Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: The Power of Wonder
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Slice of Life: The Power of Wonder


We left #NCTE15 thinking about wonder. Two “slices” of the conference pushed us to think more about how often we wonder, ask students to wonder and ask teachers to wonder. We wonder about data, about texts, about teacher’s passions, about pedagogy, about next steps and about the process of change. We realize we ask people to wonder all the time, but since #NCTE15 we are more aware of it.

We had the privilege to present with Matt Renwick at the conference. He is a principal in Wisconsin, blogger, and author of Digital Student Portfolios. He began our presentation by sharing this book:


We were not familiar with this book. We loved how Matt has used this book to inspire his faculty to question. He started by asking us:

Why questioning? He then shared this quote from the book:

“Questions challenge authority and disrupt established structures, processes, and systems, forcing people to have to at least think about doing something differently.”(p 6)

He showed us how his faculty is using questioning in collecting data and planning instructional goals. He also shared how he is using questioning in evaluation. We were inspired to read this book. Berger shows how children begin school asking hundreds of questions and then slowly learn that questions are not valued in our school culture. They turn to trying to quickly supply answers to rote questions and comply with the thinking shared by the teacher. “In an education and business culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged—and, in fact, is sometimes barely tolerated.” The books pushes us to think about how each of us can re-ignite that questioning spark—and use inquiry as a powerful means to rethink and reinvent our lives.

If you want more information about this book check out this interview:


Our heads were already filled with ideas about questioning and then we were invited to a breakfast hosted by Wonderopolis®. We were familiar with the resources Wonderopolis® offers, but had never heard about the philosophy and inception. They shared:

Wonderopolis®, a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.

Wonder is for everyone. It can happen anywhere and at anytime. Connecting the learning we do in our schools, our homes, and our communities, Wonderopolis walks the line between formal and informal education. Each day, we pose an intriguing question and explore it in a variety of ways. Our approach both informs and encourages new questions, sparking new paths of wonder and discovery in family and classroom settings.

A panel of presenters shared how they use this resource to spark the power of questioning in classrooms and schools.

It left us thinking about planning curriculum. We spend a great deal of time planning how we will question and assess students. Do we also spend time thinking about how we will provide opportunities for our students to question and wonder? Do we use the questions our students have to authentically research topics or interests? Do we value questioning or are our students learning it is not part of our school culture?

These two presentations really came together for us. If you aren’t using Wonderopolis® check it out – you won’t believe the resources they provide!  We know we plan on being more purposeful in how we question and how we include our student’s questions in our lesson design. We want take the time to listen to their questions and use them as windows into understanding what they need instructionally and what they are interesting in learning.


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    Posted at 11:03h, 15 December Reply

    I was excited to read your post especially with the combination of the book with Wonderopolis. I learned so much from reading this book when Brenda gave it to me at our CL retreat. The connections with student inquiry are perfect.

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    Molly Hogan
    Posted at 11:09h, 15 December Reply

    Thanks for sharing your learning and some wonderful resources with us. Food for thought!

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    Kimberley Moran
    Posted at 11:40h, 15 December Reply

    I am just beginning to understand how to help kids ask the right questions. I am saving this post so I can refer back to it later. Thank you.

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    Posted at 11:41h, 15 December Reply

    Your post helps as I reflect on helping my parent community understand why I am not assigning rote worksheets for homework. So much of what I am trying to do as I teach in the 21st century is to have my students wonder, explore, talk it over with a partner. But then I get questioned by the parents of the kids at my school who say they don’t know what their child is doing at school like they did last year before the district lines were redrawn and my school was built and newly opened in September. Last year lots of worksheets and workbooks were used and brought home as homework
    by their child. Instead, I am teaching with an inquiry approach but lots of the daily tasks (talking, reading, more talking, working with manipulatives) can’t easily be put in the TakeHome folder. Thanks for sharing. I am definitely going to check out the book and website you mention in your post.

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 16:09h, 15 December Reply

    I hope I can find the book you’ve shared. It sounds very good. My school is based completely on inquiry, so the ideas that many are bringing forth is not new, but thrilling to me. Each student chooses what they want to learn about & the curriculum is built around that. The students thrive in an atmosphere of questioning; it’s so right to provide them with that way of learning.

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    Posted at 16:28h, 15 December Reply

    I love Wonderopolis! Thanks for sharing this new title – I will have to add it to my winter break read.

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    Posted at 19:40h, 15 December Reply

    Love the book recommendation and Wonderopolis. You might be interested in this source as well http://rightquestion.org/make-just-one-change/ It teaches a very simple technique to get students to formulate questions around a topic.
    Thanks so much!

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    Posted at 22:45h, 15 December Reply

    I’ll be adding that book to my Amazon wish list. I’ve heard of it before, but if you’re recommending it, then I know it’s a must-read.

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      Matt Renwick
      Posted at 23:44h, 18 December Reply

      It’s a worthy read Stacey, one I come back to again and again in my writing and my work.

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    Matt Renwick
    Posted at 23:42h, 18 December Reply

    Tammy and Clare, the pleasure was all mine in presenting with you two and Karen T. Your activity of having the participants determine what type of intervention a student needed was very informative for me. After that experience, I’ve reconsidered how I might structure staff development in our school in the future. Looking forward to our next collaborative project!


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