Of all the curriculum materials I create novel units are my favorite, but creating my Wonder Novel Study to accompany the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio has by far been my all-time favorite! The encouragement of building a community and building empathy among students is so rich with this novel.
Summary of Wonder:
(From the Book Jacket)
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
Auggie’s struggles are written on his face. You go into the book knowing you are going to read about a kid who’s going to have a tough struggle. The surprising thing with this book is that you end up realizing that the other “normal” characters who seem to have it all on the outside, they are beautiful, rich, smart, etc, all have some type of struggle as well. This book really makes you look beyond the cover and delve deeper underneath. It is a wonderful resource to strengthen empathy and learn to not be so quick to judge a “book by its cover” so to speak. This led me to a great after the book writing activity that corresponds with Plato’s quote: “Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
One thing I really love about the unit I was able to create was how the text lent itself to higher-order thinking questions. There are very few knowledge levels (recall) or even comprehension level questions in the comprehension packet section of the unit. The vast majority are analysis and evaluation level questions because that is just where the text leads you. The book is just so thought-provoking!
I loved how R.J. Palacio subtly adds the character of Daisy the dog as the only soul who does not “see” Auggie’s facial abnormalities. Through Daisy’s interactions, Ms. Palacio shows the unconditional love of animals. This prompted me to add a Reading Informational activity to the unit involving therapy dogs and animal-assisted therapy. I know teachers are looking for Common Core-aligned resources to help with Reading Informational Text skills so I added this small activity to the unit. You can download this activity for free by clicking on the image below:
As you can tell I loved this book. It is one of the best books I have read and I think it would serve well in any 4-6th-grade classroom. However, I do have one minor complaint. In the book, Auggie also deals with a hearing loss and there is a chapter that describes his experience in getting fitted for a hearing aid for the first time. I also live with hearing loss and have worn hearing aids for several years. In some ways, Ms. Palacio was spot on describing Auggie’s feelings about wearing hearing aids around his friends and how he may be perceived. However, Ms. Palacio was very off the mark when she described the experience of getting hearing aids and how they work. This is very understandable as I am sure most people do think that wearing hearing aids is very much like wearing glasses, which is how Ms.Palacio describes the experience. In reality, it is nothing like that. After reading this chapter in the book I felt so strongly that I felt the need to add my own supplement to the unit explaining what it is really like to wear hearing aids and have a hearing loss in our modern world. I hope this supplement is helpful to your students. This resource is included in the Wonder Novel Study and is also offered as a stand-alone item here:
As I mentioned I loved this book! 🙂 It hits on so many issues in the modern classroom and appeals to such a wide audience. It really is a must-read and a wonderful addition to any classroom instruction.
Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!
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