Common Core Lesson Planning: The Wonder Wheel
by Tammy Klinger, Guest Blogger
If you’re like me finding your way through the common core is a daunting yet exhilarating task. I find myself not only seeking out new ways to teach the tried and true, but looking beyond my comfort zone to bring new activities and teaching methods to my students.
As we have all noticed and been told, one of the largest emphasis for the Common Core is the push for more nonfiction. This is probably the one area that gives me hesitancy. Not that I don’t believe it is important, but as a first grade teacher, a teacher of many children’s first reading experience, I often find nonfiction books to be complicated and beyond most of my students reading levels. I was also wary there would be such a push for nonfiction that many great fiction and classic picture books would be pushed to the side by many.
To add to this I didn’t feel I really trusted my instincts to put the right nonfiction into the hands of my students. I knew nonfiction would be present in the areas I had always taught such as through units and themes, but I didn’t feel confident that this was enough to fulfill the need, to immerse my students in the type of reading that would get them excited, not only about reading, but about nonfiction books and learning.
And then it hit me. Ask the kids. Ask them what they want to learn. Ask them what type of wonders they have when they are alone, or with a friend. What do they think about when they are in their backyards or at an event with their family? What type of burning questions do they have in the back of their mind? Simply put-What do they want to know? The response was slow at first. They had never been asked what they wonder about before. But after a bit of prodding and some wonders of my own, the wonders began to fly.
Their ideas and thoughts were remarkable and ingenious. We discussed everything from “are turtles really slow,” to “how are puppets made.” At the end of our brainstorming I was amazed at the depth of their insight and awareness of the world around them. Their questions ranged from the very simple to an original complex desire for understanding. I was in awe.
But now that I had my list of what they wanted-needed to know, what would I do with it? How would I get to all their wonders and still have time to teach everything else?
And so the Wonder Wheel was born. I explained I would take all their great questions and wonders and place them on a “wheel.” Each week (or two) we will move the wheel to find out what our “wonder of the week” is. They were very excited and ready to “get the wheel rolling.” I too was excited because I now had a jumping point for my lessons that would encompass this need for nonfiction, but also gave way to adding tried and true classics that teach so much as well.
The wheel has become as much a tool for me as it has the kids. For instance, I rotate the wheel when I am planning my lessons for the following week. If it lands on “how are puppets made” I then search for articles on the internet, gather books from our school and local library, and search for magazines or videos that tell how puppets are made.
But I don’t stop there. Remembering that there needs to be a balance, I search for great fiction to go with the “wonder” as well. Pinocchio, the Muppets, and great Sesame Street character stories and videos are sure to be a hit. Laura Numeroff’s If You Give a Moose a Muffin lends way to sock puppets and a craft that all kids will enjoy, with of course a culminating activity of our own puppet shows.
The Common Core can be daunting and down-right scary at first glance. But if we just remember the ones we are teaching are the ones that should drive our instruction the possibilities become authentic and endless.
About the Author
Hi, I am Tammy Klinger and I am a first grade teacher in a small rural school in Oklahoma. I have a blog called First Grade at Storybook Café that you can find at www.klingercafe.com. I love teaching, writing and learning. I am blessed to have an amazing and supportive family and group of friends that cheer me on in my many pursuits to reach my goals as a teacher and blogger. I would love for you to stop by for a visit sometime at www.klingercafe.com.