Choice Leads to Voice: Wonder Bundle #2

May 11, 2017

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Carol Varsalona

On Twitter, there have been many thoughts exchanged by educators on the topic of choice. It is often found in student-centered classrooms where there is a culture of trust. In these havens of learning, learners are provided opportunities to choose their pathways of learning by passionate teacher facilitators.

Choice leads to amplified voice!

Choice becomes an avenue to explore topics of interest. With this option provided students are more apt to dig deeper into their topic and share their work to present their perspectives to others. This is exemplified in the work of a 4th grade gifted student, Andrew who attends Caneview Elementary School in New Iberia, Louisiana. Andrew is a student in Margaret Simon's classroom. I have virtually watched Andrew mature as a writer and proudly added Andrew's work and others in his classroom to my global galleries of artistic expressions.

What follows is the procedure used by Andrew, as recounted by his teacher, Margaret Simon, a colleague of mine.

Andrew started an inquiry on bugs by surveying Wonderopolis' Wonders of the Day. #1867, "Are You Scared of Bugs?", picqued his curiosity. After reading the text, Andrew created a word list and proceeded to write rhyming couplets incorporating the words chosen from the Wonder of the Day he read.

"The words that I used in this poem are fear, bug, bear (verb), harmful, harmless, reaction and terrified. I did a poem on bugs because I was just searching through wonders and I found one about bugs and Mrs. Simon said that we could make a poem with our wonder. I also did this poem because I like bugs but not bees." - Andrew

Bug Couplets

Why so serious

they're just a little curious

A bug likes buggin' around

like an ant going to its mound

You'll just have to bear it

unless you like to get bit

The bugs should be terrified

some even get fried

I hear there's a myth they nest in your ear

now that's truly something to fear

People have a bad reaction

when a bug does a bad action

Ants, beetles and flies are harmless

but leeches, ticks and mosquitoes need blood to harness

©Andrew, 2017

"That was my poem. BYE!" - Andrew

Andrew's project was part of a writing activity created by his teacher for the Two Writing Teachers' March Slice of Life Challenge. Margaret shared her pre-writing conversation with Andrew. "To make Andrew's post into a slice (a small story focusing on a day or moment in his life), I asked him to write about how he wrote the poem."

Andrew was offered a choice. After reviewing several Wonders of the Day from Wonderopolis, he chose his topic and creatively designed an end product to exemplify his learning. I don't believe that many 4th grade students would have chosen a rhyming couplet as the culminating activity of their inquiry so I commend Andrew for using this format. He not only shared information garnered from the wonder of the day but drew on his background knowledge of rhyming couplets to complete the task he created for himself. His opening was engaging and the second stanza filled with action to draw me into his poem. Andrew became a risk-taker with this project, willing to share his work with me as an example of how students use Wonderopolis to broaden their knowledge and extend their learning.

"If you engage your students in a motivating challenge, their enthusiasm for writing grows along with their skills as a writer. If you join them, you can model perseverance and pride." - Margaret Simon

I was curious to know Margaret's impressions of Wonderopolis as a learning tool and resource for her students.

"The gift of Wonderopolis is the on-level nonfiction text that appeals to the interests of my elementary students. They can usually find a Wonder to read. They are also given cross-references to access as well." - Margaret Simon

This is my 2nd post of my Wonder Bundle, a series of lessons for classroom literacy teachers, created for Wonderopolis's Wonder Ground. I thank Margaret Simon and Andrew for providing the student work that centers around the reading, writing, and language learning standards.

Reading for Informational Text

  • RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

Writing

  • W4.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Language Standards

  • L.4.6 Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being and that are basic to a particular topic.

Possible formative assessment activities could revolve around conferencing, a student reflection on work accomplished, and peer review.

A lesson like this can easily be recreated by elementary teachers interested in providing their students with opportunities to investigate and explore the myriad of wonders at Wonderopolis. Providing choice options leads to student publication where voice is essential.

In addition to this post, I created another post with a poem, StuVoice Rising, at my blog site, Beyond LiteracyLink at blogspot.com. You can access these here.

As part of the process of providing choice in classrooms, another colleague, Christie Wyman wrote: "voice / choice / rejoice!"

Teachers who provide students with choice options to dig deeper into their inquiries, see student voice maturing with each new piece written. It is important to note that all voices in every classroom need to be honored so that students own their learning and proudly share their work.

In reference to the beautiful writing that children produce with instruction and guidance, I close with the powerful words of Katherine Bomer at the NCTE16 Don Graves Breakfast sponsored by Heinemann.

"I believe that writing is a way children's voices come into power. I think it's, writing is a social act, a personal act, a spiritual act, and even a political act. I believe that children's writing is one way that can remind us we're all human." - Katherine Bomer


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