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Students open up experiences through Book of Knowledge

Fifth-grade Everson Elementary student Valerino loves the start of every day in Tara Olson’s class. “You get to write what you think or wonder,” he says about Olson’s Book of Knowledge project.

Each day since Winter Break, Olson’s class has started the day with the Book of Knowledge. As students enter the class to start school, they pick up an article to read while a video of the subject plays in the background. Topics range, including everything from the Paralympics to the story of Martin Luther King Jr. to some of the world’s greatest natural wonders. The video in the background helps students really picture things they may have never before witnessed.

“I wanted to do it because it is building background knowledge our kids will never have an experience of,” Olson says.

Along with students reading the text on their own, when school officially starts at 9 a.m., Olson reads it once out loud. Then the students get to work for the next few minutes, writing what they wonder, what the text makes them think of. Each text set is connected in some way—both MLK and the Paralympics discuss facing challenges—and students are encouraged to tie back thoughts to previous knowledge.

“It is so incredible to see connection to what they are reading about and things happening in class,” Olson says. “It doesn’t always go deep, but there is opportunity for it. It is showing kids things in the world they may not see.”

After students take their time writing their thoughts, the group gathers together and every student shares a bit from their thoughts. Commonly the students make connections to other texts they have read. Students are asking questions, wondering about what they’ve read and curious to learn more. Students are making connections back to books, movies and past lessons. Students are even sharing about their own lives and how the story relates to them.

“It is awesome when they popcorn back and forth, getting them thinking beyond just the task or assignment,” Olson says. “It is the kind of thing that gets kids excited.”

Valerino says he reads through an article and writes what he’s thinking. “That is really cool, it is inspiring,” he says. “I like it.”

Levi, another student in the class, says he really enjoys both learning about new things and then thinking deeper on the articles. He spends a lot of time thinking of questions about what he’s read. He recalled one story about granite mountains, saying, “That sounded really cool. There were a lot of things in that section I wanted to go see.”

The Book of Knowledge project has expanded the knowledge and thinking of fifth grade students at Everson Elementary. And it has them talking about it too.