Wonderopolis in the Middle and High School Classroom: Word-Building



We began this series of blog posts yesterday to talk about using Wonderopolis in the Middle and High School classroom. If you are joining us today, my name is Paul W. Hankins. I teach English 11 and AP English Language and Composition at Silver Creek High School in southern Indiana. I am one of the Wonder Lead Ambassadors with Wonderopolis, a non-fiction based websited offered by the National Center for Families Learning.

One of the features of Wonderopolis is the tab Wonder Words and Take the Wonder Word Challenge both of which appear at the right-hand side of the site. One way middle and high school teachers might use the wonders is to select one as a supplement to the vocabulary tests that are probably already a part of the coursework.

This approach would mirror the kind of reading experience and questions a student might encounter on a standardized test. Students would be reading words in context and then assessing their awareness of the words they just read in the passage. While this idea may seem rather simplistic, think in terms of what this same approach might cost if we sought this supplmentary material from another source. Wonderopolis is free. Approaching 1400 separate “wonders,” there are multiple opportunities to match a “wonder” to  thematic vocabulary list.

At #WonderopolisHS, I share as often as I can the Wonder Words that come out of the wonders that might be of interest to the middle or high school teacher, but then I am always thinking, too, that all of these words would be of interest to the middle and high school teacher.

I’d like to point you to some examples of archived wonders that address words and word usage. I am familiar with these wonders, but I can tell you that found them again for this post by entering the word “vocabulary” into the search feature on the main page of Wonderopolis

Wonder #127:    “How Do Words Get Added to the Dictionary?”

Would work along nicely with a conversation regarding newly-added words to the dictionary each year.

Introduces the notion that words we use everyday may have been a recent neologism (a high school vocabulary word from my experience)


Wonder #294:   “Why We Use Different Words for the Same Things?”

Introduces students to the concept of “regional dialect.”

Introduces students to DARE (Dictionary of American Regional English)


Wonder #724:   “Do You Like to Play with Words?”

Introduces students to the anagram.

Alludes to Harry Potter to bring in a literature connection.


One more point on using Wonderopolis as a word-building resources for your middle and high school students are those wonders that ask any question that lends itself to the rhetorical mode of Definition. These wonders open up opportunities for our middle and high school students to self-select words, phrases, and terms that would not only follow the template provided by the wonder, but provide, too, an opportunity for students to see how this rhetorical mode might work.

I hope that the suggestions offered here will be of some help to you as you explore the Wonderopolis site with your students. We’ll be back again tomorrow afternoon with a look at Wonderopolis and Reading with the Middle and High School Student!

Have a “Wonder”-ful Day!



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