How and Why I Use Wonderopolis in Room 407: Part One (The Basics)



For the past month, I’ve been adding to the hashtag, #WonderopolisHS at Twitter. This idea came out the conversations which began at the Wonderopolis Breakfast hosted by the National Center for Families Learning at The National Convention of Teachers of English Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. . In that meeting, I was able to meet and greet with many teachers from middle and high school classrooms who shared what they are doing in their classrooms with Wonderopolis as the anchor.

Wonderopolis is a non-fiction based website offered by the National Center for Families Learning out of Louisville, KY. For the past two years, I have been happy to have volunteered with the website as one of its Wonder Lead Ambassadors. Each day, the website offers a “wonder” anchored by a short video that may be watched independently or shown to the group. There are multiple features of the daily wonder all geared to help the user navigate the wonder (including ReadSpeaker which highlights the text as the wonder is read to the user), new words encountered within that wonder (WonderWords), and deeper explorations into the subject presented by the wonder (Still Wondering).

What I hope to do with this series of posts is to put out some basic ideas for how to use Wonderopolis in the middle and secondary classroom. We have used Wonderopolis for the past three years at Silver Creek High School with an approach that looks like this:

Students select freely from the number of archived “wonders.” This might include the Wonder of the Day (students with SmartPhones or any other device can sign up for a daily text of the daily “wonder.”

In a two-paragraph response, students first cite the wonder and offer a little background information on that wonder. Additionally, the student writes about what was learned from the wonder and whether or not the wonder might be the start of an extended research project. 

In each marking period, a student will have done at least four or five of these wonder reflections or from eight to ten before the end of a semester. One can see how these reflections would grow exponentially by way of number of wonders visited and the number of paragraphs that would be written in reflection. 

At the end of a semester, students can be invited to think about the kinds of wonders they visited during that time frame. Middle and high school teachers might invite students to begin to categorize and classify the kinds of wonders the student has visited and reflected upon during that time frame. The language is right there in the invitation, “I wonder what kinds of subjects I have been visiting and reflecting upon during the last nine weeks.”

My basic goal for using Wonderopolis at the secondary level is to get the teens I see each day to wonder more than “what’s for dinner.” Wonder is a part of the language set we use in Room 407 and I am happy that the word, “wonder” is on our radar and a part of our culture in the room. During the course of the week, we will be pointing to and highlighting features of Wonderopolis that make it a tool to consider for use with middle and high school students from our perspective in Room 407.

Here is the plan for the week as we share out ideas for using Wonderopolis in the Middle and High School classroom.

Monday 5 January:          How We Have Used Wonderopolis in Room 407

Tuesday 6 January:          Wonderopolis and Reading/Vocabulary Builder in Middle and High School

Wednesday 7 January:    Wonderopolis: A Writing Model for Middle and High School

Thursday 8 January:        Wonderopolis as a Research Template in Middle and High School

Friday 9 January:               An Invitation for You to Share at #WonderopolisHS


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