After 3 years, 64,000+ words, 21 chapters, 5+ rounds of copy-editing, and countless moments of stress, joy, exhaustion, wonder, and everything in between, OUR BOOK IS OFFICIALLY HERE! Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning is our handbook for bringing the magic of wonder to your classroom! With its collection of student engagement strategies organized by the 4 elements of wonder, it has something to offer for every teacher.
Debuting at #63 of all books on Amazon, it’s blown away our expectations and brought us so much wonder as new authors. To celebrate, I decided to take a page out of our own book and marvel at our creation. Flipping through the pages, I took note of what evoked wonder, I reflected on what brought me joy, and I noticed what made me smile with first-time author pride. The result is this love letter: 10 things I love about our new book!
Without further ado, here are my favorite parts of Keeping the Wonder, the bits & pieces I can’t wait to share with you!
1. THE COVER, ILLUSTRATIONS, & DOODLES
As an English teacher, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover when the content is what counts. But as a reader and now an author, I appreciate a gorgeous cover, engaging artwork, and the overall aesthetic!
Our Keeping the Wonder Workshop was born from the idea that teachers need engaging, hands-on PD in unique, inspiring settings. We’ve presented across the country at magical venues like the wonderful, whimsical Story Shop in Monroe, GA, the haunting Poe Museum in Richmond, VA, and the gorgeous oceanside Hammond Castle in Gloucester, MA. Naturally, we wanted our book to channel the same kind of wonder as these inspiring settings and match our whimsical vibe!
Thankfully, we were paired up with the phenomenal Sienna Youngsun Kim of Polka Dot Whale Studios! The cover design, magical illustrations, and whimsical doodles she created for Keeping the Wonder are perfection! You can check out Sienna’s portfolio HERE and Instagram HERE.
My favorite illustration? Turn to page 143 for the most perfect display of one of my all-time favorite strategies!
2. THE STRUCTURE & “4 ELEMENTS OF WONDER”
In the beginning stages of our research and writing process, we really wrestled with defining the sense of wonder and breaking it down into manageable parts. For many, wonder is just that: wonder! An indescribable feeling, a fascination with the world, an electric spark. It was difficult enough to describe wonder, but even more challenging to structure our book around this seemingly elusive sense. Thankfully, after lots of wondering, writing, and revising, we landed on the idea of 4 elements of wonder: surprise, curiosity, freedom, and inspiration. As we write in the book, each element is one ingredient in the potion that makes learning magical. With student engagement strategies from each element of wonder, teachers can maximize memorable and meaningful learning experiences.
My favorite element? I can hardly choose one, but writing the Curiosity section was probably the most fun for me! Each bit of research I read & each section I wrote made me curious for more! There are so many creative student engagement strategies in the Curiosity section.
3. THE MODELING & EXAMPLES
You know when you go to teacher PD, but the presenters just lecture the entire time? You know when you read a teacher book but the author makes little attempt to engage the reader? Yeah, we don’t like that either! In Keeping the Wonder, we’ve tried to practice what we preach and model our strategies within the book! For example, we test your “flashbulb” memory in Surprise and we grab your attention with clever tricks in Curiosity. When we mention we love think-alouds and personality quizzes, we treat you to examples of those so you can experience the same wonder we want you to pass on to your students! After all, we’re 4 English teachers who know what they want in a PD book: lots of ideas, examples, and strategies!
My favorite example of this? You’ll have to turn to the Curiosity section to find out! Look at the headings…see what we did there? I’m going to leave you hanging here because that’s what curiosity is all about!
4. THE “WONDER MAKERS” & WIDE VARIETY OF EXPERIENCES REPRESENTED IN THE BOOK
The “core 4″ of us, me, Ashley, Jenna, and Staci, were all teaching high school English when we began writing, but we wanted to make sure we represented a wide range of content areas and grade level experiences in the book. Our goal was to keep the wonder for ALL teachers and students, whether they were in elementary, middle, or high school. After organizing our book around the elements of wonder, we partnered with teachers we knew were already experts in surprise, curiosity, freedom, and inspiration. These “Wonder Makers,” or guest writers, all contributed narratives that take readers on a journey to their own magical, inspiring classrooms.
My favorite wonder-maker? I really can’t choose one because all are phenomenal educators. But I will say that as an English teacher and the lead writer of the Freedom section, I especially appreciate Tanesha’s and Darian’s stories because they’re both about the power of student-led discussions!
5. OUR ENGAGING ANECDOTES
In addition to the guest narratives from wonder-makers across the country, the core 4 of us weave in many of our own anecdotes throughout the book. In these stories, you’ll read about everything from tooting llamas to sweet scoops of ice cream. Both stories from within the 4 walls of our classrooms and beyond, our narratives illustrate the different elements of wonder. We hope our stories surprise you, spark your curiosity, empower you, and inspire you!
My favorite story? It’s a tie between my favorite childhood memory in Surprise and the empowering narrative that opens the Freedom section. You can find these anecdotes on pages 16 and 100, respectively!
6. ALL THE PRACTICAL STUDENT ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES
When we began to write Keeping the Wonder, we knew we wanted to create more of a practical, dynamic handbook that teachers could return to time and time again. We didn’t want it to be a one-hit wonder (see what I did there?) that ultimately just collects dust on your bookshelves. Striking the balance between whimsy and wonder and practicality and purpose was challenging, but we found our sweet spot. You can think of our book as a guide to help you craft magical, engaging, and joyful learning experiences. Keeping the Wonder is very much a book that makes it possible to read about a strategy today and implement it tomorrow. If that’s your jam, we think you’ll absolutely love it.
My favorite student engagement strategy? If you know me, then this is easy: learning stations!
7. RESEARCH FROM DIFFERENT FIELDS (EDUCATION, PSYCHOLOGY, COGNITIVE SCIENCE, ETC)
One thing we have often encountered as 4 secondary ELA teachers who love to make learning magical is skepticism. Does research really support fun and wonder in the classroom? Doesn’t the childlike curiosity and joy for learning fizzle out sometime in between elementary and high school? How can you keep the wonder with the security of research-based best practices? We get it! We are skeptics of fluffy PD books lacking in real research, so a “thick reference list” (our exact words, lol) was one of our biggest priorities.
Between the 4 of us, we pored over a wide variety of research from different fields and the best of it ended up in our book. You’ll find a wealth of research from education, psychology, and cognitive science woven into the elements of wonder in an informative yet engaging way. Just like teaching is an art and a science, our book is the best of both worlds: inspiration AND information!
My favorite part of all the research? That “thick” list of References, of course! How many pages do you think constitutes “thick?” Turn to page 229 and find out!
8. THE HELPFUL “WONDER KIT” AT THE END
You know the feeling when you devour a teacher book that speaks to your soul, dream up grand plans to implement all of the amazing strategies, and then immediately become too busy to remember all of those ideas? Me too! Even with the best of intentions and the most practical of books, it’s all too easy to let this happen. We wanted Keeping the Wonder to be different: a dynamic handbook you can reach for in the middle of lesson planning. So we added a comprehensive “Wonder Kit” at the end of the book, a table that lists all of our student engagement strategies and exactly where you can find them in the book. I’m actually planning on copying/printing these pages and keeping them tucked away in my planner so they’re even more accessible. The Wonder Kit is that good!
My favorite part of the Wonder Kit? EVERYTHING, but probably the page numbers, because they make it so easy to flip to the strategy that I need!
9. THE JOURNEY & THE TIMING
When we began work on our book proposal in 2018 or signed our contract in 2019, we had no idea what was in store for our writing process or the world. Without a doubt, 2020 was one of the most challenging years for teachers across the globe. We wrote most of this book stuck inside our homes, grappling with the “new normal” and wondering if/when teachers would ever have a chance to “keep the wonder” again.
Personally, I went through a lot while writing our book: an online (pre-COVID) teaching job that I not-so-secretly hated, a resignation from said job, an interstate move, an awkward in-between jobs phase, a big jump from high school to middle school, and finally, a new “dream job” teaching 7th grade reading part-time. During my lows, this book gave me purpose and reminded me that I would find my wonder again. And when I did, it was better than ever.
I know I was not alone in my struggle. After everything teachers have been through, I know there’s never been a better time to rediscover wonder, reconnect with curiosity, and rekindle our love for teaching and learning. This is the year for wonder, and I believe our book can help you find it, keep it, and embrace it for years to come. You deserve it. Your students deserve it. We all deserve wonder!
My favorite part of this journey? All of the surprises along the way, like the fact that we turned technical presale difficulties into an EARLY release! Woohoo!
10. MY INCREDIBLE CO-AUTHORS!
The best part of writing our book is that I didn’t have to do it alone. I had 3 incredible women writing alongside me on one giant Google doc of wonder, chaos, and word vomit. In all seriousness, I couldn’t imagine a better team. I still don’t know how we did it, but I am thrilled that we pulled off writing a book when we were all stuck inside our houses during a worldwide pandemic. I love our book, but I love these ladies even more!
My favorite? All of them! Here’s a shoutout to each of these amazing ladies.
- Jenna, I admire your tenacity, work ethic, and strength as doctor, teacher, and mom! I don’t know how you do it, but I hope I can do it all one day, too! Goals!
- Ashley, I love your creativity and willingness to embrace all of your “wild” ideas, especially that little wonder workshop you planned back in 2018. You are a gem! THANK YOU!
- Staci, I absolutely enjoy your energy, humor, and passion for teaching (and cows, lol). Thanks for being my fellow type-B buddy and understanding my procrastination! Haha!
We hope you love Keeping the Wonder as much as we do! Please let me know if you have any questions. For more information on our workshop, book, and journey, check out the following:
- Ashley’s blog post on the story of how our workshop and book were born
- Link to order the book on Amazon
- More information on our book & how to receive a free digital “Wonder Welcome” gift if you order by July 31st
- More information on our engaging virtual Keeping the Wonder Workshop
- Link to order the book on Barnes & Noble
- Link to order the book from The Story Shop (our original workshop venue)
To learn more about magical student engagement strategies, check out the following blog posts: