by Sally King
Cindy Millen and team partner Kathy Bartkiewicz, fourth grade teachers at Grindstone Elementary, received the Neal and Lynnette Knautz Hesche Writing/Reading Enrichment Grant for $1000 to help finance a reading project using the chapter book, Wonder. Brook Park Memorial teachers, Mickey Krivak and Lisa Hixson, joined Millen and Bartkiewicz by also using the program with their fourth grade students.
Written by author, R.J. Palacio, Wonder targeted students between the ages of 8 to 13. Classified as realistic fiction, Wonder was told using different points of view, many characters, and numerous different situations. The project’s goal was, through the teaching of this story, students would come to understand, recognize, and accept each individual’s differences as well as think about the way they interacted with one another. The project was timed to help fourth grade students develop these qualities prior to moving to fifth grade at Ford Middle School.
The main character in the story was Auggie, a 10-year-old boy born with major genetic abnormalities. Auggie was home schooled until his parents enrolled him in Beecher Prep School at the fifth grade level. After he was enrolled at Beecher, the focus of Wonder changed to how Auggie adjusted to school and his peers as well as how they adjusted to him.
The students from Grindstone Elementary not only worked with fourth grade students from their own school, but they regularly communicated with the fourth grade students from Brook Park Memorial. Blogging and creative writing played major roles in enabling the students to interact with one another on a regular basis. This story’s activities led to the development of character, academic skills, teambuilding, and thoughtful social and academic growth for all students.
The Wonder Grant was used to purchase a book for each fourth grade student. By purchasing books and expanding the group, more students were able to be involved and the impact was widened. Assessments were done throughout the project using the students’ written reflections as well as from oral discussions with both students and teachers. The unit was begun in early January.