Wednesday, April 3, 2013

WONDERful Precepts and Connecting with Students Over the Summer

Now that Spring Break is officially over, several things have occurred:

1. I seriously miss my ample reading time! Over break, I read and read. If that could be my full time job, wouldn't that be wonderful? I am still reading, but not as much.

2. Testing mania has set in, as we prepare for our Ohio Achievement Assessments, less than three weeks from now. This is the point in the year where you begin to feel worried, due to the pressure to "get high scores", that you may have spent a little too much time allowing students to read and recommend books. (That idea gives me the chills.) According to many teachers who have allowed independent reading to be a large part of their reading instruction, high test scores are a natural byproduct of meaningful reading in the classroom. I know the more my students read, the more successful they are. However, a part of me knows that many of these standardized tests do little to tell me what my students can or cannot do - so, what will the outcome be?

3. My classes picked up reading where we left off in Wonder. I am thrilled that they still continue to love this book, certainly the longest book they've ever had shared aloud. This is a book that easily connects to my students. They love to give their opinion of how they would have acted in certain situations or handled the same problems Auggie and the other characters faced. Many of them, yesterday, felt Jack was justified in hitting Julian (I couldn't completely disagree), but many took a surprising stance - that it was both right and wrong - and that incidents like these in life are much more complicated, more complex, more "gray" than they first appear.

4. Lastly, I have been thinking about Mr. Browne's precepts, which appear throughout Wonder. I love them. My favorite precept is "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." from Dr. Wayne Dyer. I have tried to instill this in my students this year. Choosing to be kind is not always natural, can be hard for kids, but is so important. I also loved how Mr. Browne connected with his students over the summer. In the book, the students at Beecher Prep have these precepts to take home with them in June. In the summer, they are required to mail Mr. Browne a precept of their own on a postcard. I LOVE this idea of keeping in touch with students - in some way - over summer break. I would like to do one related to their summer reading - maybe ask them an important theme they've discovered from their reading or an important personal connection they've made?

So, friends, the question do YOU connect with your students over the summer? Please share any ideas of ways you communicate with your class of students over the summer. I think we should all be inspired to connect with our students, even when they are away from us and even into the future, when they may not be in our physical classroom anymore.

Mr. Browne's precepts (rules to live by), from Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  1. "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."   —Dr. Wayne Dyer
  2. "Your deeds are your monuments."   —Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
  3. "Have no friends not equal to yourself."   —Confucius
  4. "Fortune favors the bold."   —Virgil
  5. "No man is an island, entire of itself."   —John Donne
  6. "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers."   —James Thurber
  7. "Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much."   —Blaise Pascal
  8. "What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful."   —Sappho
  9. "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can."   —John Wesley
  10. "Just follow the day and reach for the sun."   —The Polyphonic Spree
  11. "Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world."   —Auggie Pullman


  1. Ever find yourself reading books on the Danish resistance to the Nazis and fantasizing that one day, every teacher in Ohio would just say "NO!" Still, even 40 years ago we were taking Iowa tests in school, so I don't understand why people get so bent out of shape. A lot of jobs now do have tests that have to be taken periodically, so it's not bad practice!

  2. I think it is just the pressure put on by the higher-ups. It can be intense.

  3. Ryan, I loved the precept idea too. I 've been collecting quotes for a 2nd/3rd grade Choose Kind unit and forgot about that part of Wonder.

  4. Barb, that unit sounds very exciting! This book is such a treasure-trove of teaching!