Thursday, August 12, 2010
Writing and Wondering
I have been buying magnifying glasses lately. I want my grandchildren to have one each so that they can discover and celebrate natural wonder. I recall how much fun I had as a small boy with my own magnifying glass. –Seeing snails and slugs up close, or watching ants and noticing their fine feelers, or exploring nature’s wonders in the fine lines and patterns on leaves. There was for me, a fascination observing the world through this magic portal; this round window.
I want the natural curiosity my grandchildren possess further stimulated by the experience of seeing small wonders up close and personal. I hope such a simple gift as a magnifying glass stimulates their imagination and creativity. I hope they respond with wonderment and awe. A magnifying glass is not a piece of cutting edge techno wizardry, but it is a powerful tool for determining answers to questions that spring from every day experiences. Seymour Simon said ‘ I’m more interested in arousing enthusiasm in kids than in teaching the facts. The facts may change, but that enthusiasm for exploring the world will remain with them the rest of their lives.’
Young children possess an enthusiasm and curiosity about the world in which they live. Whether at school or at home, this enthusiasm requires nurturing. The challenge is to keep this passion for learning burning brightly. In the classroom we are charged with the task of promoting a sense of wonder and a desire to seek out answers. Set up an area where special fine tipped black pens and sticky notes are readily available for them to draw their pictures, write their questions and capture their wonderings.
It can begin with just a simple question. When I am teaching in the writing workshop I need to let young writers know that there exists a tangible support for their questions. The words that are uttered in our instructional conversations with students affect how these same students view their intellectual power. When we consciously think about the questions we pose and talk we use, the words of engagement become deliberate and mindful. With this mindfulness we invite young learners to notice and name the connections they make as they search and explore. Our words need to demonstrate our faith in their ability to think and make those vital connections. We are encouraging inquiry. Our questions become an invitation to think:
• Who notices/noticed…?
• Did anyone notice anything that surprised them while they were writing?
• Have you noticed anything else that is like this?
• Do you have any wonderings about this?
• Are you ready to share your thinking?
• I wonder if other readers in this class would agree with you regarding your view on this matter?
• What will you do next?
• How will you solve this problem?
I invite you to stand in your classroom when the children have gone home for the day and cast your professional eye around the entire room. Are there places of wonder for students to discover? Do you have an observation table with curios and assorted artefacts for children to ponder and think about? Do you have shells and bones and rocks and other natural wonders for children to pick up and feel? Are their displays of living things such as plants and mini beasts? In this increasingly techno driven world we must work harder to engage students’ senses. Our classrooms need to provide an alternative to the sometimes sterile world of computers. Technology is a siren that holds many children prisoner in their houses. The world beyond their bedroom is finding it increasingly difficult to compete.
From the first day of the school year we need to teach students to notice and wonder. As teachers we must display our own wonderings and muse aloud. When we consistently share our sense of wondering students begin to turn towards this same view of the world. They begin to ask questions of the world. Learning moves from being a teacher led task to a more personal quest by the student for deeper understanding. As they question and then answer, their writing begins to display increased awareness and complexity.
By nurturing wonder, we provide a wonderful stimulus for thinking and ultimately reading, writing, talking and drawing in our classrooms. I encourage you to convert your classroom into a place of wonder and curiosity. When we nourish thinking in this way, and model our own attachment to wondering through the questions we pose, its amazing how the range and quality of writing improves. Kids become stimulated to write things down and share their thinking with others. They feel smart about themselves and this creates even more energy for learning