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January 25, 2019

Guided Learning with “I Wonder”

By Kathleen Charlson

Allowing your students’ curiosity to drive instruction

Grades 6–8, 9–12

    Key Takeaways:

    • Let students know the purpose for reading as soon as possible. It helps them zero in on what is important.
    • Focusing on high-interest topics that all students can relate to, like vacations, is a great springboard to teaching a skill you would like to build upon. This allows more difficult content to be less daunting later.
    • Students love allowing their own questioning to drive their research, so it is easy to recycle this plan with other articles.

    As educators and learners, our curiosity doesn’t stop when we’re done reading an article or text. Students are the same way — so why not capitalize on that wondering to drive learning?

    Recently, Science World published an article called “Wild Vacation Spots,” which highlighted four extreme-vacation destinations around the world. Before reading, each student was given a sticky note and asked to split it into four quadrants using a pencil. After reading the headline and deck together as a whole class, students were told to put an “I wonder” question in each quadrant of their sticky note for each of the four vacation spots in Tanzania, Peru, Finland and Kenya.

    View more extreme hotels.

    Using the printed issue of Science World, we took turns reading the text aloud, pausing to write an “I wonder” question after each of the four sections about these vacation spots. (It’s best to write the questions down right when we have them; dedicating the time for the students to do so helps ensure that it happens!)

    Once they finished reading, students discussed with their table partners which destinations they would travel to with their families and what questions they had wondered about the landforms, climate, ecology and wildlife. Then students posted to our classroom blog about which destinations they desired to visit the most and why, including observations and predictions about the locations. Using their sticky notes, they added their “I wonder” questions about the vacation spots they chose.

    Finally, students were given time to explore scientific research and other sources online to find the answers to their questions. When finished, they added their answers to their blog posts and spent the remainder of class reading each other’s posts, adding comments or additional “I wonder” questions. We then shared our final discoveries, as well as our unanswered questions, as a wrap-up to the class period.

    Students were enthralled by the entire process, beginning with the engaging photos and content, continuing with their questioning and ending with satisfying their own curiosity through online research. Overall, the authentic learning about landforms, wildlife and ecology that took place was well worth the class time.

    To spark more wonder in your science lessons, sign up for a 30-day free trial of Science World magazine for grades 6–10.

     

    Kathleen Charlson has taught sixth grade for 13 years in the states of Colorado and Iowa. She currently teaches language arts, but she has been fortunate to bounce among all content areas. She enjoys having the opportunity to read and study nonfiction and best writing practices with her students each year. Her interests include traveling, reading, and enjoying the outdoors with her family.

    Key Takeaways:

    • Let students know the purpose for reading as soon as possible. It helps them zero in on what is important.
    • Focusing on high-interest topics that all students can relate to, like vacations, is a great springboard to teaching a skill you would like to build upon. This allows more difficult content to be less daunting later.
    • Students love allowing their own questioning to drive their research, so it is easy to recycle this plan with other articles.

    As educators and learners, our curiosity doesn’t stop when we’re done reading an article or text. Students are the same way — so why not capitalize on that wondering to drive learning?

    Recently, Science World published an article called “Wild Vacation Spots,” which highlighted four extreme-vacation destinations around the world. Before reading, each student was given a sticky note and asked to split it into four quadrants using a pencil. After reading the headline and deck together as a whole class, students were told to put an “I wonder” question in each quadrant of their sticky note for each of the four vacation spots in Tanzania, Peru, Finland and Kenya.

    View more extreme hotels.

    Using the printed issue of Science World, we took turns reading the text aloud, pausing to write an “I wonder” question after each of the four sections about these vacation spots. (It’s best to write the questions down right when we have them; dedicating the time for the students to do so helps ensure that it happens!)

    Once they finished reading, students discussed with their table partners which destinations they would travel to with their families and what questions they had wondered about the landforms, climate, ecology and wildlife. Then students posted to our classroom blog about which destinations they desired to visit the most and why, including observations and predictions about the locations. Using their sticky notes, they added their “I wonder” questions about the vacation spots they chose.

    Finally, students were given time to explore scientific research and other sources online to find the answers to their questions. When finished, they added their answers to their blog posts and spent the remainder of class reading each other’s posts, adding comments or additional “I wonder” questions. We then shared our final discoveries, as well as our unanswered questions, as a wrap-up to the class period.

    Students were enthralled by the entire process, beginning with the engaging photos and content, continuing with their questioning and ending with satisfying their own curiosity through online research. Overall, the authentic learning about landforms, wildlife and ecology that took place was well worth the class time.

    To spark more wonder in your science lessons, sign up for a 30-day free trial of Science World magazine for grades 6–10.

     

    Kathleen Charlson has taught sixth grade for 13 years in the states of Colorado and Iowa. She currently teaches language arts, but she has been fortunate to bounce among all content areas. She enjoys having the opportunity to read and study nonfiction and best writing practices with her students each year. Her interests include traveling, reading, and enjoying the outdoors with her family.

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