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School Success with Dr. Seuss: Exploring Themes Through Creative Activities

| Dr. Katie Klinger

In part one of this entry, I wrote about an interdisciplinary event that our school planned and carried out. Here's another schoolwide activity to inspire you and motivate your students.

For the book event, held at the Myron B. Thompson Academy (MBTA), in Honolulu, Hawaii, all the elementary school teachers help design costumes, props, artwork and innovative hands-on activities for a daylong learning experience. The activities for this event are based on the key ideas from a book or a set of books. Previous selections have included Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This year's event, Seussville, stimulated student creativity and fostered their awareness of subjects such as discrimination, ecology, friendship, responsibility, and war through the innovative prose and poetry of Dr. Seuss. Prior to the event, students completed a structured assignment that focused on major themes in his books.

The entire faculty of MBTA, both elementary school and secondary school teachers, dressed up as characters from such Dr. Seuss works as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. In addition, teachers asked the children to think about which characters impressed them in the Dr. Seuss books they'd read.

As a result, the majority of students also dressed up as their favorite character or as a citizen of Whoville (a town in some of his stories). Student government officers dressed up as the Cat in the Hat and escorted the K-6 students from workstation to workstation. The sixth-grade teacher also dressed up as the Cat in the Hat and delighted the children with his original, workstation-appropriate rhymes. The children laughed and giggled every time he would enter their work space.

Patty Rothrock, the second-grade teacher, created innovative passports. Students would have them stamped in each room as they finished the authentic learning activity for that workstation. The staff and faculty encouraged the students to do their best at each workstation and to benefit from the constructivist hands-on activities.

Teachers challenged the students to produce artwork and writing that illustrated how the themes in Dr. Seuss's books -- social justice, environmental awareness, equality, and nonviolence -- were relevant to their daily lives. The educators provided the students and parents with feedback on the work and proudly exhibited the art and text in a gallery. They also documented the work with digital photographs to use in future discussions about the efficacy of classroom-assessment tools. The new MBTA Web site will feature these Seussville images as its opening photo collage.

Please share your thoughts about this event, or describe similar events you have organized or your school has held.

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Comments (26)

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What a great idea!

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What a great idea!

What a fantastic idea! I

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What a fantastic idea! I really love that this activity is done as a school-wide event! I am sure every year both the teachers and students look forward to this event. Students have the opportunity to learn about different themes, characters and story elements. All the teachers participate with the prep of this day and what a fun day is must be. I would love to see a video of how this turned out and suggestions for how to implement in other schools.

Meridith (not verified)

great time

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the dr. seuss theme was such a great idea. i love dr. seuss. it's amazing how childrens books that were written so long ago still dominate the kids books today. He was so ahead of his time. So many lessons we can take from them and yet so fun!

okie (not verified)

Great!

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good idea!!

Kamiel DeToye (not verified)

What a great idea! I work

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What a great idea! I work with children who are 3,4,and 5 years old in a school that goes through grade 5. This could easily be incorporated into our school as a school wide activity. With the hands on learning and the experience that is so different than what the children learn daily in the classroom what they learned that day from academic to social is likely to stick with the children. I am going to talk with the principal about this idea and try to implement a day of learning like this is our school.

Lindsay Ferguson (not verified)

What a Great Idea

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Dr. Katie,
I have just read about this excellent school wide activity. I think that having the entire school involved in an event like this is genius. Most teachers at the elementary level are unable to be as creative as they would like in class because of the high-stakes testing and accountability issues regarding their students and their test scores. One way of getting around this is to have a school-wide educational unit which involves the literature of Dr. Seuss. His stories send great messages and all students grades K-6 should be able to relate them (including those students in special education classrooms). This is an idea that I will definitely bring up to the school staff at my school. Thanks for the great idea!!!

Peggy Evatt (not verified)

Read Across America and Book Character Day

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I think that the two days that our students look forward to the most are Book Character Day and the day we celebrate Read across America. We have Book Character Day in November and the whole school goes to the gym for a parade of students that have dressed up as their favorite book characters. We have judges from our community and they choose three students from combined grade levels to win a free book. The students love voting on their favorite teacher or group of teachers that have dressed up. Students and teachers enjoy this day of celebrating books.

We celebrate Read across America on the birthday of Dr. Suess. We encourage everyone to dress up as their favorite Dr. Suess character. It is easy to be a “Who” in your pajamas and everyone loves a p.j. day. Our media specialist arranges for readers from the community to come read to classes and the lunchroom manager even plans green eggs and ham. It is a delightful way to share the love of these classic books.

Julie Bray (not verified)

What an event!

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Each year around Dr. Seuss' birthday we do an event also around reading. We do cross age tutor reading, community members reading, etc.
Over the years our teachers have expanded it some with projects which incorporate the work of Dr. Seuss.
I would love to see the plan and the flyer used for this event, it sounds amazing and much more interactive. The students would all be so much more involved by expanding in this manner.

J Bray (not verified)

I am looking forward to

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I am looking forward to finding out even more of the nitty gritty of all the activities.

We have Dr. Seuss day each year near his birthday and although we do some fun activities to engage students in reading and books I would love to be able to extend it to this level of creativity and engagement.

Thank you for sharing such a great idea.

nicole cameron (not verified)

I think this is a great idea

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I think this is a great idea too. I am imagining using this concept with my k-1 grade mild/mod special education students. I teach a class that has rented a building on the school campus so we are not always included in all the school activities. I did see this past March that the school was doing a Dr. Suess theme and that some of the teachers and students were dressed in character. I would like to make some adaptations in order to fit the needs of my students. I could see the staff, in my classroom, dressing up and reading different stories to the students and then asking them questions to reassure the comprehension. This concept would reinforce colors, counting, correspondence, and also have concrete objects that were representative of the stories being read. My studnets absolutely love to read, or pretend to read, or be read to. I could also ask them to draw pictures to represent thier favorite parts of the story(ies). I would then ask them what was in their drawing and help them put a narrative to express their artwork.

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