Tuesday, October 9, 2012

#WONDERSchools Blog Tour Part 2

So clearly I am a HUGE advocate for Wonder by R.J. Palacio...and here are two more reasons why:
(FYI: I got a little Natalie Merchant happy...but the song has a major tie-in to the book, so oh well!)

David Etkin (@DavidAEtkin), Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic), and I all cooked up a little scheme to further spread the power of this amazing novel. We called it "1-2-3 Wonder." Basically, we asked our students to answer some questions about the book using only one, two, or three words. We met via a Google Doc (which was a completely new and fascinating experience for me) to brainstorm some possible questions. As a group, we also decided to put all of our students' answers together in one final video. The next day, we met with our kids and told them about the idea. My students were stoked, especially when I told them that R.J. Palacio herself might see it! I had them write their answers on dry erase boards, and I photographed them with their responses. It was really cool to see them tailor their words to be more precise so that they could fit their ideas into the limited space they were given. Here is my group's finished product:

Isn't that cool???

Please check out Sherry's finished product here

See David's video here

Here is the compilation of all of our classes together:

I really enjoyed collaborating with both David and Sherry. Good things always result from passionate teachers putting their heads together to come up with something fantastic for their students to do. 

I love Wonder is because I believe it has the power to bring kids together and set aside their differences. As part of the #WONDERSchools blog tour, I read a post written by the mother of a little boy with a craniofacial condition. What really touched me was how many similarities he had to Auggie. One difference, though, was this little boy (Peter) had never been given a standing ovation. I knew once I shared Peter's story with my kids, they'd want to do something about that! Here was their response to Peter's mom's blog post:

As son as the school day ended, I hopped on Twitter and sent our video to Peter's mom so that she could share it with him. I heard back from her not long after I "tweeted" her the link to our video. She said that Peter was "speechless," and she had been moved to tears...all from one simple act of kindness inspired by Wonder

I implore you, share this book with as many children as you can. Just imagine: if every child in the world read this book and felt its impact, what kind of tomorrow they would work together to create? 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

#WONDERschools Blog Tour

Have you heard of it? Better yet, have you read it? Do you know the wonder that is Wonder by R.J. Palacio?

Wonder is one of 2012's hottest novels by first-time author R.J. Palacio. Teachers, students, librarians, and kid's lit lovers alike are singing the praises of this WONDERful book. Don't believe me? Try following some of the many hashtags that have popped up all over Twitter (# WonderofWONDER, #WONDERschools, to name a few) and you will find hundreds of people chatting about this powerful book.

I first read Wonder as an Advanced Reader's Copy that I obtained form NetGalley. I was hooked. I read it in two days, barely able to pull myself away from the computer screen on which I was reading it. As soon as I read the last sentence on the last page, I knew that this book HAD to be shared with as many children as I could reach. It was the last novel I read to both of my reading and language arts classes last year. It was the perfect way to end the year before I sent them out into the world beyond elementary school. We made wonderful memories as we discussed the book using a mixture of the questions my students came up with, some of my own, and the ones provided on R.J. Palacio's website. We wrote about it. We cried over it. We loved it.

(**Spoiler Alert** Below is the "flipchart" I used with my students. Some of the questions reveal key events in the story and may spoil it for you if you haven't read it yet...which you need to!)
Wonder Questions

This year, I decided to read Wonder with my kids at the beginning of the year. My hope was that it would help build up our classroom community. I decided that by reading it at the beginning of the year, the impact would not only carry into their lives outside of school, but inside as well. Typically I allow my students to vote for their read aloud, but this year I decided this one was too important to potentially pass up.

Every day my students eagerly enter the classroom after specials, grab their response journals, and form a circle on the carpet. I decided to sit with my students on the floor, not above them on my "teacher chair," this year. I can see them, hear them, and look at what they are writing/sketching in their notebooks. We reserved the back half of the students' journals for notes. After previewing Wonder (using the front and back covers, inside flap, and first chapter), the kids thought about what they wanted to focus on as we read. Some chose how the song quotes connected to each character's part, others were interested in tracking how August (the main character) dealt with being in school for the first time. The students then designed their own note-taking sheets, which they use and refer to when writing letters to me about our read aloud. I have been so amazed at my students' honesty and empathy as I read their entries.

I love sharing this book with my students. It brings us together as a community and helps them understand the effect their actions, both good and bad, can have on others. They see connections between the characters we are reading about, and characters in their independent reading. Wonder is a great tool for teaching empathy, but it is also great literature. I use it to model skills and strategies I want my students to use in their own reading and writing. I am so grateful to R.j. Palacio for giving me such an invaluable resource to use in my classroom. I know Auggie will stay with all of us forever.