Friday, January 27, 2012

What a WONDERful site!

Maybe some of you are already familiar with this site, if not...get familiar!

Thanks to my ever flowing fountain of knowledge and resources that is Twitter, I happened upon this site when I began following Barbara Phillips (@wonderphillips). The site is Wonderopolis, a project developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) to encourage families to embark on reading and learning adventures together. Barbara is a Lead Ambassador for Wonderyear 2012.

Here's how it works:
Screen Shot
Each day, a new "wonder" is posted. The wonder is in the form of a question that most kids may have puzzled over at one time or another. At this point, there are over 400 wonders to peruse through! Each one includes a short video related to the wonder of the day, a bit or informational text, links, and vocabulary.

My brain immediately began cranking out ways to incorporate this new (and FREE) resource into my teaching. I wanted to spend some time with my students working on the skill of determining importance, as this is often difficult and many of them struggle to sort important facts from interesting ones. Of course this is not easy, as sometimes they are both one and the same! A light bulb went off and I knew that Wonderopolis would help. 

I taught my students how to use a Fact, Question, Response (FQR) organizer to track their learning (find one here from This is a great tool because it helps them sort their connections, thoughts, "wow" moments, and questions from the actual facts that they need to take away from the text. It also helps them to see how much thinking goes on as they are learning from a text.

Searching for "wonders" of their own
Once I had modeled with a short article, I introduced them to Wonderopolis. Wonder is an understatement when it comes to how enthralled they became with the concept. I gave them free reign to choose any "wonder" that they found interesting. Once they found one that struck their fancy, they worked on their own FQR organizers. I explained that when we met again, I wanted them to share some of what they had learned. They were so engaged! You could have heard a pin drop as they began clicking away, and this was without access to the videos! (Unfortunately, our county blocks the content of embedded videos, but I can access it with my teacher account for whole group if need be.)

After finding a "wonder" to learn about, I began hearing some chatter. Normally I would hush them back down to help them focus, but when I heard the content of the chatter, I stepped back and let them run with it. I heard a lot of "Hey! Did you know..." and "Wow! Look at this!" followed by "That is so cool, I am going to read that one next!" No, your eyes are not deceiving you, they wanted to read more and were very disappointed when our time was up. I promised to email a link home and encouraged them to share their learning with their families.

Adding information to FQR charts
Their work was impressive. Had I chosen an article for them, I doubt it would have yielded the same results. I am glad I gave them the freedom to explore and be guided by their own curiosity. In education, it is becoming an increasingly rare thing to allow the students so much freedom to explore their own interests. Wonderopolis gives that power back to children. This will definitely become a staple in my "bag of tricks."


  1. What an AMAZING blog post about some WONDERful learning! Thank you for inspiring wonder in your students...we're so glad to count you ALL as new Wonder Friends! :-)

  2. I am glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for the compliments and tweets!