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Breaking the Mold: Mary Wears What She Wants Activities for the Classroom

Do your students struggle with self-confidence? Read on to find Mary Wears What She Wants activities and read-aloud questions to promote courage, open-mindedness, and gender roles.

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Mary Wears What She Wants Summary

The Mary Wears What She Wants book is an inspiring tale of Mary Edwards Walker, a 19th-century physician who courageously defied gender norms by wearing pants.

In the early 1800s, girls had to wear uncomfortable and hot dresses. Mary was unhappy about wearing dresses as she couldn’t do the things she wanted as the boys could. 

One day, Mary has the bold idea to wear pants. She walks into town to show off her idea, but the townsfolk react with disapproval by heckling her and throwing things.

Mary doesn’t understand why they are offended by her clothes. Upset, she asks her supportive father if she should stop wearing pants. He tells Mary that people often fear change and are “scared of what they don’t understand.”

Mary continues wearing pants because they are “plain better in all sorts of ways.” When she is heckled again, Mary responds by saying she is wearing ‘my clothes.’ She becomes a trendsetter for other girls who want to wear pants.

Mary Wears What She Wants Activities

Themes of Mary Wears What She Wants include thinking for yourself, following your own path, and being true to yourself and how one person can challenge the rules to make positive changes.

Mary Wears What She Wants activities are designed to deepen students’ understanding of the book’s themes, character motivations, and historical context.

Mary Wears What She Wants Student Questions

These questions encourage your students to think critically about Mary Wears What She Wants book, character development, plot progression, setting, and underlying themes.

  1. What challenge does Mary face in the story? How does she respond?
  2. Why do you think Mary’s father was important to her?
  3. How do the other characters react to Mary’s choices? Why is that important?
  4. Identify a significant turning point in the story.
  5. How would you describe the story’s setting? How does it influence the events?
  6. Based on the historical context, how might other children Mary’s age feel about her choices?
  7. How does Mary’s decision to wear pants affect those around her?
  8. What would happen if a boy wanted to wear a dress rather than pants? Think about how he would feel and be treated compared to Mary.
  9. Why didn’t Mary Edwards Walker believe that “the way things have always been” didn’t have to stay that way? 
  10. Do you think other women and girls also hated wearing uncomfortable dresses? If so, what would have stopped them from making changes?


This
activity pack includes over 120 Mary Wears What She Wants questions to use before, during, and after reading the book.

Mary Wears What She Wants Character Analysis Activities

These Mary Wears What She Wants activities focus on Mary’s determination and the reactions of other characters. 

Students can delve into the complexities of standing up against societal expectations, explore how Mary’s actions contribute to the narrative, and discover what they reveal about her character and the people around her. 

Mary’s Determination: Understanding a character’s determination helps unpack their motivations and actions. 
Activity: Create a ‘Determination Chart’. Have students list evidence from the text and illustrations that show Mary’s determination. Discuss how these instances contribute to the narrative and what they tell us about Mary’s character.

Mary’s Conflict and Resolution: Identifying conflict and resolution is central to understanding a character’s journey and growth. 
Activity: Use a ‘Conflict and Resolution Log’ to note the conflicts Mary faces and the outcomes. Discuss the significance of these conflicts in shaping her character.

Reactions of Other Characters: Reactions contribute to character portrayal and influence how readers perceive the character. 
Activity: Act as ‘Character Reaction Detectives’, finding parts where other characters react to Mary in the book.

Mary’s Influence: Exploring how a character impacts others reveals their role and importance within the story. 
Activity: Create an ‘Influence Web’. Map out how Mary influences other characters or the storyline, visually demonstrating her network of impact.

Mary Wears What She Wants Inferencing Activities

Inference activities encourage students to read between the lines and draw conclusions based on visual cues, dialogue, and historical context. Students can infer characters’ feelings and motivations by analyzing illustrations and dialogue.

These Mary Wears What She Wants activities foster analytical thinking and comprehension skills.

Visual Cues: Inferences often come from visual details, not just text. 
Activity: Display book illustrations and let students infer character feelings or plot aspects based on visual elements alone.

Dialogue: Inferences can be drawn from what the characters say or don’t say. 
Activity: Develop a ‘Dialogue Inference Map.’ Identify dialogue instances that imply more than is said and determine the underlying message or feeling.

Plot Gaps: Students must use inference to fill in gaps where the story leaps in time or setting. 
Activity: Create ‘Inference Timelines’ where students write down what they infer happened during the story’s jumps based on information provided before and after.

Cultural & Historical Context: Inferring requires understanding beyond the immediate text, such as the time period in which the story is set. 
Activity: Prompt students to infer how her cultural and historical context would influence Mary’s choices

Mary Wears What She Wants Sequencing Activities

Sequencing activities help students understand the narrative structure of Mary Wears What She Wants. By organizing the story’s events and examining Mary’s character growth, students gain insight into the story’s progression and the impact of Mary’s choices. 

These Mary Wears What She Wants activities enhance narrative comprehension and illustrate the importance of perseverance and self-expression.

Story Structure: Recognizing beginnings, climaxes, and conclusions is crucial. 
Activity: Create a ‘Sequence Storyboard’ where students visually chart the narrative’s flow from start to finish.

Cause and Effect: Grasping this relationship helps sort events chronologically. 
Activity: Facilitate a ‘Cause and Effect Chain’; breaking down how one event leads to another in the story.

Time Markers: Identifying time markers enhances comprehension of the sequence of events. 
Activity: Engage in ‘Time Marker Highlighting’, where students highlight and discuss textual clues that indicate time or sequence changes.

Mary’s Growth: Sequencing Mary’s character development highlights her journey. 
Activity: Create a ‘Character Growth Line’. Draw a line illustrating Mary’s character changes throughout the book.

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