Before students can ask questions while reading informational text, they need to be curious about life in general. Ramp up the questioning spirit in your primary classrooms with a Wonder Wall.
Author and literacy expert Georgia Heard suggests primary teachers first initiate a Wonder Wall. This is simply a portion of a white board, bulletin board, classroom wall, or long-term chart paper that students could adhere sticky notes to. This is where students can post their questions and wonderings about life. (NOTE: Before turning them loose to post questions on the wall, use a Think Aloud to model what you’re curious about and how to formulate those wonderings into a sticky-note question.)
- Big questions–Why are bananas yellow? Why is Jared’s skin a different color than mine?
- Questions based on everyday observations–How does the toilet work? What happens to the dead animals on the road?
- Weather wonderings and nature noticings–Why do you hear lightning after you see it? Do mama birds feel sad when one of their eggs falls out of the nest?
After students have posted several questions over days, look for a common topic or theme. Group similar questions and identify a “Wonder of the Week.” (NOTE: As students observe you selecting questions and wonderings from the wall, they are eager to add new ones to the wall in hopes theirs will be chosen in the future.)
Now use the students’ wonderings to guide your informational text selections for the week. Students can read to find answers to their own, authentic questions. Reading nonfiction gives students a chance to explore, ask questions, and pursue answers to questions that really matter to them.
You could take this one step further and after finding the answers to their preliminary questions, encourage students to write out new sticky notes that state Now I’m thinking… I love how the students’ own questions spurred their nonfiction reading and discovery.
Look at all that’s happening here–Students are building their sense of curiosity and wonderment. They are practicing question-writing. They are using texts to answer their own questions. They are even re-evaluating their thinking and generating new wonderings. How powerful is that! Love it!
GREAT TEACHER EXAMPLE:
Jodie Pulciani of Madison Elementary School (Lombard, IL) created a Wonder Wall for her fifth grade students, and they love it. Here are a few sample questions: