CCSS And Beyond: Know and Wonder Charts

How do we truly ensure high learning expectations for our readers?

After two weeks with friends on a twitter book chat #wrrdchat, discussing What Readers Really Do by Barnhouse and Vinton (@VickiVintonTMAP), I must confess that I do need to return to a classroom and work with students. The whole process of making meaning from written symbols is simple for some students, but oh, so confusing for others.

Confusion could come from the words – long or short – many words have multiple meanings and then only the surrounding words in the sentence or paragraph can truly help tease out the specific meaning.  Confusion could also arise from the lack of pictures as students move through the grades and the levels.  Or it could simply be that reading is HARD work!

My journey this summer has included #tcwrp Writing and Reading Institutes.  It has also included book studies for Notice and Note, Teach Like a Pirate and as previously noted, What Readers Really Do. I will admit, I have struggled this summer as I have heard and now BELIEVE that students must do the work of understanding. I cannot and dare not rush in and rescue them!  True understanding of text only comes from “grappling with it.”

So on with it!  Get to the point!

How do I use a “Know and Wonder Chart” to help students understand?

I will begin with the text Walk Two Moons brought to my attention by a Barbara O’Connor. If a reader is following a pattern and adding “knows” on to the pattern to confirm, he/she may not be adding any wonders at this time and that would be okay. Multiple patterns, simultaneously, may be a bit overwhelming! What do you think?  Then I will build  a Know – Wonder Chart based on the “setup” to look for patterns.  Here is what my chart looked like in its first draft.

ImageIn the “setup” I have learned a lot about Sal in the first two pages of this book.  I know she is a country girl and her name is Sal.  Her dad is in the story as is “a lady” named “Margaret” with “wild red hair.”  I was wondering about the main character’s name each time I generated questions.

As the first two pages end, I am still wondering about:

  • when does this story take place (no clues yet in clothes or transportation),
  • what is the story? (hunch= life in the city with Margaret?) and
  • my biggest “wonder” is “Where is Sal’s mom?.

I am going to have to keep reading to find out more about the “setup” (who, what, where, when, etc.) but also to find out if any of my hunches “come true.  I will also be looking for patterns where the author tells me or sets me up to discover the meaning that is hidden in the words.

How will I assess this “Know and Wonder” work with students?

My formative quick check at mid-workshop interruption will be:   “Thumbs up if you have jotted down an idea from your reading. Point to head if you added to “wonder.” Tap finger on your shoulder if you have added to or found a new pattern.” (Some use of visual/gestures would give me a quick look at status of class.) Students could also add other ideas to “self-assess” in their book clubs if you are using them.

I am leaning towards a “star” system to begin with because I have literally seen high school students beg for a star before! The star would go in the Reader’s Notebook.  I love how #tcrwp folks use writing continua so I am also thinking about what that might look like but I want to be careful to make it be about quality factors and not just “things I can count.”

In the beginning, I believe that any student who adds to their chart in terms of “know, wonder, or arrows/comments for patterns” will earn a star.  It is the beginning of the book. The assessment will evolve!

The assessment process – When students do this thinking in jotted notes in their Reader’s Notebook, they will be meeting the standards of CCSS and exceeding them.  No bubble tests required!

How would you assess “Know and Wonder” charts?  What has worked for you?

Circling back to the beginning:

I have learned during this study of What Readers Really Do is that my reading is really from the “inside out!” Thank you @Teamhanrahan62  for that idea.  I have also learned that this work is hard and the reader must be trusted to do the work (@VickiVintonTMAP)!  (And I apologize in advance because I will not remember everyone from the chat in this post!)  From my #wrrdchat mate  @brettelockyer I have learned new vocabulary as well as the value of a conversation around a text for deeper learning.  Thank you for the mention of this book in NYC @azajacks and special thanks to @rscalateach for developing and implementing a book study plan!   Reading a blog from a voracious summer reader, @jarhartz, who wrote about “Yet”  –  and commented on an old post of mine yesterday, the idea of this post was born.  Thank you all, #wrrdchat mates, this study has been a wonderful summer learning opportunity!

9 responses

  1. I would love to use Know and Wonder charts in my classroom during novel units. Assessment is always a concern, so building on your one star for creating the chart, another star could be earned by using the chart to show some understanding of an important element of the story (character, plot, theme, etc). A third star could be earned by using text evidence to support that understanding. I see using the charts as a starting point for written responses.

    Please share more! I’ve already read Notice & Note and have placed an order for What Readers Really Do. Very excited about reading this year!

    1. Thanks, Cindy!

      I am also excited about reading this year.

      One thing that I want to get away from is just identifying an element of the story. It either ends up being a scavenger hunt (I found the most!) or a guessing game (find bold words and plug them in!)

      I really want to focus on how the author uses patterns in the story that the reader has to find, make hunches about and confirm or disprove. Being able to track those patterns was a key focus of Vicki Vinton’s in the book as well as in Kate Roberts’ presentation on close reading at #tcrwp at the June writing institute.

      As a former special ed. teacher, I have counted way too many things that should never have been counted. I am trying to be very thoughtful about considering how to hand off assessment to the students so they can also self-assess how they are thinking through the Know and Wonder Charts.

      I am excited that the Nonfiction version of Notice and Note will be out this fall. It’s another super book!

      Thanks for your input.

  2. Allison Jackson | Reply

    Well-done, Fran! So impressed that you reflect on your learning/ thinking through writing, and that you put your thinking into words from which others can learn.
    Thanks for the shout-out in this post. Didn’t remember that I was the one who had mentioned the book to you. So glad you found my recommendation helpful. Like you, I am so energized about teaching reading this year. I think between The Book Whisperer, Notice and Note, and now, What Readers Really Do, my teaching will be transformed.

    1. Thanks, Allison!
      I love that I get paid to talk . . . and think I do an even better job when I can “rehearse” my thinking in writing.

      I remember that What Readers Really Do was on my TBR stack when I was at #tcrwp and that your mention of it bumped it up. I have found that group chats focused on a book really force me to dig in and not just accept the surface level. That has been valuable learning from all our #wrrdchat mates!

      Your energy and transformation will be a huge benefit for your students! Make it a great year!

  3. Fran,
    I have counted things I shouldn’t have counted too. That sentence really hit me. Many of my students (approximately 10%) have diagnosed learning disabilities. Another 5% have unidentified LDs. I have to think very hard about balancing assessments. Always asking what is the purpose. One type would be to direct my next steps as a teacher. The other to give the student a status update. If it doesn’t fit into one of those spots it’s done because it is mandated. Learning to self assess what an awesome thing for students to learn to do in life!
    A few more thoughts:
    Hand signals, stars who wouldn’t love it. It is so tangible. A visible display of learning.
    And..I am soo excited for the Non Fiction Notice and Note!
    Thanks again for a great post!

    1. Thanks, Julieanne!

      This is truly an exciting time in education. There is so much to learn and so much that we can do to help our students attain higher levels! I believe that students can self-assess if we can get out of their way and really put some effort and thought into the view from their eye level!

      We can only do the best that we know! I keep telling myself that but still cringe when I think of some of those past, less-productive teacher behaviors of mine.

      I am looking forward to hearing about “hunches” from you!

  4. Awesome Fran!

    It’s nice to see someone not named Dorothy or Vicki work through the Know/Wonder process. I really think this whole approach will be a game changer.

    I’ve enjoyed our book study a great deal. The book in and of itself was amazing, but being able to synthesize its content with the great thinkers of #wrrdchat – yourself included – has been powerful for me.

    So I thank you.


  5. You are welcome, Jason!

    The book is so amazing, but I agree that our book study has pushed it to “universe-shaking learning” because of our collective thoughts. We have proven the case and power for book clubs for our students!


  6. […] and a previous post of mine from last July:  CCSS and Beyond:  Know and Wonder Charts […]

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