1-2-3 WONDER –> #WONDERblogTour Project

Where does an idea start? And once rolling, how does a grain of sand gain mass?


The idea of having a group of teachers talking and sharing ideas about RJ Palacio’s Wonder started with Colby Sharp’s Book Club on July 17. Most of us had read Wonderand blogged about it one way or another (here is my original post; and my Skyping with RJ Palacio post). During that Twitter conversation, Deb Tyo (@ChocolateAir) and I Tweeted back and forth about how cool it would be if all the teachers reading Wonder could partner with one another during the school year. And from that: #WONDERschools.

It was just a hashtag at first—until Deb Tweeted me near the summer’s end and said something along the lines of, “Dude—are you going to start that WONDERschools sign up, or what?”

I considered, Me? I’m nobody. Who’s going to follow something I start? I’m no SharpHankinsMillerSchuScopesDavis. This could fall flat and flame out. But then I channeled my inner August and remembered: Fortune favors the Bold!

So I pressed on. I made the #WONDERschools page on my blog, created a logo, and made my first ever Google Form.

Those grains of sand I mentioned? They gained mass and were glued together by a powerful and meaningful novel. Our Wonder. And now…119 teachers and librarians have signed up and put their contact information out there as a way to collaborate. And collaboration led to our little project we call 1-2-3 WONDER.

Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic) from Indiana, Reilly Posey (@PolkaDotOwlBlog) from Baltimore, and me (@DavidAEtkin) from Buffalo-ish, New York, teamed up on this project that was for each of our individual classes, but was also compiled into a master product. Simply put, we posed questions that needed to be answered in 1 word, 2 words, or 3 words. (These questions were decided upon after a monster brainstorming session on a very scattered and colorful GoogleDoc). Students worked in partnerships or trios to come to a consensus and write their answers on dry-erase boards. They then posed for pictures. Finally, we asked all students, “In what area of your life do you need to work harder to chooseKIND?”

And for the first time ever in public, I reveal to you my classes’

1-2-3 WONDER project:

 

            But don’t stop there. Please visit Sherry’s 1-2-3 WONDER Video and Reilly’s 1-2-3 WONDER video.

And then watch our cumulative video below.

I have so much to say about Wonder. I’ve been “living” with the book for about nine months now. It’s interesting how it keeps deepening and I keep connecting life events to it. I will post about it again in the near future–another post for another day.

There are many more #WONDERschools milestones out there, such as:

At a more grassroots level, educators started a Twitter conversation under the hashtag #WONDERschools, to share ideas and resources as they experience the book with their students. The idea became so popular that Amherst, N.Y. teacher David Etkin created the #WONDERschools Web site, with more than 100 educators participating.

Congratulations, fellow #WONDERschools: You are part of a grassroots campaign.

  • Working with Lauren Donovan to devise a blog tour. It was cool to speak with her on the phone and brainstorm the possibilities. 44 bloggers signed up! WOW! Read Lauren’s open letter to all #WONDERschoolers on the blog.

¨     Seeing my #WONDERschools logo pop up in random places and blogs. Always a thrill—and humbling. I’m glad that such a powerful, deserving book has garnered such a following.

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The Case for Reading Partnerships and Clubs

This is a dual post–also posted on the PolkaDotOwlBlog.  Mrs. P, (@polkadotowlblog), my partner in the #rdgPartners chats, asked me some time ago if I would guest post on her blog when she reached 100 followers. She has been dutifully keeping me apprised of her numbers. Now she is at 105 followers and the time has come. 

I’m always impressed with Mrs. P’s thoughtful posts, and I’m sure you will enjoy them as well. Click the picture to the left and give her a visit. I’m looking forward to working with Mrs. P and her classes in the future.

Forming reading partnerships and book clubs with young students is challenging. How do I partner the students—By interest? Reading level? Friend requests? And once they are in these groups, how do I help them to set reasonable goals? How can I keep their conversations moving forward? What do I do about the student who doesn’t do his reading.

Surely, there are many questions. But I’m persevering in my book clubs plan because this I believe: Some of the most powerful reading we do is partner reading.

(These pictures are the students reading on the first day after they choose their books. After this first day, reading and preparation is done independently.)

I read for myself all the time. Oftentimes my reading is to find that next great book I can recommend to a student at just the right time. (And with the NerdyBookClub, there are so many options.) But the books that are most memorable to me are the books I’ve had the opportunity to discuss.

My colleague, Brent Peterson, and I read Dead End in Norvelt in patnership. We kept a simple goal of about 100 pages a week (we were doing other reading, of course) and got together during a free period to discuss. These were awesome discussions.  [You can follow these links to see our conversations… if you’re really interested. Talk 1. Talk 2. Talk 3.] We came prepared with some Post-it notes and lists of things we wanted to talk about and off we went. The half hour was barely enough time. It was great how we each brought different ideas and insights to the conversation. Brent saw things that I never would have on my own. Discussing a book brought it to life and made it more interesting than it would have been had either of us read it independently. (Who else would have laughed with me about paraffin wax hands and deterring deer with bodily functions?)  I think these conversations are why, though the public response to Norvelt has been lukewarm, Brent and I liked it so much. You can get more of a summary of our conversation on our Nerdy Book Club Blog post.

Brent and I also read and discussed Wonder a lot. And then we started passing it along to others to read. My mom read it. Then my dad. Then my sister. Then her book club. Then other reading teachers at my school. Students and their parents. And we read it aloud to our students. (And finally my wife is reading it.) And it was like Wonder became part of the social fabric of my life. It was something I could talk about with anyone around me. Family dinners were filled with conversation of Auggie and Daisy and Via. Being able to then talk with the Maker of these characters and this WONDERworld was awesome.

And this—THIS—is why I want to persist in pushing my students into partnerships and clubs. As I’ve told them, book clubs are social opportunities wrapped around a book. (Hmmm… good pearl analogy there.) I want my students to experience the joy of a book coming to life. Of understanding a book better together because they talked about and cleared up confusions and saw things from different points of view. I want my students to know the richness of literature.

So I’m willing to spend an afternoon with the book partnership/club letters they’ve written to me (Name; why I would be a good partner to someone else; my approximate
reading level [GRL]; five classmates who would be good partners for me and why) spread out all over the living room floor or dining room table. (“Dad, what are you doing?”)  I’m willing to deal with a slacker reader/partner who doesn’t come prepared with the reading complete or Post-it notes ready to discuss. Because I see so many other students benefitting from rich conversations and thought building that they wouldn’t have if they only read independently.

I’m looking forward to next year and getting these partnerships and clubs underway earlier in the year. We are already discussing how to scaffold them—giving students smaller texts with which to practice before diving into a novel. I can’t wait to see my students blossom in their book discussions.

We have a great year of book conversations behind us, a better one ahead—and the state of Book Clubs is Strong.

Your turn:  Have you experienced reading as part of a partnership or club? How did it add to your reading experience?

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Planning bookmark for clubs:

Evaluation form: