Background for my Nerdy Book Club Post “Why I Think Wonder Didn’t Win a Newbery”

I wrote this post on the Nerdy Book Club blog for a variety of reasons:

– To model what it means to be a connected learner in front of 27 fifth graders.
– To guide students on how to read text more critically.
– To show students how to use evidence from a text to support an opinion.
– To celebrate our learning and this excellent book I read aloud.

Modeling Connectedness

“Connectedness” is defined by the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary as “the state of being closely joined or linked especially in an emotional way”. Wonder conjured up many emotions in us as we read and discussed it. I gave students several opportunities to turn and talk with a neighbor to share their thinking during strategic points in the story. I also asked essential questions related to the book. Students were encouraged to ask questions of their own that took my thinking to a deeper level. We posted our thoughts on the Wonder group we joined on Edmodo. All of these discussions led to my opinion piece I posted on the blog. Because our thinking was available for others to read and respond to, the students had a better understanding of the importance of sharing our feelings about something online in a meaningful and respectful manner.

Critical Reading

The concept of reading critically is explained nicely in Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives by Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp (Solution Tree, 2011). According to the authors, astute readers start asking questions as soon as they pick up a text. In the post, I purposefully took the perspective that the ending was the reason Wonder didn’t win the Newbery. I wanted to create an authentic controversy. As I wrote on the computer and projected it on the Smart Board, I could tell a few student weren’t comfortable with this opinion. Their body language and facial expressions said it all. I encouraged the students to speak freely. One student, who I will call Sara, finally had had enough and blurted, “I just don’t agree with you, Mr. Renwick.” A few of her classmates’ mouths dropped open. He’s the principal! they were probably thinking. But I commended Sara on her willingness to take a risk and share her own thinking, even though it didn’t correspond with my own.

Text-Based Evidence

After expressing her opinion that in fact the ending was really great, I asked Sara to explain her position a bit more. While I cannot recall the exact conversation that took place afterward, I do remember several students joining our discussion. We compared the ending in Wonder to related stories, such as Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper. Some students brought up their own experiences of someone they know receiving a large celebration and why it was important for that person. It was also noted that sometimes the strong need to step up and help those in need, like Auggie’s classmates and the adults in his life did. This robust discussion helped form the ending on my Nerdy Book Club post. Throughout our conversations, we stayed close to the text even as we connected the book’s events with our own lives, experiences and past books we had read.

Celebration and Recognition

Once the draft of my post was complete, I printed off a copy for each student. I asked them to reread it carefully and note anything else they felt needed revision in the margins. A number of students came back the next time with several suggestions. Most of them were grammatical in nature. Feeling confident in our final draft once revised, we shipped it off to Mr. Sharp for publication. Giving several opportunities for input allowed everyone ownership in this shared writing activity.

Now that it is online, we look forward to reading the comments to the post. Maybe we will comment ourselves. Our thoughts and ideas will have a much larger audience and greater purpose with the use of the blog. We plan to celebrate our efforts with a book talk on related stories. As well, everyone can sign a “Be Kind” certificate to remind ourselves to be everyday heroes in someone’s life that we know.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

1 thought on “Background for my Nerdy Book Club Post “Why I Think Wonder Didn’t Win a Newbery””

  1. I love the process you describe! Involving students in the blog is a powerful learning experience and a true validation of their part of the project. I am so excited to try this!!!

    Like

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