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Friday, May 16, 2014

Free Friday: Wonderopolis

Have you ever wondered what's in a Wonderball? Well, if you didn't grow up in the 90's you probably haven't. But, I bet you or your students have wondered about a wide variety of other things! This week's featured resource is Wonderopolis.




Retrieved from wonderopolis.org

This intriguing website, created by the National Center for Families Learning, has a featured "wonder" every day which ultimately creates its bank of over 1200 wonders. Wonders are questions that have been submitted by teachers, students, and families all over the world. Each day, one wonder is selected and explored through picture, video, and text. There are brief knowledge checks at the conclusion of each Wonder, as well as opportunities to submit additional resources you think help address the question at hand and a discussion forum to pose comments and reflections. Not to mention, a large section dedicated to extension activities and discussions to be used at home or in the classroom. The fact that Wonderopolis is Common Core aligned only serves to further enhance its appeal as a great classroom resource.

So, how do all these great features play into technology integration?

The answer is found in the ISTE Student Standards. Specifically, the Creativity and Innovation strand, as well as Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision Making strand. Wonderopolis overwhelmingly encapsulates all components of the Creativity and Innovation strand of the ISTE standards, but does a particularly exemplar job demonstrating how models and systems can be used to explore complex problems and issues. While our young learners might not yet be ready to demonstrate their own understanding through such sophisticated applications, they are able to observe and evaluate those created by others. Through the use of multimedia and dialogue, Wonderopolis presents answers to questions that can be understood by a wide range of learners across all ages. The off-the-wall nature of many of the wonders also help to engage students in creative thinking and the process of gathering and exploring information rather than on creating a specific product.

In regards to Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision Making, the "Try It Out" section of each wonder easily catapults students thinking beyond the direct Q&A format of the initial question. This section poses real world problems for students to consider and provides concrete tasks that encourage students to make the most of their resources. Not to mention, the wonder texts can serve as captivating close reading texts for first or second graders. The "listen to me" feature even highlights each sentence and word as it is read aloud AND any many words within each text provide simple definitions when scrolled over! There is even a whole section dedicated to developing new volcabulary associated with the wonder!

A few ideas for using Wonderopolis in the classroom are...
- Read and discuss the Wonder of the Day each morning as a class
- Respond to the discussion or take the knowledge quiz as an exit ticket in the computer lab
- Use as a reference for students when conducting research
- Create classroom wonders modeled after those found on Wonderopolis
- Submit ideas for new wonders or vote on potential new wonders as a class

How will you inspire your students to be creative and innovative problem solvers using technology next week?

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Every Friday I am going to feature some of the free technology tools and resources I use regularly in my classroom. On occasion there will also be a free printable or lesson resource produced by me included! Be sure to check back next Friday for the next featured tool/resource! If you are looking for a resource for a particular purpose or content area, I'd love to hear about it!