Sometimes when you’re reading a novel with the whole class, you just want to have an informal class discussion to talk about the story with your kids. And kids are sure to love talking about Because of Winn-Dixie, the novel by Kate DiCamillo. The characters are interesting, and Winn-Dixie himself is sure to be a conversation-starter with kids. Here are a few ideas for questions to begin a class discussion at various points in your reading of the novel:
Moving to a new home – Many students have had the experience of moving to a new home, and that’s a great place to start, since Opal’s story, in Because of Winn-Dixie, is about the summer she arrives at her new home with her dad. Kids can talk about what concerns they had (or would have if they ever had to move), and also about new things they looked forward to in their new location.
Living with one parent – Also a situation familiar to many kids. Once the kids know that the story they are about to read is about a girl living with her dad, you can frame the discussion in terms of Opal instead of the kids in your class themselves. What adjustments do you think Opal might have to make? How might Opal and her dad help each other? In what ways might her daily life be different from kids living in two-parent homes?
After Opal brings Winn-Dixie home and learns ten things about her mother
This seems like a good time for early predictions. How long do you think Winn-Dixie well get to stay? What problems do you think he might cause? Will knowing something about her mom change anything for Opal this summer?
After Opal meets Miss Franny, Otis, Gloria Dump, and the Dewberry boys
How do you think Miss Franny, Otis, or Gloria Dump might help Opal? Might Opal help them in any way, too? What do you think Opal should do if the Dewberry brothers keep pestering her? Why do you think the author brought each of these characters into the story?
After the thunderstorm
What is Opal learning about her Dad? About Winn-Dixie? How might the story change now that Opal is beginning to appreciate her dad more? What problems could Winn-Dixie’s fear of thunderstorms lead to in the future?
After reading about Littmus Lozenges
This is a great time to introduce, or review symbolism. What do the Littmus Lozenges stand for? (Sadness) What other things can you think of that stand for something?
After the party – at the end of the story
After reading is a great time to discuss themes in the story, after the kids have had a chance to see how everything plays out. Themes in Winn-Dixie such as friendship, sadness, and community, are all great discussion topics. Also by this point, kids may have their own ideas of things they can’t wait to talk about – dogs, pets, weird neighbors, parties, or whatever. Whatever the topic, a few minutes spent on a fun discussion can be well worth the time and might even make the follow-up activites that you have planned more engaging for the kids.
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