Building “WONDER” into our classrooms. #oneword


Hey boys…”I’m going to write a blog about what students wonder about.  What do you wonder about?”


IMG_0480Connor (12):  “I wonder what the universe is shaped like.  I wonder what dark matter and dark energy are.  I wonder if there are multiple universes.  I wonder about the possibility of keeping wormholes open.  I wonder if extraterrestrials would be advanced. I wonder why so many people are allergic to peanuts.”



IMG_0080Liam (9):  “I wonder if Alexa works for the CIA.  I wonder what it would be like to be in space.  I wonder what Tom Brady’s practice routine is like.  I wonder what the world would be like if junk food was good for you and fruits and vegetables were bad for you.  I wonder if there is such a thing as a 3-hour delay.  I wonder if BOSE headphones spy on you (I heard that on the news).”

Hmmm…I wonder…”How can I have two children who are so different?”

With the beginning of 2018 you may have seen the #oneword hashtag movement.  If you are not familiar with this approach to the year, please check out their video overview or the website  While I haven’t yet decided what my own word will be for me this year, I can’t help but think that the word WONDER would be the one word I’d love for all of our students.

This school year in our district we introduced  modern learning pathways to teachers, encouraging our teachers to take risks as they try out some new practices such as introducing genius hour/20% time, expanding project-based learning opportunities, incorporating design-thinking tasks, or integrating maker-spaces.

One of the core principles that I’ve noticed our teachers expanding is to ask our students what they want to learn about.  This has taken place through activities such as I wonder boards, beginning lessons asking students what they wonder about the topics, or having students identify what they notice and wonder in the learning process.


I was blown away at the start of the year by our kindergarten wonderings.  Check out this I Wonder posters below from a few of our kindergarten friends!

My favorite?  It definitely is the “I wonder how do you become a rockstar?” as I’ve often wondered the same.

Screenshot 2017-09-17 21.24.44IMG_5192


Students in our district have had increased opportunities to notice and wonder, especially in their mathematical thinking. Check out these flipgrid videos as one example where one of our 4th grade teachers asked their students to: Take a video of something you see has the potential to start a mathematical discussion, like a long train passing by, the pattern of the floor tiles in your office, a grocery worker filling up a box of peppers. Keep your eyes open for these “mathe-magical” opportunities to share with us. We will use them in class to notice and wonder!”

A few of the student wonderings in the videos were…

  • We were wondering how many cards would fit on a table?
  • We were wondering how many 1 in. square tiles would fit in a floor tile?
  • I was wondering how many pieces of mandarin you get in a fruit cup compared to a whole mandarin?

In a 5th grade class, they began the year creating an Our Wonders board:

In a 4th grade class, the students were asked to provide what they wondered about an upcoming topic:


These wonderings also are taking place at the high school where recently our AP Biology students were able to research any topics of interest for a potential study they would share at the AP Biology Symposium.  My question to all the students who presented was “Why did you choose this topic?” Their answers ranged from wanting to dive deeper into a topic of interest to a sincere desire to learn more about how to cure diseases that affect people they know.

At our high school we have even gone as far as to have an entire course dedicated for students to pursue their own passions and wonderings in our Generation Think course.

Check out the student websites that have been created on their own passion projects.

Screenshot 2018-01-04 16.07.52

Are you looking for ways to encourage your students’ wonder in 2018?

  1.  The next time you look to begin your class with pre-determined essential questions, ask the students if they can come up with essential questions of their own.
  2. Try a Wonder Week, proposed by author John Spencer, which is  is an “inquiry-based , week-long project, where students ask questions about anything they find interesting.These are those nagging questions they have that they’ve never had a chance to answer in school. Next, they engage in research about that topic before eventually creating a short multimedia presentation. Some students do podcasts (like a CurosityCast) and others choose a blog post or a video. They get to decide on the format.”
  3.  Incorporate into your classroom with a wonder of the day.  Below is an example of some of the most popular wonders.
  4. Bring in an Amazon Echo or Dot into the classroom. Whenever students have a question they are wondering about, you have quick access to find out the answer.
  5. Most importantly, as you know modeling is key as educators, make sure you take some time to share your own wonders with your students and discover the answers together.

If you have incorporated elements of wonder into your classes this year, please share with us in the comment section… I wonder how many people will contribute?

8 thoughts on “Building “WONDER” into our classrooms. #oneword

  1. Nicely done Maureen. I wonder what a typical day in the life of a Nipmuc High School student is like. You’ve assembled such an incredible leadership team, which means there are more innovators and creators in your classrooms. Would it be possible for me to visit Nipmuc and spend the day observing with a few of my staff members?


    • Aaron, we always welcome visitors to Nipmuc (or any of our schools!) We believe the best way to learn is to engage with others and by being in other classrooms and schools, so come on over! We are going to formally advertise next week, but we will be offering a PD session on Friday, Feb 9th on Genius Hour/20% time from 9:30-1:30 at Nipmuc so you can send some of your folks then too.


  2. Fantastic post Maureen! Last year, we wondered what our students were interested in learning. We collected their ideas and hosted our first Student EdCamp. I will be sharing out at an upcoming SC meeting on how it went and where we hope to go next!


    • Julie, I would love to hear more about your student EdCamp. I thought about running this last year in June but it never came to fruition.


    • Thanks Julie. I can’t wait to hear about how the Student EdCamp went for your students at the next SC meeting. For those reading this, who don’t have context, Julie’s school is PreK-1, so to do this at that age level is awesome and proves it can be done anywhere. 🙂


  3. Great post, Maureen! I can tell you that introducing the routine of noticing and wondering is one of the best things I’ve felt great about this year so far. Students can be engaged for hours coming up with new questions, problems and solutions, making models to explain their thinking, they get excited about math, they become flexible with making mistakes, the discussions are very rich in content, and they drive their own learning.Thank you for including my class in your blog entry!


  4. Once again your blog topic is relevant and hits home. Like Esther, I use the words Notice and Wonder to spark conversations so much that it is a part of our built in vocabulary. Students naturally use the words in math, science, social studies, during read alouds, and hopefully soon…in their everyday lives.

    I love how you add photos and samples of classrooms throughout the district to capture the message. We are so fortunate to have inspiring educators to learn from.

    Coincidentally, I bought my husband a Google Home speaker for Christmas, it took him a while to set it up. After several failures, he finally got it to work. Later in the day when he tried it again, it wasn’t working. He needed to ask my 13 year old to help him. Fast forward a few days. My 13 year old daughter decides to use her Target gift card to buy a Google Home mini of her own. She has it set up and running within minutes!

    Great minds think alike: Before reading your blog I decided to use my amazon gift cards to purchase a speaker for my classroom! My class is going to research the different options and give me their opinions/ try to persuade me to buy the one they find would be best. Stay tuned…

    Finally, I love Wonderopolis. It’s Kid friendly and a great resource for students.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


    • Thanks Brenda. There is obviously a ton of inspiration for my blogs that show up in what my kids say at home, but definitely in the work I am so fortunate to see throughout the district every day. I only feel bad that I couldn’t incorporate more into the blog (but then…who would read it if it was too long, right?). Thanks for the additional comments and ideas.


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