I've never shared this with anyone, but here goes: I was reluctant to read Wonder by RJ Palacio. I thought, "What's so special about this book?" and "Why do I want to read this book about a kid who looks different?" And then, I kept seeing people talk about how wonderful Wonder was, and I thought, "Fine. Bend to social pressure. If it sucks, at least you can say you read it." Ok folks, peer pressure was GOOD in this instance. I could kick myself for not buying and reading this sooner.
You've read, (hopefully), my sister's post on how she can identify with Auggie because of her hearing disability. I know she struggled, and still does, with her disability, but it wasn't until she read Wonder and talked to me about it that I realized how much she was like Auggie.
And that started me thinking....we all have a little bit of Auggie in us. Whether its a disability, a scar, the color of your skin or the language you speak at home, there is always someone out there telling us we're different. And I wanted my students to learn that was ok. That they should own who they are and be proud of it.
So I started reading Wonder with my 4th grade group. These are kids who are level 3 and 4 English language learners (from the WIDA website, pg 2---a 3 is someone who is developing English and a 4 is someone who is expanding their understanding.) So, that being said, basically, they're kids who have a good grasp of spoken English, but still need help with reading and writing proficiently. I chose to read it aloud, rather than buying everyone a copy (like I wanted), because I wanted to make sure they understood. Comprehension and application were more important to me than them reading to themselves and getting stuck and frustrated (since most are below grade level readers). Plus, they would get to hear a fluent reader (me).
I've been looking at the RJ Palacio's website and adapting the questions under the "For teachers" section as journal prompts. We are only about 4-5 chapters into the book (Auggie just decided that he was going to middle school, after they joked about Mr. Tushman and Ms. Butt), so we still have a ways to go.
The first topic, Don't judge a boy by his face, was a great discussion and writing piece for us. First, we needed to discuss and understand the premise, Don't judge a book by its cover, before we could switch it up and think about not judging a boy by his face.
I'd like to share what some of my kiddos wrote (grammar and spelling cleaned up):
P says: In the story, they said something about his face being different. Just because he has a different face than everybody else you shouldn't make fun of him.
Y says: Don't judge a boy by his face because Auggie is sick from his face. Auggie was sick when he was born. God sent him to us that way.
A says: Do not make fun of Auggie, they do not make fun of you. You do not hurt his feeling.
Writing is not an area of strength. Yet. But, in our conferences, they were able to verbalize their thoughts and make them a little clearer. It all came back to not being a bully, not making fun of someone because they are different and how they wouldn't like that if someone did it to them.
So, what did Auggie teach me? To be more compassionate.
What do I hope Auggie teaches my students? To be more compassionate and understanding. I hope that Auggie's story will touch them and make them think about their own lives. I hope that he also teaches them to be strong in the face of adversity. And if he can help us with out writing, then thats just extra goodness.
I'm also planning on throwing a birthday party for Auggie on October 10th. I haven't told the kiddos yet. I hope I'll be able to post pictures, etc on the 10th for you to see & celebrate with us!