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Wonder by RJ Palacio

Teacher Guide by Becky Harvey

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Wonder Include:

Wonder is the touching tale about a fifth grade boy, August Pullman ("Auggie"), who was born with a rare combination of genetic anomalies, causing him to look “deformed”. These birth defects require many surgeries throughout his childhood. As a result, Auggie is not able to attend public school until fifth grade. Though he is very smart and has been home-schooled, Auggie has no idea what it is like to be in school with other children. His only experiences with people, besides his family and a few others, have been in hospitals or when people gawked at him in public.

The book relates Auggie’s first year of school from the perspective of many different characters. He experiences both bullying and random acts of kindness. The story is an eye-opening account that helps the reader understand what it is like to be different, to experience bullying, and to persevere. Wonder is a great tool in the fight against bullying.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Wonder Summary

Wonder by RJ Palacio, is about a boy, “Auggie”, who faces bullying and misunderstanding on a regular basis, due to a disfiguring genetic condition. The first part of the book is from Auggie’s perspective and describes his transition from homeschooling to a private school.

Except for his appearance, which people find disturbing or upsetting, Auggie thinks of himself as a normal kid. He has been homeschooled for many years, due to this medical issue and related surgeries, but his mother feels he should start middle school with other children.

Auggie is petrified of going to a “real school”, but has always wanted to experience friendships the way other kids did. He admits to having a few friends, but nothing like “normal” kids experience. After a bit of back and forth with his parents, Auggie agrees to at least meet the head of his new school.

When he goes for a tour, he is introduced to three students: Jack, Julian, and Charlotte. Though Jack and Charlotte are slightly uncomfortable, they handle themselves well and manage to be nice and helpful to Auggie. Julian starts off mean and continues with nasty, under-handed remarks, even after school is in session.

Readers are introduced to Mr. Brown, one of Auggie’s teachers. He teaches the kids about precepts: ”PRECEPTS = RULES ABOUT REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS!” They are mottos to live by, according to Mr. Brown. The first precept of the year (and a theme of the book) is, “WHEN GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN BEING RIGHT OR BEING KIND, CHOOSE KIND.”

Auggie meets a new friend, Summer, who sits with him at lunch. He also hangs out with Jack a lot. He works hard in school and experiences many happy firsts, all while feeling that people are judging him. While most of his time is happy, Auggie has one particularly painful experience on Halloween. When Auggie changes his costume at the last minute, the other students don’t realize it is him. Auggie overhears Julian saying he would kill himself if he had a face like Auggie’s. Auggie is so upset, he has to go home sick.

The second section of the book is from the view of Via, Auggie’s older sister. She loves her brother very much, but doesn’t remember a time when August wasn’t the center of attention. She says this is okay, but it becomes clear Via does need to have some attention given to her. She has always been Auggie’s “protector”, even when confused by the complex circumstances of her family’s life, and despite not understanding how Auggie deals with people’s stares and comments.

The remaining chapters show readers how some of the other characters perceive Auggie. They capture the different feelings and emotions children experience when interacting with people who are different. These chapters portray many perspectives on bullying and dealing with bullying.


Essential Questions for Wonder

  1. Why is it important to “choose kind”?
  2. How does the way we treat people affect them throughout their lives?
  3. How do the parallel stories help the reader understand the plot events better?
  4. How does our time in school affect our lives outside of school?
  5. How do Mr. Brown’s precepts relate to the theme of the novel?

Wonder Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Wonder Characters


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Understanding the point of view and feelings of each character is very important when reading Wonder. The author uses different characters' points of view to show readers how Auggie affects people in different ways. For each of the characters (for whom a chapter is named and from whose point of view in which it is written,) list his or her relationship to Auggie, his or her traits, whether or not YOU believe he or she is kind (and why), and a quote by the character that backs that up.


PRO TIP: Search for "shadow" to find the face shadow for Auggie.

August Pullman ("Auggie")

Traits

  • brave
  • friendly
  • inspirational
  • self-conscious
  • smart

Relationship to Auggie

    Self

Quote that Shows Kindness Level

    “AUGUST PULLMAN'S PRECEPT: Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world." - Auggie

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Wonder and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a Storyboard That character to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in Textables for Character Traits, Relationship to Auggie, and Quote to Show Kindness Level.
  5. Save and submit the assignment.


(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Wonder Text Connections


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Throughout the book, readers are introduced to a variety of thoughts on how to live a better life. These thoughts are called, "Mr. Brown's Precepts", and each ties into the story. Most come down to the basic idea that being good to others will make our lives better.

In this exercise, have students find Mr. Brown's precepts, or other inspiring quotes from the book, and correlate the words to something in their life. Students can choose three separate quotes and do separate scenes, or they can choose one and use a sequence of events to illustrate how the quote ties into their experiences.

Mr. Brown's precept, "choose kind", is meant to make us realize that our words and actions affect other people.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies three of Mr. Brown's precepts or other inspiring quotes from the book, and connects each precept to your personal experiences.


  1. Select three of Mr. Brown's precepts or other inspiring quotes from the book and type them into the description boxes.
  2. Illustrate a scene or situation from your personal experiences that goes along with each of the precepts or quotes.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Wonder Themes


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There are a number of recurring themes in Wonder, including bullying and kindness. Have students choose one or two themes and create a storyboard with dialogue to depict each theme as represented in the text. Next, have students connect their chosen theme to real life, either imagined or historical, and show it in a storyboard.

For example, courage is one theme explored in Wonder. It is shown in a variety of ways. One of the first glimpses we get into Auggie's courage is when he decides to try public school, despite being very nervous about it. He is scared of the way classmates will react to him and his looks. After meeting with the principal and talking with his parents, Auggie decides to try it out. This new chapter in his life, fills him with fear, but he faces it with courage.

Courage was displayed by the African-American students and their parents when schools were desegregated in the United States. Despite verbal abuse and threats of physical violence, these brave students made their way through the doors of the schools and led our country through historic changes.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Wonder. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Wonder you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme from the story.
  4. Think of your own example of this theme from the real world.
  5. Write a description of each of the examples.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Wonder Summary | Plot Diagram


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Understanding a story's plot is very important. Each piece needs to happen in a particular order for the story to make sense. In Wonder, readers must first be introduced to August and his disorder before we can understand why other children might want to make fun of him. We also need to learn about the way Daisy, Auggie's dog, treats him and how Auggie thinks she sees him, to understand his deep connection to her.

In this activity, students create their own plot diagram of Wonder including Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. Each part should be labeled and include text to explain what is happening in each cell.



An alternative plot diagram, as shown below in the example, has a shortened storyboard: Introduction, Climax, and Resolution. This shorter storyboard does not go into as much detail as a traditional plot diagram, but allows students to choose and focus on a defining moment for the climax.


Example Alternative Wonder Plot Diagram

Exposition

August Pullman is a boy with physical abnormalities that have kept him home-schooled until now. Mrs. Pullman explains to Auggie that it is time for him to start going to a public school with other children.


Climax

Auggie's classmates stick up for him when he is assaulted by the older kids while in the woods on the class trip.


Resolution

Mr. Tushman congratulates Auggie to the sounds of a standing ovation. Auggie says everyone should get at least one in their lifetime.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Wonder.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Symbolism in Wonder


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A number of symbols appear throughout Wonder. Symbols are objects or events that have a deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. Have students choose something from Wonder that has symbolic meaning, and create a storyboard of it along with a text explanation.

Questions to get students started:

  • Why is the object important?
  • What object, feeling, or change does the symbol represent?
  • Do characters in the story recognize the symbolism, or is it only the reader?

Examples of Symbolism in Wonder

Shoes

Auggie mentions shoes a number of times. This shows that he spends a lot of time looking down, not making eye contact. This is probably because he is self-conscious and doesn't want to see the reactions people will have to his face.


Padawan Braid

Auggie cutting his braid off symbolizes personal growth and a clear transition from one part of his life (homeschooling) to another ("real school").


Masks

Auggie frequently wore an astronaut helmet in the past, and also wears a "Scream" mask on Halloween. Masks symbolize Auggie's desire to hide from others. He feels freakish and thinks people don't like him because of his appearance.


(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies and explains symbols in Wonder.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify three symbols from Wonder and replace the text in the title boxes.
  3. Create an image using any combination of scenes, characters, items, and text that represents this symbol in the context of the story.
  4. Write a description of each of the symbols.



(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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