Completing a book study doesn’t seem like a big deal but Indian Trail Comprehensive Development Classroom teacher Haley Parker said she couldn’t be prouder of her students as they completed their first book study back in February.
Parker and her students started the book “Wonder” in November and finished it just before Valentine's Day. After finishing the novel, the group turned their focus on the theme of the novel "kindness" by completing a craft project to explain what they find wonderful about themselves. They also finished in time to celebrate National Random Acts of Kindness Day, which allowed the students to complete activities including telling and writing the things they like about one another, making cards for Indian Trail faculty and staff, and coloring posters to hang around the school to remind others to be kind.
“I am so proud of my students,” said Parker through a big smile. “This is a brand-new experience for our CDC students, and it was a big challenge for them. They completely exceeded my expectations.”
While Parker had a bit of hesitancy before the group started, those fears quickly disappeared as her students stayed eager and engaged to read the next pages of the book. Parker also noted that it was a huge reminder to never doubt anyone’s abilities.
“It reminded me that we should never doubt ourselves or our students, we just need to try,” Parker said. “You can’t be scared to fail in order to help them succeed.”
Wonder, written by R.J. Palacio, is a common book found in the 5th-grade curriculum. The book is about a student who is born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Auggie Pullman becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade, as his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance.
“People may think that my kids are like August, but in their heads, they don’t see it that way,” Parker said. “They’re taking the initiative to be kind to other people.”
Parker found resources that provided visuals for her students and encouraged them to ask meaningful questions throughout the reading. One student, who is visually impaired and deaf, used a special book to "read" along with the class for a fully inclusive experience. Parker also showed students pictures of words and phrases that they may not understand like standing ovation. The book also allowed the students to explore the school building and a memorable moment occurred when the students walked to the Indian Trail auditorium after they read about an auditorium from a scene in the book.
The most important part of the project was helping to switch the student’s perspectives on reading. Parker said that she wanted to not only teach her students to read but show them how reading can be fun and all of the things that you can learn. Since finishing the book, she’s noticed that her students are talking about settings, characters and other story details.
“Finishing this novel together has shown them that there are big stories that they can read on their own, Parker said. “We just have to start small and they will be able to do it too.”