The Wonder Wheel isn’t new, but it has become a bit of a phenomena in my classroom lately so I thought it was worthy of a post.
First, if you aren’t familiar with this Google display option, here’s a quick overview. Each time you search Google, you have many options about the results that you get back. You can filter your results by the type of media you are interested in (images, videos, etc), you can filter by the time limit you are interested in (last 24 hours, month), and you can also choose how your results are displayed. This is how the Wonder wheel turned up in my classroom.
Over the past week, we have been talking about the options we have about interacting with various texts. For example, we looked at different textbooks and have talked about things like unit titles, sub titles, bolded text, etc., etc. All of the things that may possibly go into making up a textbook text. We did the same thing for a novel, talking about things like page numbers and paragraphs, right to the blurb on the back of the book. When we talked about web based text, the list of the number of things that readers need to be aware of simply exploded. We had a list that included everything from scroll bars to audio files embedded on the page. From animations to URL address bars. The places that readers could get information from, and had to be aware of, grew dramatically. One of the issues that came up in our discussions was the fact that with online text, the reader often has options about how the pages they are looking at are laid out and how the information on them is displayed. Once they started thinking about it, my students were impressed with this fact and could come up with examples of all sorts of websites that put them, the readers, more in control of how the pages look and feel.
One example of this is the Google Wonder Wheel. Every time you do a Google search, you may not pay attention to it, but under the search bar is a “Show options” button.
Clicking on this, you get an entire menu of display options and search options:
This entire menu is great to explore with the kids in your class. Have students choose to explore the various options and see how the information they bring back is similar and different. But if you choose the Wonder Wheel option, you get this:
You can see that the Wonder Wheel gives you not only the regular list of links as any Google search does, but it also gives you a wheel of links that are categories. I find that my students have started to use this more, especially for topics they have little background knowledge on. Usually, when students know little about a topic, they tend to flail around in the information, trying to make some sense of the millions of links that are presented with. Once they spend this time learning a bit about the topic, their searches become more focused; but this take time. Using the Wonder Wheel seems to have helped both ends: the beginning of searches when students know little, and the end of searches when they are searching for small specific pieces of information they need to plug a hole in their knowledge and understanding.
This is a change in the literacy practices in my classroom of my students over the past few weeks. I’m interested to see this play out over time. Will they stick with it? Will they realize the efficiency they have gained?