The other day I had a random idea of incorporating a random fact wall into my classroom. I probably won't do it unless I get students like this one:
Student #1: (in the middle of a math lesson on algebraic equations) Ms. Ng, why do they call it algebra?
Me: Because a person named Al Gebra invented it in the 5th century.
Student #1: That's a weird name.
Me: Well, it isn't weird for people from the Middle East.
So that was a partial truth. Algebra DID originate from the Middle East. Probably in the 5th century, but I can't be sure unless I look it up. The person, Al Gebra, is of course fake.
Me: (during after school art class) The aborigines of Australia are the oldest civilization that is still alive today.
Student #2: Then who is the oldest person alive today?
With a random fact wall, I can address all these random questions stemming from bunny trails that students love to take. Pedagogically, it's called a "teachable moment." If you grew up watching Animaniacs, you know it as the segment called, "Useless Facts." I love Animaniacs - there is no cartoon like it on tv today. It's where I learned that star fish don't have brains and how to sing all nations of the world.
Most of all, random facts are just fun. Of course, to make it a little more challenging, I would have a weekly random fact quiz - to test student recall and have them make connections the to actual curriculum we are studying.
Not every student goes for the random facts, however. Some might just get overly distracted, or bored, or resent the constant interruptions. Which is why I'm going to be careful about this activity.