How it all started...
From the time I started teaching I have always been fascinated with how educators can provoke or inspire curiosity, wonder and awe in their students as it relates to the various topics up for study. I had seen wonder boards where student are required to place a question or thought on the board daily. These addition to the board could be about anything students were wondering or thinking. I had also seen I wonder boards become a method in which teachers try to force students to place an idea or a thought on the board for grade or as a way to start a unit. I will admit I have tried I wonder boards in many different ways and often found myself discussing best practices with my colleagues.
I teach middle school humanities and band. During most units I used an I wonder board to help provoke student curiosity, wonder and awe. My approach to I wonder boards in some ways is fundamentally different than what most teachers might see around their schools. For me I wonder boards allow myself as a teacher to become more attuned to students thoughts, ideas and wonderments and to activity engage with their thinking. If you choose to use my approach for I wonder boards it is important for teachers to be willing to put their common assumptions and ideas of right and wrong aside to allow for authentic dialogue to emerge with students.
1) Setting the Scene and the Personal Book of Wonder.
To pull off this approach to the I wonder board it requires setting the scene for learning. Setting the scene for learning requires teachers to provide and invitation for students through literature, images, quotes, a hands on activity, or any form of media. Often setting the stage is like one giant activation strategy that says to students: “Hey this is what I have for you today now what do you think of it?”
I typically set the stage for students with ‘A Personal Book of Wonder’ (There are several versions of Personal Books of Wonder on my tpt store). The Personal Book of Wonder is a work book that students work through during class time as I am sharing various pieces of literature or images related to the topic with students. The key to Personal Books of Wonder is assuring students that you will be the only one seeing their booklet. However, it is up to students if they feel like sharing any of their ideas during discussion.
2) Starting the I Wonder Board
Now that students have given you all of their questions it is your job to create the I wonder board. The I wonder board starts with anywhere from one to three questions that students had in their personal book of wonder. I have found that starting with three questions of different levels tends to engage students the most. The rules about these I wonder board questions is that they have to be open ended to allow for student dialogue.
3) Keeping the I Wonder Board Going
Keeping your I wonder board going requires making a decision to encourage students daily to add or pursue their burning questions. I tend to add a new questions everyday that will link to the mini lesson we are doing tomorrow or a thought a student had I found interesting. Either way to keep a Wonder Board going requires the thoughtful participation from teachers and students. This is crucial to keeping the wonder board going. Also notice how a key component of the I wonder board is teachers taking the time to add responses to students’ sticky notes that will further challenge students’ thinking. You may use praise in your responses but the key is to make sure you response also includes a questions or statement that will keep the dialogue going.