Design a Constructivist Learning Activity: Using Wonder Wall (Genius Hour)
My first graders and I are so excited to introduce you to our Genius Hour that we call Wonder Wall Wednesdays.
How did Wonder Wall Wednesday get its name? At the beginning of the school year which started the end of July, we sat together as a group and wrote down wonders. It was simple to do. You start with the question, “I wonder…?” Because we are using our math time we will stick to wonders that have to do with numbers. Our Wonder Wall is out in the hallway so our whole school can learn with us if they want to and so that when parents come, they can see it as well. We were so excited to just LOOK at all the things we wondered about.
Wonder Wall Wednesday is all about the students. It is student driven active learning. In just a small window of time each week, we are able to touch the passions of the student via their wonders, learn about technology and fuse it together with math, social studies, literacy, science and LIFE! For the first grade when we deal with course work, we work on little numbers. That is why Wonder Wall Wednesday is so much fun! We are working with large and abstract numbers in their own reality and going far and above the standard while collecting data recording it and organizing it. We also continue to learn about being a digital citizen and how to find out information! We also work on collaboration and teamwork, essential learning elements of any student today.
Here are some standards based on Mathematical Practice that we tackle as we do Wonder Wall Wednesday:
1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
4. Model with mathematics.
5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
6. Attend to precision.
7. Look for and make use of structure.
8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Wonder Wall Wednesday allows for all the principles of constructivism to be met. I was asked to provide two examples but it is impossible! Wonder Wall Wednesdays are far too rich for me to limit it to simply two principles.
Principle 1: Posing problems of emerging relevance to students: I am always excited to help the students make predictions to their student generated wonders and I am thrilled when one wonder leads to another wonder. For example...when we studied; “I wonder how much a gallon of ice cream is?” it lead to learning about gallons and averages. Not at all first grade concepts but they wanted to know! This is a worksheet and workbook free zone. Brooks and Brooks would say that in the design of constructivist classrooms, curricular activities rely heavily on primary sources of data and manipulative materials. That is why we go straight to the internet as well to find and learn about primary sources and also I get to coach students on being a digital citizen.
Principle 2: Structuring learning around primary concepts: The quest for essence: Together we are stronger as we link relevant facts together and learn from each other. As we deal with large numbers, my first graders are learning to go farther. When one student guessed that Germany was only 10 miles away or that deep space was 100 miles away now, they are getting better at forming numbers of greater amounts and lining them up with what we learned so when we were answering the question, “I wonder how far it is to the center of the earth?” Our numbers were not two digit numbers! I call that success! Brooks and Brooks suggest that this way, curriculum is presented whole to part with emphasis on big concepts.
Principle 3: Seeking and valuing students’ points of view: I love this! I love when students show me their thinking. I think along with them when we do our Wonder Wall Wednesday. The honor of guiding their thinking never escapes me. It is a window to the future of the world. I get to build their knowledge!
Principle 4: Adapting curriculum to address students’ suppositions This principle allows me to think back to thinking outside the box of small numbers and bridge their thinking between what they know, and what they don’t know. Again building numbers out of the two digit numbers to broad numbers and uncountable numbers is crucial.
Principle 5: Assessing student learning in the context of teaching: I do not grade anything formally. I like the idea of watching them operate day to day and specifically week to week as our Wonder Wall Wednesday grows and grows. I can see how they are approaching numbers in such an organic way and see where they are stuck. Brooks and Brooks would suggest that the assessment of student learning is interwoven with teaching and occurs through teacher observations of students at work and through student exhibitions and portfolios. For example, as we collect data I can see what how they are applying what we are learning to this activity. Excellent!
Problem based learning, Constructivist Learning, Genius Hour, Passion Time, Twenty Percent Time, or Wonder Wall Wednesday is a beautiful way to learn, but from my front porch looking out at the students working in front of me, engaged, energized, I realize how fortunate I am to be in this sacred space in their lives. It is an honor that I take seriously and ponder with my whole being.
Brooks, J.G.,& Brooks, M.G. (1999). In search for understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.