This page will focus on the areas from the Wonderings Wall at the WaiLite Workshop relevant to junior classes.

Don't forget that I am just starting the ball rolling. Please click on Edit this page and add your own ideas and save. Many heads . . .


One question from the wondering wall - How do we get littlies to think Independently?

In fact I think littlies are really good at thinking independently, but something happens to make them feel they need to provide the answer in the teacher's head. So maybe this is more about "How do we make sure we don't stop littlies thinking independently?" I guess the main thing is in the responses they receive to their thinking. Are all ideas accepted and encouraged? Do we then explore and investigate to find evidence for the answers, or new information to lead them to change their own thinking? One of the things that I used to do was have a chart for things we were thinking about - you can head it up something like "Today our class are thinking that . . . " and record all responses on it - better still use strips of paper and let them record their own thinking - perhaps as the launch for some writing time - inventive spelling and then correct model supplied underneath as you paste onto chart. This can then be the springboard for some research as part of e.g. a shared reading time using the internet. (You can change the size of the font on your browser in the view menu). In this way the responses are valued but we also model that we can change in our thinking in the light of new information. We can now say, we thought that . . . but now we have found that . . . "
If you're not getting independent thinking, have a look at the way the questions are phrased and the types of questions being asked. Are they open or closed, fat or skinny, recall or inference? Have you given the kids some graphic organisers, thinking hats or thinkers keys to unlock new ideas and lead them onto new paths of thinking? Do you have thinking fitness sessions to extend what they regularly have in their own repertoire? Have you focused learning on being creative? Is it safe and are children encouraged to take risks and develop innovative ideas? How about having a question where the aim is to get as many different answers as possible - the no right answer type e.g. Why does fruit have skin around it? What do you think your brain does when you go to sleep? What makes your body sweat when you run round a lot? Why does water flow when we turn the tap on?
Do the kids get a chance to ask their own questions? Do you have a wonderings wall for their questions? Is puzzling out answers part of your learning environment?
Well, I never promised to answer questions without asking a heap more :->>

How can we take the oral language activities in a junior room and infuse a deeper level of thinking and understanding?

I guess a lot of this is answered in the above question. Lots of talking and challenging and offering opportunities to be thinkers and creators. When kids are expressing ideas, record them briefly on charts (or better still on the desktop keyboard on your lap and the screen facing the kids), and then get the children to think of questions to ask that person (perhaps write on strips of paper) - record these rather than answering first, and then get all the children to think of as many answers as possible to share in the group.
e.g. Child - We went to the beach at the weekend and I saw a dead bird in the sand. It was all stinky and covered in flies.
Questions - Why do you think the bird had died? Where do you think the bird had been trying to fly to? Why does an animal go stinky when it dies? Why do flies like to be on stinky dead animals? Then of course you have the opportunity once the kids have though of answers, to do some research to find out more scientific fact - and hey - you have inquiry learning - not a term's worth of following a model, but real learner inquiry :->>
P.S. Be prepared to have some silly answers but don't put the child down for them. Have a chuckle with them or rephrase some of the idea in a more appropriate manner. e.g. XX makes farts and they smell like dead animals! -> Yes sometimes the insides of our bodies do smell like dead animals, and perhaps dead animals smell that way because some of their inside juices begin to leak out as the skin breaks down. If any of you have been around when Dad kills a sheep and guts it you will have smelt that smell just minutes after the animal was alive. Of course it gets stronger as that then starts to rot.

How can we establish a culture of thinking in the junior class, and progress this through the primary school?

Daily thinking fitness activities and then use of these same strategies in the work we have children do throughout the day.
Establish that the class is a thinking place and challenge the work produced when it is below par.
Feedback and feed forward to kids about the work they produce. "How much thinking did you do about the information you found for this activity? Did you use any of our thinking strategies displayed on our thinkers wall / in our thinking toolkit / in your thinking toolbox?"
Model and articulate the thinking that you do as a teacher. e.g. "Last night when I read this story it got me thinking. I've started a mindmap about the thoughts I had. Can you add some new thinking ideas to the mindmap?"

How to teach little kids what a question is?

Get them to write lots of questions - some every day - slips pf paper are good for this - spelling not important
e.g. I've got something in my hand that I found in the garden - ask me some questions to help guess what it is.
I have a new pet cat at home - what are some things you would like to know about it - write me some questions.

Collect in all the questions and then go through with the kids sorting them into 2 piles - questions and statements - questions ask us something and statement tell us something. If kids have trouble deciding which pile - say - is this asking me something or is it telling me something.

Then look back at the pile of questions - what words are at the beginning of them - go over the first work with a highlighter. Pin them on to the questions wall and make a chart that says Questions start with . . .

Have reading activities that require the children to write questions about their reader. Share and discuss as a class. Put ?s on the ? wall.