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Free Unit for R.J. Palacio's Wonder

Updated: May 28

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Over the years, I have really struggled to find books to use with my self-contained classes. I don't feel like I should drag my kids through stuff they hate...just so they can hate reading even more, so I do really try to find books they may want to read. To do this, I read the surveys that I make them fill in at the beginning of the year, check their reading levels with whatever reading screener we are using that year, choose a few books based on that information, and then have the kids vote on which one they want to read.

In the fall of 2019, I taught my first English 9 Self-Contained class. They were LESS than pleased to meet me or to be in my English class, and they ESPECIALLY hated reading. This is not one of those stories where the next part is like "AND THEN I CHOSE THE RIGHT BOOK AND THEY BECAME READERS- IT WAS A MIRACLE." My real-life experience with self-contained is simply "try, try, keep day you will (maybe, might) figure it out." Maybe. Things with this class were especially discouraging. because we worked hard the first part of the year (on the unit below) and then COVID hit. The kids lost everything they had gained and then some, and when I had most of them again junior year, they had an exceedingly hard time getting past the state reading and writing tests. It was (and is) an extremely hard time to be a teacher, especially for those of us that teach reading and writing.

The unit below was from that 2019 freshman class. The class was made up of students who were learning disabled and/or emotionally disabled. Some were also English Language Learners. This unit took me about a semester to get through. I thought the students might have a problem with the age of the protagonist (way younger than them), but for whatever reason, they were fine with it. Please enjoy this free unit for R.J. Palacio's Wonder.

Wonder Unit

Essential Understandings:

  • Everyone has strengths.

  • Everyone has problems.


  • Students will be able to write persuasive paragraphs

  • Students will be able to write reflective journals 

  • Students will be learn and use vocabulary from the text

  • Students will learn a variety of reading strategies 

  • Students will be able to define “bullying” and identify different types of bullying in the text (and in real life)


  • Reading quizzes 

  • Journals 

  • 5-paragraph essay 

  • Reading guides/questions

Wonder Lexile:

  • 790

Day 1

Before reading Wonder, my coteacher and I laid the tracks for the unit by having kids learn about Tim Bannon, who is a wrestler that has no arms.

We started by showing them this picture & asking them what they noticed:

Tim Bannon
Tim Bannon

In groups, we asked them to discuss: What are things that he can do? What are some things that he might not be able to do?

Next, the students completed a journal and then read an article about Tim.

To read the article, I broke the class up into two small groups. I kept one group and my coteacher took the other. Volunteers took turns reading the article aloud. While reading, students answered the questions on the handout and then completed the "After" questions once we finished.

We also watched the video of his viral box jump because how could we not after that article!

Day 2

The format of most class periods is vocabulary, background building, and then reading a section of text with "before," "during," and "after" questions. Some days we also do an "attendance question," which is just a silly way to talk to the kids and get to know things about them. Sometimes I do match the attendance question to the lesson but not always.

After we read about Tim Bannon, I had the students read about Toni Harris, a woman who wants to play in the NFL one day. We learned some of the vocabulary in the text and did a whole "Before," "During," "After" routine.

Attendance Question: What is your favorite sport to watch?

Vocabulary: Give students the vocabulary chart and have them fill in some/all of it (depending on time). Afterwards, ask them to make a prediction about the article they are going to read based on the vocabulary & sentences.

Before Reading

Before reading, we watched a commercial that featured Toni Harris. I asked students to observe what they saw and answer a few questions about the text type (commercial).

Commercial: Watch & Observe

During Reading

Day 3

Attendance Question: When I grow up I want to ___________________________ .  (5 minutes)

Vocabulary Review: (10 minutes)

  • “Find your partner”: Each student is given a piece of paper with either a vocabulary word or a student-friendly definition on it. The students with coordinating vocabulary word and student-friendly definition must find each other. Once everyone has found their partner, mix up the papers and repeat the process several times.

  • Vocabulary handout for "Find Your Partner"

  • Alternatively, you could have students draw a picture for each vocabulary word.

After Reading (30-40 minutes)

  • After reading, I had students write a paragraph about whether they felt Harris should play in the NFL or not. For my students, I needed to review the structure of paragraph before they could complete the assignment.

  • Toni Harris Paragraph

Day 4

After laying thematic foundation for the unit, we could move on to starting the story.

Lecture & Notes (15-20 minutes) I started by lecturing about Treacher Collins and had students take a few notes.

Vocabulary (15-20 minutes)

To introduce the vocabulary for Wonder, I gave kids a handout with the vocabulary words and definitions. They had to cut out the definitions and match them to the vocabulary words & we went over them.

Journal: What would you change about yourself? (100 words)

The opening of Wonder is Auggie (the main character) wishing that things were different, so this prompt is a simple way to get kids to connect to the text.

My students need very specific directions, and I have found the word count to be a more effective way of getting them to develop their ideas. Inevitably, they will type 18 words and then look around and say "HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GET 100 WORDS?" To which I say "tell me a story about how you know what you know." This usually gets them to 50 words and then we repeat the process. The more reticent my students are about writing, the smaller I keep the word count and then build it up over time.

Reading Time (15-20 minutes)

Because Wonder was well above the independent reading level of my students, we listened to the audiobook and worked on comprehension skills that way. Sometimes I would have them reread small passages on their own and work through them.

When I taught this book originally, I don't think the Audible audiobook had been published yet, and we listened to a terrible narration YouTube. The YouTube videos I used are no longer available (phew) but the Audible is AWESOME. I hate spending my own money for school supplies but having a good narration of a book saves me so much grief that I usually spring for it.

This chart has the audiobook times matched up to some pages of Wonder so that it's easier to navigate if you forget where you left off one class.

I always try and give my students something to do while they are reading/listening.

Today we talked read the 1st page and did a lot of prep work beforehand. I asked the kids to define the word "ordinary" and then we developed that idea. We then read/listened to the first page of the story & talked about how Auggie was ordinary.

Days 5 & 6

Before Reading

During Reading

Once we discussed the first page, we listened to a bigger chunk of the opening. I assigned each student one character and had them take notes on that one character.

Reading Directions

  • Listen to 15 more minutes. While listening to today's audiobook excerpt (~15 minutes), students should still be taking notes on their assigned character.

After Reading

  • After reading, each student should share out the notes they took for their character.

  • The students who are listening should fill in the character chart.

    • Day 7


  • Finish vocabulary pictures or try and use each word in a sentence.

Before Reading

Before: Recap reading from last class & new characters.

  • Jack 

  • Will 

  • Charlotte

Every once in a while, I would photocopy the book pages so that kids could write on them. I usually put questions in the margin, as well. I did that for this section and had kids box words they did not know, as well as put a question mark near confusing sections.

During Reading (Listen to audiobook for about 15 minutes.)


1. While you are reading, put a box around words you do not know. 

2. Put a question mark near sentences that you do not understand. 

3. Answer the questions throughout the packet in full sentences

After Reading

  • Share out answers to questions in the packet.

Day 8


  • Have students use Google to find an example sentence for each word.

Before Reading

  • Review the characters that students met in the reading from last class.

    • Jack

    • Will

    • Charlotte

In this section of the book, Auggie's parents convince Auggie to visit his new school before it officially starts. He meets some of his classmates and the interactions are mixed. I asked students to track Auggie's interactions with his classmates and whether they were positive or negative.

During Reading

  • Listen to audiobook for 15 minutes, starting around minute 33.

  • While reading, fill in this handout to track his interactions with others.


After the reading (this is on the above handout), I asked kids to complete a journal where they reflect on how they are similar or different to one of the characters we've met so far.

Day 9

Vocabulary: Say the words out loud and have students repeat. If students are up for the challenge, have them write a story using the words. I usually have trouble getting kids to do this activity since struggling readers are often also struggling writers, but the other day I gave them story cubes to use and they went nuts. I thought they would hate being required to use the story cubes on top of having to use the vocabulary words, but for some reason they were into this version of the activity.

These are the story cubes I have (and used):

Journal: Write about your first day of high school. If you can’t remember, write about your first day of 6th, 7th, or 8th grade. (200 words)

Reading Time

For pages 30-44, I printed a packet , put summary questions in the margin, and asked kids to do the following:

1. While you are reading, put a box around words you do not know. 

2. Put a question mark near sentences that you do not understand. 

3. Answer the questions throughout the packet in full sentences. 


Go over questions & annotations.

Day 10


Go over Wonder words by having students say them out loud to a partner and then play a few rounds of Pictionary on scrap paper or whiteboards.

  • disappoint 

  • terrible 

  • exaggerate 

  • imitate 

  • hysterical 

  • cranky 

  • petrified 

  • ignore 

  • anomaly

Journal: Who was your favorite teacher in middle or high school? Why?

Reading Time

  • Read/listen pages 45-53 of Wonder and pay attention to the new character, Summer.


The checklist asks students to identify characteristics that Summer does or does not have.

Day 11


  • Vocabulary quiz (paid product)

Reading Time

  • Read/Listen to chapters “One to Ten” through “Padawan”. 


Journal: Write about a time someone did something incredibly nice or helpful for you. (50-100 words)

Day 12


Introduce new vocabulary. I did not do much with the vocabulary this round but even doing a vocabulary preview is worth the time.

Introducing Annotating

Introduce annotating by explaining that "annotating" is writing on writing. Briefly review the previous vocabulary words and ask the students to write the words on Post-Its: 

  • cranky 

  • anomaly 

  • impatient

  • petrified 

  • hysterical

  • terrible

While they are reading, they should match each word to a situation that matches its definition.

Reading Time 

  • Listen to pages 61-70 of Wonder

  • Match each vocabulary word with an example of it by putting your sticky note in the book.  

After Reading

  • Make sure you have matched all of your words to a situation in the book. 

  • Fill in the sentence starters., where students need to explain why they put their Post-Its where they did.

Day 13

Class Share-out: What are you going to be for halloween? What have you been in the past?

  • Q: What do people do on Halloween? 

  • Go over the halloween costumes in the story since kids might not know them: Halloween Costumes in Wonder

Reading Time

  • Read/Listen to pages 76-80 of Wonder


After this section, I had students write a letter about how he should handle the situation with Jack.

Day 14

Opening question: When you are mad, what do you do to calm down?

Reading Time

For this section of Wonder, I focused on the idea of "forgiveness"

Read/Listen to the assigned pages and answer the questions. 

  • "Jack"

  • “Four Things”

  • “Ex-Friends” 

  • “In Science”

  • “Partners”

-Journal: If you were August, would you forgive Jack? Why or why not? (Forgive: to stop blaming; to not be mad at someone anymore) 

Day 15

For the "text message section" of Wonder, I wanted to focus on the topic of friendship and what makes a good friend.

Before Reading Wonder

Before reading this section, I gave students this "Friendship Sort" and asked them to sort out the listed actions by what a good friend would do and what a bad friend would do.

We then read this article from titled "How to be a Good Friend."

After the read the article, we revisited the sort and talked about what kids put where. This activity helped to prepare the kids to listen to the next section and analyze Jack & Auggie's friendship.

Wonder Reading Time

  • Read text message section. (I thought listening to this particular section in the audiobook was tedious to I prefer to have kids read it.)

After Reading

Day 16

At this point in the unit, I stopped to do some character review and give the kids a reading quiz. I asked the students to complete one of the review options below and then I gave them some questions from my unit test. The unit test is one long multiple choice test for Wonder (paid product), but I use chunks of the questions throughout the unit as needed instead of doing one long test as the end.

Character Review Options

1. Movie recommendations. Choose 5 characters from the list below. From all the movies you’ve seen in the last couple of years, recommend a movie for each character. You can use Google, too. Give a brief summary of each movie and explain why you think the character should see it. or why they would enjoy it.  Create on a Google Doc.

2. Music. Choose 5 characters from the list below. Look through your music collection on your phone or computer. Choose a song that you think matches each character. Give a brief summary of each song and explain why you think  it matches the character. Create on a Google Doc.

3. Super Heroes or Video Game Characters: Choose 5 characters from the list below and choose a hero or video game character that matches their personalities. Include a picture of the hero or video game character and explain your choice. Create on a Google Doc.

4. Choice: Come up with your own creative project that will show us that you understand the at least 5 characters in Wonder.

5. Birthday card: Create a birthday card for August and write him a letter in which you use 5-7 words from the word wall. 

Characters in Wonder 


-August’s mom 

-August’s dad 






-Mr. Tushman 

-Ms. Petosa 

-Mr. Brown 

Wonder Multiple Choice Test

Day 17

Opening Question: What do you not like about the book, Wonder?


For vocabulary, I assigned each student a word from our 2nd set of vocabulary and ask them to fill in this "Word Expert" handout. Students presented their "expert findings" to the class over the course of the next few class periods.

Reading Time

  • Summarize previous reading on scrap paper)

  • Listen to pages 168-174 (or wherever you previously left off)

  • Stop for Question: How is Jack’s return to school going? 

  • Continue reading/listening through page 179

After Reading

Writing: Jack is experiencing some pretty crazy stuff, and I thought to myself. "This can’t be real." I want you to respond to the following prompt: 

  • How accurate is Wonder in depicting real life in school?  Provide at least 3 examples to prove your point. 

Day 18

Vocabulary: Word Expert Share Out

  • Have two "word experts" share out what they learned about their word.

Before Reading

In this activity, students create a symbol for each of the main characters and list a movie the character might enjoy.

Share out: Who is your favorite character in your choice book or Wonder, and why?

Reading Time (big chunk)

  • Read from 208-225

  • Add to brainstorm that students started yesterday in response to the prompt: How accurate is Wonder in depicting real life in school? 

Day 19

Vocabulary: Word Expert Share Out

  • Have two "word experts" share out what they learned about their word.

Opening Question: What sorts of field trips have you been on?

Reading/Listening Time

  • Listen to pages 225-256


Write about a great field trip or a terrible field trip that you have been on. Explain what made it great or terrible. (150-200 word)

Day 20

Vocabulary: Word Expert Share Out

  • Have two "word experts" share out what they learned about their word.

Opening share-out (Time-20 minutes)

  • Write about something that was important to you when you were little.


  • Tell your group members and teacher about a great or awful field trip that you went on.

  • Read: 257-264

Day 21

Vocabulary (20 minutes)

  • Start creating a comic (I usually give them two vocab sessions to do this...or more)

  • Use 3 or 4 vocabulary words from this unit.

  • Check your capitalization and punctuation!

  • Underline the words.

Before Reading

At this point in the book we focused on bullying. I used resources from I lectured on the types of bullies and had students take notes. Afterwards, kids had to read a scene in Wonder and analyze the types of bullies present. I use this lesson for multiple books.


Reading Time

  • Read/listen: 261- top of 269

Days 22 & 23

Vocabulary (20 minutes)

  • Continue working on your vocabulary comic

Before Reading

Reading Time

  • Give print out of 265-269 “Alien” to “Voices in the Dark”

  • Give kids the "bullying handout." This has all of the terms in case they did not get all of the notes the previous lesson.

  • Have students get 6 colored pencils, crayons, or markers. They will need blue, green, purple, red, yellow, and pink.

  • While they are reading pages 265-269 in Wonder, students will highlight the actions of the different characters in different colors:

    • Blue= Kid who bullies

    • Green=Kids who are bullied

    • Purple=Kids who assist

    • Red=Kids who reinforce

    • Yellow=Outsiders/bystanders

    • Pink=Kids who defend

  • Complete the first page with students until they understand what to do, and then let them complete the next few pages with a partner or on their own.

Day 24

Writing Time

  • Prompt: In your own words, explain the different bullying “roles” that at least 3 characters played in this scene. Provide examples to support your answer. 

Reading Time

Days 25 & 26 -The End of the Book

End of Book

Final Quiz

Choose questions as needed to create a final reading check.

At this point, I was very tired and needed a movie break. The movie is as adorable as the book and I felt zero guilt showing it.

Days 27 & 28-Writing & Wrap Up

Because I am a masochist, I had the kids write an essay after reading the book. The prompt was: What makes you a wonder? Because my self-contained students are often struggling readers and writers, all writing needs to be scaffolded.

We started by brainstorming the things that made each student unique. For kids with low self-esteem that struggle with school, this was an extremely hard list for them to make. My coteachers and I helped by telling kids who were stuck all of the good things about them. Normally I let kids sweat for a while before I help them (better for learning), but I didn't want to leave them hanging with this particular activity

After each kid came up with AT LEAST 3 ideas (if not 5-10), we moved them onto the outline. The outline was for a basic 5-paragraph essay.

Lastly, students had to type up the essay.

When they finished typing their essay, we asked them to write something nice about each of their classmates on a sheet of paper. I collected these and vetted them before redistributing to other students.

In the comments, please tell me all the amazing ways in which you chose to wrap up this unit.

I hope you enjoyed this free unit for R.J. Palacio's Wonder.

Texts Connected to Wonder

...there are so many good ones...

Marcelo in the Real World is about a 17-year-old boy with Autism whose father wants him to get out into the world. Instead of sending Marcelo to camp for the summer, his father brings him to his law office to work. Similar to Auggie, he struggles to fit in and has to learn to survive in the real world, not the sheltered one his parents have created for him.

Themes of acceptance. Sean's father is not sure that Sean has a high quality of life. Sean has severe Cerebral Palsy and cannot communicate, but he has a rich inner life that no one knows about. He wishes that everyone could understand he has the same hopes and dreams as everyone else.

Stargirl is a good one. If you haven't read it, pull out your hanky and download it right now. Stargirl is a free spirit and faces a lot of bullying at her school because of it.

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