The Wonder Wall is a simple, engaging, and inspiring tool to bring out the inner scientist in your students. Read below to see how you can watch their mindset shift. They’ll start to ask the bigger questions and build an inquisitive nature about the world around them.
Whatever happened to the curious students? You know, the ones that would ask all the “why’s” and “how’s” and always wanted to know more and more? When did they grow out of that toddler like wonder into the student robots that we see today?
Students have the answers at their fingertips for almost any question they want to ask. But, are they asking the right ones? We want to change their mindset to think more like a scientist. We want them to think more like someone who is invested in the world around them.
That was my goal when I set out to create the Wonder wall my first year teaching. It started as a simple bulletin board and became so much more than that. It became something that my students looked at constantly and engaged with. They’d start the craziest debates over why we needed eyebrows or why sleep is a necessity (the big question in middle school).
Right before my eyes I could see my students changing. Discussions turned away from what video game they played and turned to what new questions can we talk about today. They started asking more questions during class. They started getting more in-depth with their thoughts and were putting more and more questions up on the Wonder wall to get answered.
The most influential thing in my room wasn’t the decor. It wasn’t the awesome lesson that I stayed up hours and hours planning. The most influential item in my room became the simple Post-it notes that covered the back wall bulletin board that nobody faced but was on everyone’s minds.
Teacher Wonder Wall Benefits!
Before we start talking about the details of a Wonder wall, I want to let you know some other great reasons I think that you should have one.
Besides the fact that it changes our students mindsets, we can also create some amazing life lessons. From asking questions we can teach how to research and present the questions and answers. And, with just a little bit of prep, this can be the easiest sub plan you’ll ever have. Your students will stay fully engaging, be self-driven, and it’s still educational.
Enough chit-chat let’s get down to the details.
So, what is a Wonder Wall?
A Wonder wall simply needs to be a designated space or bulletin board in your classroom where students can post questions that they have. It’s a one-time setup because your students will be creating, and answering, content for you.
What do I need?
Really? You don’t need a whole lot else. You can use either Post-it notes or scrap pieces of paper for questions and then you can either thumbtack them up or let the Post-it notes stick to the wall.
Wonder Wall Process
Now let’s talk about how we get the students thinking
My favorite activity to get these thoughts going is to have a 10-minute brain dump. That’s right I have my students sit in complete silence for 10 minutes. They don’t have to continuously write but they should be writing down things in an attempt to fill an entire page with questions.
Don’t be disheartened if you notice that these questions start out with “why is this so dumb?” or “I wonder what I’m going to eat for dinner tonight?”. Because then it’ll flow into things like: “I wonder why lights work?” or “I wonder who decided to put lines on paper?”. Then you’ll see it flow into questions about school, about outside of school, and then about things that they’ve been curious about in the world.
Once the brain dump is done, I like to have students highlight their top 10 questions from their paper. These questions need to follow a certain set of criteria: they can’t be about a specific person or about things that the world in general can’t answer like “why do I have a curfew?” or “did Sarah REALLY not remember to text me back last night?”
From these 10 questions, have a number that you want each student to transfer to Post-it notes. It could depend on how many students you see a day or how much space you have, but I’d suggest having each student post at least their top three.
You will definitely end up with duplicate questions which is totally fine! You can either stack them on top of each other to see how popular that question was, or just leave one behind to represent all of them.
I try to do these brain dump activities at least once a quarter to get our minds going. It’s especially great after longer breaks like winter break or spring break. Throughout our lessons, if students have questions that we don’t have time to answer, they go up on the Wonder wall.
Once the questions are all posted, and your students have thought of some surprisingly interesting ideas, please, please, please help them learn to research the answers.
Start out researching as a class! Find a Wonder wall question that generally everyone wants to know the answer to, like “why is the sky blue?” and take a quick minute to teach them the proper way to research a scientific answer on the internet.
After you’ve done an example, you can start assigning Wonder wall questions for credit, extra credit, or for sub plans.
As a bonus, you can have them write up either a simple one-page summary with images or you can have them create a short presentation to give to the class.
This was my favorite part of Wonder wall questions; seeing the kids creativity with how they found the answers and then seeing 2nd graders come up in the hallway trying to figure out why we need toenails.
Let’s Get You Started!
This is such an easy, quick, and engaging solution to helping our students find their inner scientist again. You’re going to see a huge shift in the way that they think and start engaging with your material.
If you need help getting started I’ve created a quick set up pack including: some bulletin board letters, a how-to, and a checklist to make sure their questions fit the Wonder wall criteria. Check it out here!