Friday, February 28, 2014

Theme and Inference in Dr. Seuss

Next week, as we know, is Dr. Seuss' birthday.   Like many of you, my school is doing a whole week of "Read Across America" celebration and I wanted to participate in the celebration, but everything I was finding that dealt with Dr. Seuss was just too primary.  While my kids enjoy cutting and coloring, I wanted them to do a bit more.

So I decided that we would spend a week looking at the underlying themes and inferences that are in some of Dr. Seuss' books.

Themes?  Inferences?  Dr. Seuss?

Yes.  You see, Theodor Geisel spent much of his early career as a political cartoonists, and many of his books are rife with political and ethical ideas and messages.  So we, as a class, set off to look at some of them.  Here is what we did.

On day one, I read The Cat in the Hat (Beginner Books(R)) aloud to the students.  Of course they had heard the story before, but I asked them to look for evidence of ethical decisions that had to be made. Trust, wrongness, rudeness, and lying were things I wanted them to listen for.  After we read the story, I gave them some discussion questions and had them break off into groups of 3 or 4 to talk about what we read.  The questions were philosophical things like:


You can get a copy of the discussion questions here.

After the small group discussion, we came together as a class and discussed whole group.

The next day, the students broke into groups of 4 or 5 and read a different Dr. Seuss book.  The book list was as follows:


* The Lorax (Classic Seuss) 
* Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories 
* The Sneetches and Other Stories
* How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Classic Seuss) 
* The Butter Battle Book: (New York Times Notable Book of the Year) (Classic Seuss) 
* Green Eggs and Ham 
* Horton Hears A Who! 

(click any of the links above and it will take you to Amazon to get the book for your own lesson...if you need it of course!)

After they read the book, the students were given discussion questions similar to those we used for The Cat in the Hat (though they were specific to the story at hand.)  The questions were all designed to get the kids thinking about the book in a more thematic, ethical, deeper way.  Here is a copy of the recording sheets with the discussion questions for each book.  Students used these sheets for the remainder of the week.

Day three, I asked the students to think about the main idea of the story, pulling evidence and details from the text to support the main idea.  I used The Cat in the Hat to model for them, then the students went off on their own.  You can get






On day four, the students thought more specifically about the theme and lesson of the story.  What was Dr. Seuss trying to teach us?  Again I modeled with The Cat in the Hat before they  By this point, the kids had read the book so many times, and had referred back to the discussion questions enough, that they really understood the underlying messages in the story.

I then asked the kids to think about a new title for the story.  What would they rename it if they had to tell the message and main idea in the title.  They brainstormed, came up with the titles, and remade the covers with the new titles.   I loved how the students really thought about what the story was trying to teach us (ie:  The Sneetches was a take on prejudice and acceptance of who you are and The Butter Battle Book was about the absurdity of war....and the kids got it!)  Their titles really tried to sum up what they had learned through the book.  Here are some of the finished products.

All in all, I am so very happy with our Dr. Seuss study.  The kids were digging into the books, looking for evidence, making inferences, thinking about theme and main idea, all the while discussing and working in groups.  They were able to see that sometimes the books they read aren't what they seem at first and even picture books can be a treasure trove of literary gold.  So many standards, so much learning, so much Seuss.

If you would like to do this in your room, here are the recording sheets I created to use in my own class.    And be sure to come back for my next post, as I have a little "craft" (and I use the term loosely) to tell you about that we also did and came out cute!

24 comments:

  1. I LOVE the idea of identifying the theme & inferences in Dr. Suess' books! I, too, have been looking for some good activities to use next week that aren't for the younger kids. This is just perfect and I'm thrilled you included your recording sheets :o) Thanks so much for sharing -- I can't wait to use them next week!

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    1. Glad to help! I hope that they work as well in your class as they did in mine :)

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  2. What an excellent activity. We are celebrating all next week and I am actually teaching theme this week so it is very fitting. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I am so glad that you are able to use this. I never know if what I am doing will be helpful to others :)

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  3. What an incredible lesson! I am so impressed and inspired. (And envious of your genius) thank you SO MUCH for sharing this lesson. You are awesome!!

    Jamie

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  4. Thank you so much! I often discuss the deeper meaning of Dr. Seuss books, but have never put together questions that lead them into finding out for themselves. I definitely need to do this. Did you consider "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day"? The doctor had a lot to say about education too. It's a great book.

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    1. I hadn't thought of that book. Definitely need to see about adding that into the rotation!

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    2. I love that book too! I bought it as a gift for my principal for our Dr. Seuss Day on Tuesday! :)

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  5. This is great!!! My teammates and I were discussing how to use Dr Seuss in 5th grade this is perfect!!! We start state testing Monday - Thursday and dont want them to work too hard after testing however this is the perfect. review to use for next year!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful ideas!!!!

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  6. I absolutely love this! I will be sharing it with my team. Thanks for sharing this!

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing this! I was looking for a new idea and found a great resource :)

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  8. OK...so we celebrated last week and did a bit of this....but you have it so nicely laid out that now they are ready to be independent and do it themselves this week! It totally was what I was going for and your recording sheet are so helpful! THANKS for sharing. Two weeks of Dr. Suess....YES! This totally meets CCCS as well.

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    1. That's what I love, is that it meets standards, but is "fun", you know? So glad you are going to be able to use it in your room!

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  9. Great post! I agree- Dr. Seuss is terrific for theme. So many of his books have excellent social messages. I like the renaming of the book as well - helps kids encapsulate the theme in a few words. Thanks for sharing this!

    Buzzing with Ms. B

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  10. Oh my gosh, I could hug you!!! We are heading back from vacation next week and we usually celebrate Read Across America the week after. This will be PERFECT! Thank you so much for explaining your ideas so beautifully and sharing everything!! :) :) :)

    Kristen

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  11. Super ideas! Just wondering what would be a good main idea/theme for The Lorax for 8 year olds to understand?

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  12. Stephanie, the "day three" paragraph is cut short! I want to be certain I'm not missing anything

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  13. Thank you so much for sharing this. This is really a good activity for the older kiddos. I was going to skip R.A.A. this year because I just couldn't make a connection. Now I can! You rock!
    Beverly

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  14. This is great! I will be using this week...I know the kids will be beyond excited to read Dr.Suess! I wont lie...I will be excited to read it as well!

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  15. Thank you so much for this share! Absolutely love and I know my kids will as well! :) I have tried several times printing the worksheets to go with the books and cannot get them to print. Any ideas!?!?

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  16. This is fantastic! I began with the Cat in the Hat on Monday to commemorate Dr. Seuss' Birthday. The past month we had been discussing integrity. The discussion that followed was phenomenal!
    Coincidentally, the chapter I had read in Esacape from Mr. Lemonchello's Library found the characters in the section of the library where Dr. Seuss books were found. I look forward to the rest of the week as the students complete the study. Thank you for your generosity in sharing.

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  17. This is so amazing! I teach 2nd grade, but could still use many of your ideas with my students. You are a truly talented teacher, I am in awe!

    Elizabeth
    Seconds at the Beach

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  18. THANK YOU! I am your newest follower.... this year I have moved from K/1 up to 5th Grade, and I have been trying to still incorporate picture books into my lessons. I have so many from teaching the younger grades, and there is so much you can do with them. The 5th Graders seem to really enjoy using them as well... it's a good change of pace! This is a wonderful activity! I am so excited to add it to our lessons. Thanks again

    MsBouchersBunch.blogspot.com

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