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.
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 did it alone. 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!