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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Join #WONDERschools

Since this posted I have made an “official” #WONDERschools site. Visit it now!

If you are planning on reading Wonder this year, you’re not the only one.

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Many teachers across the country and world are using Wonder as a springboard for discussions about acceptance and bullying. The addition of the chooseKIND campaign offers even more reason to read Wonder.

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Besides, Wonder is flat out a great book–one that keeps spreading by word of mouth.

Deb Tyo (@chocolateair) and some other Twitter folks thought it would be cool to gather all the Wonder-reading teachers and schools under the hashtag #WONDERschools so we could share ideas and resources and hopefully connect teachers, students, and classrooms.

We would like to take this a step further by compiling contact information for these teachers so you may contact one another easily through email, atwitter, Skype, Google +, etc. Please fill out the form below if you are planning on reading Wonder at any time this year. I will post the spreadsheet of collected information shortly. We are looking forward to uniting behind #WONDERschools.

{We would appreciate you posting this form in your blog. Just Direct Message me at @DavidAEtkin and I will send you the code. It would also be helpful if we retweeted one another’s posting of this form. Thank you so much.}

“Choose Kind”–inspired by WONDER

How important is the message of Wonder?

Important enough that the publisher has set up a whole site dedicated to the message of the book:

[Click this picture to jump to the site….after you finish reading this post.]

Important enough that the message is being spread in NYC’s Times Square:

As I have blogged about many timesWONDER is a book with a huge heart. It should be required reading for all humans. Skyping with author RJ Palacio just deepened my affection for the book.

When I was on Twitter the other week, I saw that Lauren Donovan, a PR and social media rep for Random House Kids, was talking about “Choose Kind” cards. I quietly *raised my hand and requested some. She sent them right out. This is what they look like:

Today in classes I will draw names and pass some of these out. I will also encourage my students to sign the PLEDGE. I did:

And I will fill out this certificate and hang it in my doorway.

Will you join me?

And will you take a couple minutes to write a response to Wonder on the site?

I have been signing yearbooks with CHOOSE KIND as the year ends. Now the students will know what it’s all about.

If you’re a blogger or have a way to promote this campaign, grab the CHOOSE KIND button on the side of my blog and add it to yours.

Thank you for making the world a better place–one person at a time.

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?

{resources}

Planning bookmark for clubs:

Evaluation form:

Skyping with WONDER author RJ Palacio

On Friday, May 18th, RJ Palacio joined the 140 Sweet Home Middle School students on AlphaTeam and Team Possible via Skype to discuss WONDER.

It took a few attempts to connect–anxious moments indeed–but that just gave us time to raffle off some great titles that Kim Krug of Monkey See, Monkey Do brought along for the students.  By the time we connected and RJ popped up on the screen, the students were pretty pumped up.

Yeah–we teachers were too.

Here is the intro we gave RJ. (We were asked to call her RJ, just in case you were wondering.  Just another thing that we enjoyed about her:):Once in a while a book comes along that creates an unmistakable buzz.

We started hearing this buzz in 2011 on the book blogs we follow—like the Nerdy Book Club blog.

Wonder, and its hashtag #thewonderofwonder, started burning up the Twitterverse.  When we had the opportunity to get an advance copy of this WONDER, we jumped.

There are many books that are exciting. Many books that are thrilling.  Now that we’ve all read WONDER, I think we can agree that Wonder…is a life changer. It’s about being a better person. It’s about treating others with kindness.

Wonder can be summarized with two quotes from the book:


Mr. Browne’s first precept: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.
&
Be kinder than is necessary.

There are not too many times that a book really makes such an impact on us that we feel as though we need to expose as many people to it as we can.  Fortunately being a teacher allows for me the forum to do so.  We hope that all of you have enjoyed listening to the lives of the characters in WONDER as much as we have enjoyed reading them to you.  We would like to thank R.J. Palacio for her willingness to offer her time to us and to allow us to discuss this “WONDER”ful book.


And with that, we give you—RJ PALACIO!

DAVID: It was a little overwhelming to hear RJ speak and answer the students’ questions. After reading WONDER 4 times (once on my own, then aloud to three classes), I feel like the characters are my friends. To hear from the woman who invented these friends of mine was amazing.

BRENT: Her perspectives and explanations as to the characters motives brought a whole new understanding to WONDER for me.  I had these ideas about who everyone was and what they intended and to hear R.J. give additional background and insight as to why she had these “friends” act how they did was very cool.We had our students create questions about WONDER ahead of time so that we could choose a number of them to be read at our Skype session.  We did this for time reasons and also to ensure that the questions asked were not repeated or things that we had already discussed.

Here are a list of the questions that ended up being chosen and asked to R.J. by our students.

QUESTION TOPICS THAT STUDENTS GENERATED INCLUDED:

  • Why did you choose to write from different points of view?
  • Why didn’t  you write from Julian’s POV?
  • Why was Justin’s section all in lowercase?
  • Who chose the artwork for the book? Why did the pictures have only one eye?
  • Why didn’t Mr. Tushman do anything about Julian bullying Auggie if he knew about it?
  • How did you know so much Star Wars stuff?
  • Where did you get the idea for the precepts?
  • How did you choose the song quotes?
  • Have you been bullied? How did you handle it? How would you now?
  • What was the most emotional part of the book for you? (R.J. said that this was one of the best questions she had been asked!!)
  • Have your friends and family been inspired by the book?
  • Is there any future for WONDER in movies or television?

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DAVID: I’m not ashamed to admit that I had to blink back tears at a few points in the conversation. RJ’s answers were insightful and thought provoking.

BRENT: I agree.  I was blown away by her responses.  She took each question and responded with a very well thought out response.  It was really moving to hear her describe her characters as though they are real people.  I find that many times I feel that way as a I read a story but that usually diminishes as I get to discussing the book with others.  It was refreshing to hear her speak about them in that way.

DAVID: It was also rewarding to have my mom there to experience the interview with me. My whole family has read and discussed WONDER. My mom was thoroughly impressed with our students and RJ. We gushed about it for a long time afterwards.We concluded our time together with this:

Thanks to Monkey See, Monkey Do bookstore, we received discounted WONDER copies that our students were able to pre-order.  We ended up selling over 40 copies.

Links that you might be interested in:

Brent’s Todaysmeet blog post:
http://wp.me/pjlXg-61
Brent’s original Wonder post:
http://wp.me/pjlXg-2L

David’s Todaysmeet blog post:
http://wp.me/p28nqv-bR

David’s original Wonder post:
http://wp.me/p28nqv-6N – original chat
http://wp.me/p28nqv-ci – video
http://wp.me/p28nqv-cJ – final chat and video

RJ Palacio’s blog.

To show how the WORDofWONDER has spread, I played around with making this flowchart.  I call it my WONDERtracker. As big as it is, it is still incomplete:

Do you want to hear the unofficial soundtrack of WONDER? 1) join PING in iTunes; 2) search for David Etkin–click; 3) click on the “Wonder of WONDER” list.
Written by:
David Etkin (@DavidAEtkin)
and
Brent Peterson (@BrentJPeterson) / http://bjp7834.wordpress.com

VIDEO: TodaysMeet-ing about WONDER

We did it.

We finished Wonder.  After the applause died down, it was time to chat.

In preparation for Friday’s Skype with Mrs. Palacio (OK–she said we could call her RJ, but it feels too informal), we had an end-of-book conversation using TodaysMeet.com.

The students have improved dramatically in their digital conversations since using the site two weeks ago. (Here is the video of our first session.) I was very impressed with their comments and ideas. They even learned the trick of how to string two comments together using numbers (like “1/2” and “2/2”)–just like we do on Nerdy Book Club #titletalk and #RdgPartners Twitter chats.

Here are the students working hard at getting out their ideas.

Here are the transcripts from the three classes. If you’re wondering if TodaysMeet.com is worth trying, scroll down towards the end where the students encourage you to give it a try.

(It might be helpful to know that my questions are in ALL CAPS.

Period 2/3 Chat

Period 5/6 Chat

Period 9/10 Chat 

If you have any questions or suggestion, leave a comment.

The Wonder of WONDER

Once in a while a book comes along that isn’t just good, isn’t just entertaining, isn’t just thought-provoking.

It’s life-changing.

Wonder is that book.

That is why I had to go buy my own personal copy.

That is why, no matter how long it takes to finish, I am starting it as a read-aloud today.

Wonder should be required reading for every human.

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August (Auggie) Pullman has a genetic condition, a gene mutation, that “made war on his face”. Because of this, his life is different than that of other kids his age. The narration in the trailer above is the first couple paragraphs of the book. The first section ends with:

My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

”]20120304-151025.jpg

Wonder is told primarily from Auggie’s point of view, but other characters get turns at moving the story along. Eye-opening accounts are given by his sister Via, his new school acquaintances Jack and Summer, and Via’s boyfriend Justin.

Will Auggie fit in at his new school–the first school experience of his life? How will the other kids–and teachers–respond to this kid who is so different from others around him? How will Auggie show those around him he’s really not that different?

More than anything, I read this book through the lens of my past experiences. I wish I could say I have never made fun of another person; that I never eyed up someone who looked different–but I have.

I wish I could say that I was always kind to others; that I went out of my way to welcome and embrace those who are different, whether it be inside or out–but I haven’t. And that shames me.

Wonder reminded me of every social error I made. It reminded me of the times I prejudged, of the times when I saw a weakness and exposed it instead caring for it. I suppose as a teacher I’m not supposed to let on that I ever acted that way. But the truth is I made mistakes. As Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones says in Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, M’am”:

“I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know.”

Now I’m more determined to make up for that lack of judgement and character.

A number of years ago I was remembering a 6th grade experience. I was unkind to a kid a year younger than me–a kid who had trouble fitting in. I felt terrible about it all those years later, and I said, “Lord, if I ever see ‘Charles’ again, I’ll apologize and set things right.” Who did I see just a week later? Charles was standing outside of the coffee shop as I went in. He seemed happy to see me. We shook hands and caught up.

Then I took a deep breath. “Charles, I know there were times I wasn’t very nice to you. I picked on you instead of…”

“No, no,” he said. “That was a long time ago. Don’t mention it.”

“I know it was, but you were on my mind the other day and I knew I needed to apologize to you if I ever got the chance. I’m sorry I wasn’t nicer.”

He brushed it off, but I could see in his eyes he appreciated it.

I felt relieved, for sure.

Reading Wonder, I am aggravated, maddened, and saddened by the people who treat Auggie so poorly. But that aggravation is aimed right back at me. Would I have been any better were an Auggie at my school? Would I have seen past? Would I have looked deeper? I don’t want to answer that.

And that is why I think it is so important to read this book. Wonder gives us a chance to see deeper and to look closer. Perhaps once we’re friends with August, we will be more willing to embrace others who don’t fit our vision of beautiful or cool.

The title of the book comes from the author’s favorite song:

Doctors have come from distant cities

just to see me

stand over my bed

disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders

of God’s own creation

and as far as they see they can offer

no explanation

NATALIE MERCHANT, “Wonder”

We are all wonders of God’s creation. May we work harder at living that way. At accepting others that way. At accepting ourselves that way.

Below are a bunch of cool links n’ videos n’ stuff. Click to your heart’s content.

Colby Sharp’s interview with R.J. Palacio.

R.J. Palacio’s post on the Nerdy Book Club Blog (about Mr. Browne’s precepts).

R.J. Palacio’s blog–where you can find the playlist of the songs she references in her book and Mr. Browne’s Precepts. Worth a look.

Another teacher, Brian Wilhorn, is reading aloud Wonder. He is putting together information on his blog to help his students understand some of the cultural references. This is quite impressive and I recommend you take a look:

http://mrwreads.blogspot.com/search/label/Wonder

My colleague, Brent Peterson, also blogged his thoughts on Wonder.

….And if you would forgive me one shameless moment of pride, R.J. Palacio actually mentioned me in her “Thank You” post. Halfway down it says:

Thank you amazing teachers and librarians who have such a passion for bringing books to your kids.

Thank you Kim Harte, Adriane White, Kelly Butcher, Rebecca Butcher, Tracy Wymer, KateR2R, Lidnsay Healey, Sharon Goodwin, Mummy Barrow, Kate Conley, Zac Harding, Tim Oneill, Mike Winchell, Matt Imrie, Katherin Sokolowsky, David Etkin, Gae Polisher, Sabrina YABliss, Nicole LeFreniere, Mike Hutchinson.

Thank you everyone who has blogged about WONDER….

I was reading it in bed when I saw that and almost dropped my iPad on my head. Unreal.

Just for fun, I’ll include a couple songs that were important to the book.

[I don’t know what the visuals are on this video, but it’s nice to see the lyrics]

A new cool trailer made by a librarian: