When it comes to books that deliver a powerful message promoting kindness and empathy, Wonder by R.J. Palacio is at the top of most reading lists. It’s not just a book that students read once and put down—students frequently return to the story to reflect on Auggie’s experience and the lessons related to bullying, acceptance, peer pressure, and courage that Wonder promotes.
Beyond its pages, Wonder has inspired pro-kindness and anti-bullying movements, which encourage students to embrace an active role to prevent bullying. Instead of being bystanders, students are encouraged to be “upstanders”—a transformation that, of course, requires support from teachers. With the following activities you can help young readers of Wonder to focus less on their differences, and instead reflect on the similarities they share with one another to help put an end to bullying.
In groups of 2 or 3, encourage students to brainstorm questions to ask Auggie about his facial difference using words that are both kind and respectful. After they come up with a few questions, bring the class together to share and discuss their questions and how Auggie would answer them.
Invite a guest speaker to your classroom.
Many teachers and staff members work with students with physical differences. Reach out and invite one to talk with students about their experiences. They can share stories about how the students they work with are similar and different, and what students in your class can do to welcome those with differences and ensure that they feel like they belong.
Create a wall display featuring all kinds of people.
Wall displays of photographs and books featuring all kinds of people are a great way to promote empathy and encourage discussion about differences and similarities between people. When students see all kinds of people, they can reflect on what makes them unique and all the ways they’re similar, too.
When it comes to teaching students the value of kindness and empathy in the classroom, books are a powerful tool. And for teachers, Wonder is one of those books that’s often revisited and referenced to inspire kindness and prevent bullying inside and outside the classroom. These activities are just a few ways to complement their reading and keep them connected to the important themes and messages used to promote understanding and acceptance of others.