6 Ideas for Perspective-Taking, Character Traits & Conflict Using “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio


Wonder Book CoverMy daughter’s book club chose “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio and she recommended it to me. This is a book that would support discussions centering on feelings, living in a community and what it means, developing empathy towards others, and the acceptance of differences, to name a few.

The format of the book definitely lends itself to teaching perspective taking. There are many ways to approach this book within classrooms or therapy settings. Of course, the deciding factor would be the goals and objectives for your particular students.

This book has appeared on reading lists for grades 5-7; the following suggestions may be modified, as needed.

Below are three CCSS for grades 5, 6, and 7 related to perspective taking which the activities below would develop. As you review the 6 start up ideas to use with this novel and others, the flexibility of the SGM® tools will become apparent-reaching across grade levels- as the ability to individualize instruction is inherent in our methodology.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.6

Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6

Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.6

Analyze how an author develops and contrasts the points of view of different characters or narrators in a text.

Idea 1

Student MarkerUse our SGM® Student Markers to have students retell the story from various perspectives. Below, pages 8-9 from “Wonder,” Christopher’s House, is highlighted.

Wonder Picture 2Read a portion of the selection of your choice and use the narrative SGM® Universal Magnets on the white board, as shown, to work through an episode with the students.

Then, invite students to retell the episode using the student markers with partners. Students are encouraged to use their own words and use the information on the whiteboard as a reference, if needed.

Idea 2

Take the same episode and work it through from another characters perspective. This time, partner the students to retell from both perspectives.

Wonder Picture 3

Note how you can visually show the interaction of the characters using the magnets.

Wonder Picture 4

Wonder Picture 5

Idea 3

Download Feelings Map
—Download Map—

Another idea is to use this downloadable map to show the different feelings experienced by different characters related to the same episode/kick-off. The same chapter is referenced as above using this approach. (This map was originally used in our blog, Part 2, Mr. Hatch, April 8, 2015. This map is versatile as it may also be used to show feelings of one character and multiple kick-offs as presented in the Mr. Hatch blog.) Use it as you see fit to meet your student’s needs.

Feelings Map Sample

Idea 4

Characteristics DownloadableDownload this map from our April 12, 2016, blog related to character traits and The River. Ask students to record Characteristics Poster BackCharacteristics Poster Imagecharacter traits and evidence to support their choices. Use this in conjunction with our Characteristics Mini-Poster. The activity presented on the reverse side of the mini-poster shown here would support the process students would use to collect evidence.

The Character Traits sample below is based upon the character Summer from “Wonder.” Think of assigning students certain chapters to record traits and then have them pair up to discuss and support their choices.

Wonder Picture 7

Idea 5

Another focus would be conflicts: Character against Character; Character against Self; Character against Environment; and Character Against Society. This aspect is presented in the ThemeMaker® manual.

Conflicts Quadrants Activity
—Download Map—

Use this new, free downloadable for students to record their responses prior to discussion. It is open-ended and could be used with designated assigned pages/or certain chapters/in centers/in discussion groups and from multiple perspectives… you decide, based upon your student goals/and progress. A sampling is compiled from pages 3-5, Auggie’s perspective.

Wonder Picture 8Character Against Character:

  • p. 3 pretends (good at it) not to see faces made at him

Character against Self:

  • p. 3 others see him as “extraordinary” but he realizes he is ordinary
  • p. 4 would like to go to school if he could be like every other kid

Character against Environment:

  • p. 3-notices people looking away as he walks down street

Character against Society:

  • p. 3 feels “not ordinary” as no one else sees him that way

Just from these few pages, multiple conflicts presented in “Wonder” come into view. As an aside, you may want to enlarge the icons to reference as you read the novel. For instance, after the kick-off of August going on a tour of his new school (page 21), show the Character vs. Self icon and focus on this alone. There are multiple incidences on the tour to flesh out discussion as to how August was feeling and what he was thinking due to this kick-off. Your discussions may be tailored to your groups.

Idea 6

Wonder Picture 9The pictures in this section use our new Critical Thinking Triangle® In Action! materials. The episode is from Jack’s perspective, as he decides whether to participate, as requested by the headmaster, in being a “welcoming buddy,” by showing Auggie the school (pages 134-141). This tool makes the thinking of characters visible for students.

Walk the students through the episode using the Critical Thinking Triangle®, thought bubbles, and feeling words as shown. In the end, Will has empathy for Auggie and his situation. What a wonderful opportunity to discuss these more complex emotions!

Wonder Picture 10

Wonder Picture 11

Wonder Picture 12

Additional Notes: An idea that always worked well in my collaborative settings was for each teacher/consultant participant to focus on one aspect of a reading selection (for instance, each chose just one of the above) and share suggestions. Always, I was impressed by the power of using the SGM® materials as a way to foster collaboration as well as support student success.

Auggie And Me Book CoverAuggie and Me, Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio explores the perspectives of three characters that were in the Wonder book. In the introduction to the book, the author points out that this is not a sequel to Wonder as it does not continue with Auggie’s story, but gives insight into other characters that were in the “Wonder” book. 365 Days of Wonder Book CoverShe refers to it as a “companion” book to “Wonder.”

“365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Precepts” is an interesting book which you may use as a catalyst for discussion within your classroom. It is reviewed here on Goodreads.

Topic Related Notes


Viewing interviews and websites related to “Wonder,” I have learned that there was a “Choose Kind” challenge that encouraged students to do kind acts. Here is a story about one class of students who participated. 

Below are some links to interviews with the author:

“Wonder” is rich in opportunities to teach character development and perspective taking as well as sending a powerful message of choosing kindness to others.


Sheila Zagula
Sheila Zagula

Author

Sheila Zagula works with MindWing Concepts in product development, drawing on her expertise and talents as well as many years of implementing the Story Grammar Marker® and related materials. Her teaching career spans thirty-eight years, most recently as literacy coach in the Westfield Massachusetts Public School System. Sheila has experience as an early childhood educator, a teacher of children with special needs, and a collaborative instructor within an inclusion framework serving children in grades K-5.



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