Jennifer McDonough is the coauthor with Georgia Heard of A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades. In their book Jennifer and Georgia discuss how to create “a landscape of wonder,” a primary classroom where curiosity, creativity, and exploration are encouraged. Here, Jennifer shares a couple of tips and tricks she uses in her own classroom.
In A Place for Wonder, Georgia and I quote Seymour Simon who says, “I’m more interested in arousing enthusiasm in kids than in teaching the facts. The facts may change, but that enthusiasm for exploring the world will remain with them the rest of their lives.” This is the idea behind infusing wonder into our exploration of nonfiction reading and writing. Writers are curious about the world and hungry for answers. Writing comes from these curious moments and wonderment about the world. This is what we want to teach young children before they even pick up a pen to start writing informational books. Reading nonfiction comes from a hunger to answer questions and learn more. To celebrate wonder and encourage questions in the classroom primes the pump for great nonfiction writing and reading. Here are a few ways I get students thinking and wondering in my first grade classroom before we begin a nonfiction unit.
Debbie Miller in, Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades, first introduced me to the idea of wonder boxes. She encourages her students to write down wonders they have about the world and keep them in a file box to pull out at later times to investigate. We keep these boxes going all year long and find ways and reasons to pull out the questions and find the answers.
In my classroom I have students create a wonder wall where they put up wonders they have and answer each other’s questions. When a question has been answered by a student or whole class exploration, the student gets to take home their question and answer and put up a new one.
Use bulletin board border to mark off a part of your window so your students can look out and observe the world outside the classroom. Leave a notebook and some colored pencils for the students to record their thinking and observations as they look outside. Encourage them to ask questions about what they see and leave them for the next student that comes to the journal to ponder and possibly answer.
Leave small notebooks next to living things in your classroom for students to observe, write about and leave questions. I have one in my classroom by our hermit crabs and any other living things that come to live with us for awhile: butterflies, ladybugs or ants in an anthill.
The Wonder House
My students nicknamed the nonfiction section of our classroom, The Wonder House. After all, they said, this is where we go to find the answers to questions we have. They created a sign that says, “Enter Here if you Have Wonders” and we had parents volunteer to come and hang netting around the area to create a cozy area for exploring nonfiction topics.
One Small Square
To encourage descriptive detailed writing, create small frames out of black construction paper and have the students bring them outside to set on the ground. Have them write only about what they see in their one small square.
Leaving Space in Writing for Wonder
Finally, when writing information books I always make sure to have students leave a chapter open for a wonder about the topic being written about. After writing everything the student knows, he or she will then explore nonfiction text to find out more about the topic to write in the book. After all, isn’t this is exactly what writers in the world do?
If you need some more inspiration, take a look at this video created by Joanne Maria Babalis and her colleagues at Bond Lake Public School in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, after using A Place for Wonder in a book study group.
Not to get too schmaltzy over here on the Stenhouse blog, but this past weekend we had a lot to be thankful for in our little corner of the publishing world. Stenhouse celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and we used that as an excuse (not that we needed one!) to throw a party during this year’s NCTE conference in Boston.
Here are some snapshots of some of our wonderful authors and Stenhouse staffers. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
Our resident party planner, Chandra (right) is seen with our expert photographer and customer service expert Pam, along with Rose Cappelli, Lynne Dorfman, and Anne Marie Corgill.
Editor Bill Varner (left) is getting cozy with authors Jeff Anderson and Debbie Diller.
Oh look, it’s Bill again! This time with Rose Cappelli.
This looks serious: Debbie Diller (left) with Stenhouse editor Holly Holland.
What a lovely group! From the left: Georgia Heard, Martha Horn, JoAnn Portalupi, and Mary Ellen Giacobbe.
Holly Holland (left) with another one of our Stenhouse customer service mavens, Lise.
Kelly Gallagher and Erik Palmer
Kent Johnson, CEO of Highlights, along with math editor Toby Gordon and some very delicious shrimp.
All smiles: Lee Ann Spillane, Cris Tovani, and Chandra.
Authors Mary Shorey and Penny Silvers with Holly Holland.
One of the newest members of our staff, editor Maureen Barbieri (right) with Monica Edinger.
Stenhouse president Dan Tobin chats up new authors Diana Neebe and Jennifer Roberts, along with Holly Holland.
Stenhouse editorial director Philippa Stratton with Franki Sibberson.
Author Ruth Ayres with Stenhouse marketing manager Rebecca Eaton.
Authors Stacey Shubitz and Ralph Fletcher
And that’s me, Zsofi (left), with Chris Downey, our fabulous editorial manager.
“What are the strategies that teachers and students can use to develop their ideas in informational writing? What are some ways that students can research and not become so overwhelmed that they get lost in their own piece?”
We recently sat down with Aimee Buckner to talk about her new book, Nonfiction Notebooks. In this short video, Aimee explains how writing notebooks can help students gather relevant information and practice writing in this genre, while directly supporting the Common Core State Standards:
We wrapped up our week-long blog tour for Ruth Ayres’ new book Celebrating Writers. Here are some highlights from the reviews of the book and the interviews with Ruth:
“It is a hard time to stay grounded in teaching–to continue to keep our classrooms joyful places for children. It is easy to lose energy and to fall back on practices that don’t match what we know about children or about learning. But Ruth’s work always gives me the confidence and energy I need to stick with what I know is right. She understands children and writing and teachers and she celebrates every piece of the learning process, especially the messy ones!”
“I think when teachers are writers themselves they realize the importance of genuine celebration. It doesn’t need to be grandiose and it doesn’t have to include forced feedback, rather celebration is the natural outcome of being in a writing community. When we are writers working alongside other writers, we understand how celebration is fuel and we are positioned to make it an integral part of our writing workshops.”
“The same is true in our classrooms. There are many things we cannot control. We cannot control educational mandates. We cannot control fathers drinking and mothers leaving. We cannot control standardized writing assessments.
But we can choose joy.
This is the heart of celebration. We choose joy about the excess periods in a student’s writing, because a month ago there were none. We choose joy about the three meager lines of writing, because yesterday there were crushed pencil points and tears. We choose joy about the misspellings, because all of the sight words are accurate.”
“No matter your grade level, if you are teacher working alongside writers, you’ll want to read this book. Ruth’s book had me taking notes and planning changes for our workshop – changes to bring joy into the time we work as writers.”
“This is the brilliance in Ruth’s work. She will cause you to see the daily opportunities for celebrations. These opportunities will bond you closer to your students and make you all grow as a result. There is no question in my mind that I am a better person every day that I read Ruth’s blogs. I am also a better teacher as a result of her blogs and this beautiful book. I highly recommend it.”
“Living the life of a writer—writing every day—is hard work. As humans, we look for ease and comfort. Writing doesn’t encompass either of these things. So if we’re going to stick with it, even on the hard days, there has to be a bigger reason than because the teacher says so or because I’m going to publish.”
Only a week to go until this year’s NCTE conference in Boston. Stenhouse is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and we are excited to see all of you close to our home turf in New England! Stop by booth #1410 to meet our authors, receive 25% off all of our titles, and sign up to win a $1,500 professional development library.
Below is our schedule for book signings and you can also download a PDF of our authors presenting at NCTE.
Friday, November 22
12:30 p.m.: Mary Shorey and Penny Silvers (Many Texts, Many Voices)
1:30 p.m.: Steph Harvey and Anne Goudvis (Strategies That Work)
2 p.m.: Georgia Heard (A Place for Wonder)
3 p.m.: Debbie Diller (Math Work Stations)
5:30 p.m.: Ralph Fletcher (Pyrotechnics on the Page)
Saturday, November 23
9:30 a.m.: Ruth Shagoury and Brenda Power (Living the Questions)
11 a.m.: Katie Keier (Catching Readers Before They Fall)
12:30 p.m.: Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli (Poetry Mentor Texts)
2 p.m.: Kimberly Hill Campbell (Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay)
3 p.m.: Cris Tovani (So What Do They Really Know?)
Sunday, November 24
10 a.m.: Jeff Anderson (10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know)
We are very excited to kick off our week-long blog tour for Ruth Ayres’ new book, Celebrating Writers. And we are especially excited to be kicking it off with a lovely interview by another Stenhouse gem, Franki Sibberson. Visit Franki’s blog today for insights into the book and be sure to ask questions or leave a comment to be entered to win a free Stenhouse book!
Here is what Franki has to say about Ruth and her writing:
Ruth’s writing (on her blog and in her books) have been a huge inspiration to me over the last few years. It is a hard time to stay grounded in teaching–to continue to keep our classrooms joyful places for children. It is easy to lose energy and to fall back on practices that don’t match what we know about children or about learning. But Ruth’s work always gives me the confidence and energy I need to stick with what I know is right. She understands children and writing and teachers and she celebrates every piece of the learning process, especially the messy ones!
Follow the blog tour all week at these outstanding education blogs:
We are so excited to announce the second edition of The Daily Five! Here is everything you need to know about the new edition and we are happy to bring you a special offer until December 31: Order the book on our website now and receive a FREE 1-month subscription to the Sisters’ Daily CAFE website.
The Daily 5, Second Edition retains the core literacy components that made the first edition one of the most widely read books in education and enhances these practices based on years of further experience in classrooms and compelling new brain research. The Daily 5 provides a way for any teacher to structure literacy (and now math) time to increase student independence and allow for individualized attention in small groups and one-on-one.
Teachers and schools implementing the Daily 5 will do the following:
Spend less time on classroom management and more time teaching
Help students develop independence, stamina, and accountability
Provide students with abundant time for practicing reading, writing, and math
Increase the time teachers spend with students one-on-one and in small groups
Improve schoolwide achievement and success in literacy and math.
The Daily 5, Second Edition gives teachers everything they need to launch and sustain the Daily 5, including materials and setup, model behaviors, detailed lesson plans, specific tips for implementing each component, and solutions to common challenges. By following this simple and proven structure, teachers can move from a harried classroom toward one that hums with productive and engaged learners.
Teachers will find everything they need to get started and sustain units of study that invite inquiry-based scientific thinking. Immerse yourself with Laurie and her students and experience the rich sights and sounds of their outdoor experiences, journals, and classroom discussions. You’ll discover how the natural world can be a springboard to reading comprehension strategies as well as writing in a variety of genres.
To Look Closely gives you the perfect child-centered program for integrated learning that also cultivates students as future stewards of the natural world. You can now browse the entire book online now!
Pre-order your copy of Ruth Ayres’ new book Celebrating Writers and join us on a blog tour starting November 11. Ruth will be answering questions about how to nurture writers, celebrate each step of the writing process, and she will share ideas on how to help student persevere through the development of a written piece.
Steven Wolk, author of Caring Hearts & Critical Minds recently sat down to talk about his book on The Professors, a program on Chicago’s PBS station WYCC. The interview covers a wide range of topics, from reaching reluctant readers to school reform and parent involvement. You can watch the full interview on the WYCC website. Make sure to also check out a second clip with Steve where he gives book recommendations for young readers.