Engaging students, families, and community in anticipating the film version of this kindness and empathy value centered best seller as part of educating for literate proactive citizenship.
For over 5 years, writer RJ Palacio’s story of a severely facially disfigured child named Auggie and his social struggles as he enters middle school, has captivated young readers. Although its writer debuted with this work, it rose and stayed atop the juvenile best seller lists. Its follow up companion works-365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts (2014) and Auggie & Me – a companion book (2015) followed it to the best seller lists. While few middle school students suffer Auggie’s physical challenges as they strive for social acceptance, many experience as he does verbal bullying, social isolation, undertone ridicule, pranks meant to emotionally hurt and words which hurt even more than those intended. Words do hurt and they break spirits if not bones. Palacio works focus on small doable acts of kindness which are always needed.
In that spirit given this needed social purpose and chance to digitally engage students in close text and critical print text analysis, anticipating the Stephen Chbosky film version of the work with a script by Stephen Conrad is a classroom literacy and life learning process worth doing.How do begin?
First simply have students analyze the task that face screenwriters who adapt purchased for film print books. They must carefully read the printed text which their studio or film maker optioned for screen treatment and decide how to film it. Wonder is over 300 print pages. The screenwriter must select the key plot events and characters who will make a compelling audience film story. Sometimes characters or sub plots of a well-known story must be left out or do not translate well from the print page to rendition for screen.
Teachers can begin the exercise by asking students what books they have read have been filmed for screen and which version they liked better. Many students have been taken by teachers to the film versions of books the class has read including the Riordan, JK Rowling, Riggs, and Dahl books, so they are used to comparing as readers and as movie viewers digital versions of familiar stories. Have them share which version of a well-known story they preferred and why. In addition, they might be asked what movies have prompted them as readers to buy or borrow the book version since their interest in the story was stimulated by the film version. Teachers may wish to share a film which motivated them to read for a first time a book or reread for the second time a book to compare and to contrast the print version the film and reflect on how each version differs. Students can write short reflections on past book version movies they have seen and their responses to them. These can become personalized movie critic reflection files on their connected Chromebook device.
Next teachers can have students just read the opening five pages of the original Wonder print book as it was published in 2012 by unknown author RJ Palacio. Challenge them in 20 minutes to come up with a word description of the opening storyboards for a film version which would start with this text. In order to engage visual learners or ESL or learners notable to completely convey their digital recommendations in texts, teachers can share blank storyboards still used in film schools and as prep for PowerPoint and other advertising campaigns. Encourage students to fill these out in addition to their word description of the opening scene and to use as captions for each panel key words from the Wonder print text which inspired their storyboard panel. It should be noted that some films do use key words as a voiceover narration or as a literal graphic in digital storytelling. Before students begin their task, tell them that many classic stories such as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, and Tarzan have been filmed differently by different film makers so that the students should strive to have different visualizations for screen of this text and not just one that everyone in the class develops.
After the students have completed their initial treatments for the first scene, have them scan the storyboards and save theirs on their connected Chromebook device. If desired save these as an aggregate to a central class file and have everyone in the class react to these different visual renditions and particularly comment on the extent to which the rendition is justified by the text as the student storyboard panel designers showed with their captions.
Next blind post without the student names the suggested screen first scenes of the film, and encourage the class and some invited peer class plus invited adults to read the treatments and react to them. Ask that the adults and peers couch their reactions in the context of discussing which version is justified by text details and which version will most successfully translate to screen. These reactions can be saved in the teacher monitored classroom Chromebook connected device site.
Another question that can be raised to students anticipating the film version of this book is which songs mentioned in the print story and which copyrighted musical lyrics that focus on kindness and being different should be included in the film. Students may already know from seeing films like Guardians of the Galaxy that many film makers deliberately pay for copyrighted familiar songs that wonderfully underscore their movie message. The movie score then also climbs the charts and ironically further expands the audience for the music as well the story. Given Wonder themes of empathy, anti-bullying, friendship, standing up to ridicule and being a hero of one’s own life, students can be challenged to search music online and to download song lyrics which reflect the book’s values as well as can introduce the story in the first scenes or underscore others. Students will have to create persuasive word docs which use the downloaded lyrics to justify the film makers paying for their use in the film and explain whether the selected music can underscore the movie opening closing. The students can develop files with audio for sharing with their peers to elicit comments. This has engaged them in research using and curating music which is again a viable digital media occupation preview and taps students whose strengths or passions lie in music.
The Wonder Movie trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngiK1gQKgK8 is already accessible in advance of its release and will remain so after the release. With all the work, students have done anticipating the film, they are prepared to watch the trailer and to react as participant readers and writers to the choices it signals the film makers have made in developing book as a movie. They will react to how Auggie is embodied as opposed to the cover image of him on the print work that has come to be its emblem. They can also compare the key words and ideas from the book that will be empathized in the film or at least the trailer suggests will be empathized.
These activities will of course serve to deeply engage the students in the actual film version and encourage them as readers to debate its success or not. They can again save their reactions on their evolving student movie critic files. This method of focusing on first page and using storyboards to develop the first scene as well as researching a playlist or score plus finishing up with a preview of the trailer, can serve as a model for using upcoming movie versions of best seller or classic print texts to fully engage students as both close text readers and active critically thinking movie goers. Many adult readers who flock to the movies major studios and indie filmmakers have developed based on beloved books have been doing these types of comparisons for years, why not broaden the lifelong circle of readers and writers to include moviegoers and active movie critics with popcorn hands? The world of book publishers and the world of film makers will be all the richer for this deliberate inculcation of anticipating movie releases. Now on to the opening of Wonder on November 17, 2017 and informed student reader reactions.
Palacio, RJ. (2015). Auggie & Me. New York: Random House.
Palacio, RJ. (2014). 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts. New York: Random House.
Palacio,RJ. (2012). Wonder/ New York: Random House.
Wonder-Acts of Kindness
Dr. Rose Reissman,
Academic and Grant Funding Director for Sector 5
About Sector 5,
Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on http://www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and http://www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at http://www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.