Pre-Reading Activities for Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

''Wonder'' by R.J. Palacio tells the story of a young boy who struggles in school because of a cleft palate and facial deformity. This lesson focuses on pre-reading activities you can use to prepare students for the novel.

Palacio's Wonder

Palacio's story Wonder is about a young boy named August. He has a facial deformity, which makes him feel self-conscious. He had normally been home-schooled; however, his family decides to enroll him in a regular school so that he will learn to better socialize and feel easier around people. Because of his face, he spends his fifth-grade year struggling to make friends and overcome people's first impression of him. He does find two friends, and although he has a rocky time with it, he grows and evolves. This story's message is one about strength and not judging a book by its cover.

Pre-Reading Activities

Before having students read this story, it's helpful to do some pre-reading activities to prepare them for its message. The following activities are meant to help students become more engaged with the novel before they read it.

Can't Turn Away

A large challenge for August in the story Wonder is how his facial deformity makes people look at him and how people treat him because of it. So, for this activity, bring in eyeliners (since they are washable), and when your students are finally in class, have them draw weird shapes on each others' faces. The drawings should be nothing as simple as a square or a heart; instead, have them draw swirls, squiggles, and things that grow or come from their eyes or mouths.

Then have the students go through their classes the rest of the day without explaining the marks. Once they come back the next day, have the students describe how they felt and what kind of attention they received. This will give them a very meager idea of how hard it is for someone like August.

How Are You Different?

August is different, and that makes him the brunt of bullies in school. Have a class discussion to make the students think about what makes them different. Is it their background, their voice, or their hair color? Have them really reflect on themselves to determine what makes them different. Does this difference affect them in any way? If so, how? This reflection is good for students to understand themselves as they start reading this novel and learning about August's experiences.

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