units: Rocks and Minerals and Conservation of Energy.

Struggling to plan for a split grade class? Learn how to teach science, a more interactive class, to a split grade class with these tips!
Struggling to plan for a split grade class? Learn how to teach science, a more interactive class, to a split grade class with these tips!Struggling to plan for a split grade class? Learn how to teach science, a more interactive class, to a split grade class with these tips!

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