A Place for Wonder

I have heard Georgia Heard speak about her passion for teaching poetry to children and it inspired me to write some poetry of my own. When I heard she had written a new book with Jennifer McDonough, I was intrigued. I began reading it the day I received it in the mail.

A Place for Wonder, Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades, explores the importance of classrooms that encourage curiosity and discovery. What seems like such a simple thing can be easily overlooked if teachers don't consciously provide a place for exploration and wonder as well as integrating habitudes of curiosity into their curriculum.

What I liked about this book, was that it wasn't simply a "how-to" recipe for teaching nonfiction. Don't get me wrong, the lessons, directions and artifact photos are there for you to use and implement in your own classroom, but there is also a lot of thoughts between Georgia and Jennifer about how they came to their ideas and decisions. Reading their after-lesson reflections was what made their work even more powerful. It really helped me understand and visualize their classroom work.

Curiosity and wonder seems like a natural fit for science lessons, but I really would like to see more of it infused in lessons across the curriculum and through the grades. Georgia and Jennifer aren't the only ones talking about teaching curiosity. A recent blog post by Angela Maiers shows her conversation with literacy coaches about looking for evidence of curiosity in classrooms.

Do you have a classroom environment that supports curiosity? What kinds of things do you do?


Kicking off with a Wiki

Last year, we taught teachers at our elementary school how to use blogs, wikis and other web 2.0 tools to work and teach. We gave teachers choices about when to adopt their use and how they would use them. This school year, we felt like it was important to embed technology use in everything that we could, where technology was the best tool to use. Putting our money where our mouth is, so to speak. So when summer planning began, we considered our tools...

In years past, teachers were given binders containing the faculty handbook and essential schedules and forms they would need at the start and throughout the year. As the year went on, updates were placed in mailboxes or emailed to teachers.

Last year, we purchased a flash drive for each teacher with all of this information pre-loaded, but then still had to email out updates and hope that the most recent file was the one saved.

This year, we decided to keep all pertinent forms, schedules and information on a faculty & staff wiki. We kept the wiki private because it has teacher addresses and phone numbers as well as other sensitive information, but everyone was invited to join so they could upload when needed.
I even managed to convince my principal to film a little welcome message to everyone. I used Pinnacle to put it together. It is embedded on the home page of our wiki. Our school theme this year is prominently featured. I'll let you watch to find out more about it:

The wiki has had many additional benefits we never considered. Here are some examples:

* Instead of turning in meeting agendas, teachers can upload a copy to the wiki for documentation.
* The master calendar that normally is kept in the principal's office is now an embedded google calendar.
* Faculty members that may have not tried to actually use a wiki last year when they learned about them are now having to weekly use and get comfortable with this wiki.
* Our district has limited the size of our email boxes, making it difficult sometimes, to receive powerpoints or other large files. The wiki is a perfect place to store these items for future use.

It seems like the more we use wikis, the more ideas we come up with to use them. We would love to learn how other schools are using them. Please share!