The Classroom Compendium
Mr. VanWagner’s Classroom Compendium is a collection of classroom content and questions that have been asked by his students over the years. Content ranges from personal questions about Mr. VanWagner and his experiences to lesson clarifications, related and tangential topics from school, shared curriculum content, to fun quips about life, the universe, and everything.
The Classroom Compendium was created in 2010 as a private log for unaddressed questions, concerns, and ideas from ninth-grade students in Mr. Smith’s classroom at Muskegon High School. A full schedule between courses at the Grand Valley State University College of Education and work made it difficult to find time to record, research, and address everything, so an unfortunately-small amount of questions and concerns were addresses, and almost none of the original data remains. The idea and its intentions were good, so Mr. VanWagner revamped the Compendium the following semester, making submission and parts of its compilation more audience-driven in order for him to focus more upon finding and providing answers.
To discourage students from being too shy and instead encourage them to ask whatever questions they had, Mr. VanWagner compiled a short list of common-sense considerations and rules for submitting questions for his Compendium. Questions were written down by students on slips of scrap paper that could be submitted between classes or at the end of the school day; to curb repeat questions, Mr. VanWagner bound and shared all of the questions and answers with sixth-grade students from Mrs. Westveld’s and Mrs. Guikema’s 2011 classrooms at Riley Street Middle School in Hudsonville, Michigan.
Though management and maintenance improved immensely as a result of this simple submission process, the list of questions quickly grew just as drastically, and quickly devolved into ridiculousness. All questions were still addressed, on principle, but the Compendium’s rules were rewritten and clarified, and shortly thereafter, it was adapted as a passive set of lessons for young students to focus on asking good questions. It was reintroduced with an entertaining short story titled “The Tale of Sir Crabs: a fable by Mr. VanWagner and Mr. Wernette”, and the Compendium was never spoken of again. The quantity of “silly” questions quickly reduced, the overall quality of questions improved, and the lesson was praised by many students at the end of the school year.
The Classroom Compendium addresses multiple grade-level content expectations set forth by the Common Core Initiative (M.P.MP3, *OTHERS*), and encourages application and practice with critical and analytical thinking as well as reasoning skills that will aid students’ comprehension ability and can drive success in lessons and on tests. Many of these skills are the focus of “remedial learning” classes and extra-curricular academic programs, and are instrumental to the success of renowned test-preparation programs including Sylvan Learning and Kaplan Test Prep.
It is adaptable for numerous settings, from multiple classrooms to individual students, and can include online elements from a variety of sources. Its passive design, with question-driven central content, allows for easy integration with lessons in almost any topic in multiple subject areas.
Mr. VanWagner’s Classroom Compendium content is generally appropriate for a “PG” audience, though some tangential discussion and information may be appropriate for slightly-older audiences.
Content submission is open, but moderated, on all platforms. Participants are warned that abuse and disregard for the rules will result in closer moderation, loss of membership, bans, and group closure at the discretion of Mr. VanWagner and other parties concerned. Please feel free to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any issues that need resolving. They will be addressed, and appropriate actions taken.
Mr. VanWagner’s Classroom Compendium features questions and content by students from schools in:
- MICHIGAN: Muskegon, Hudsonville, and Traverse City
- INDIANA: Valparaiso, Portage, and Union Mills
- ALASKA: Kaktovik
Compiled list of questions: (COMING SOON!)
Additional content can be found online at: