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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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School Success with Dr. Seuss: Exploring Themes Through Creative Activities

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert

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.

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Comments (26)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

melody's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach first grade in an extremely rural area where I am the only first grade teacher in the building. I too have observed the incredible difference it makes when young children really connect with activities. Read Across America time is one of my favorite weeks. There really is something magical about seeing six year olds engage in such relavant topics and exhibit such energy for understanding what it all means to them. I feel like I just got some great ideas on how to take it to the next level for next year!

Alison Harper's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Seussville was a fabulous event. My daughter attended and as the homeschooling mom, I think we enjoy these events even more than the traditional schools because our kids don't often have the opportunity to spend the day socializing and learning. The only down side to the day was sending the children home with live fish. I would have liked to have been asked prior to the event, even if we were interested in family pets. Dr. Katie, where are you? Is there any way to get in touch with you now that you're no longer with us? Addie will miss you!

Dr. Katie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Alison, how much fun it is to log onto this blog and read your message from you and Addie! The new MBTA website is up with a short collage of photos...I, of course, have an entire selection of them for you and Addie since she really was engaged that day in all of the activities and a star in many of the photos I took! The new website is available for any readers of this blog to enjoy what a progressive school MBTA is in Honolulu, Hawaii. Warmly, Dr. Katie

Dr. Katie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The 7th -12th grade students loved the event! The MBTA Student Government were all dressed in imitation of the Cat in the Hat with white shirts, black slacks, red bow tie, red and white tall Cat in the Hat hats and big smiles on their faces as they greeted the younger students at the gate, checked off their names on the attendance list, gave them their special passport for the day, and led them one by one into the main area for the opening event...then these wonderful young people served as guides as they shepherded their groups from one room (workstation activity) to the next and ensured that all of their charges had their passports stamped in each room and finished their activity before the group moved on collectively to engage in another activity! And of course, the Cat in the Hat was roaming freely, rhyming and teasing the guides as part of his bigger Seussville family...they had as much fun, if not more in many social ways, than the younger children for whom the day was carefully planned.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you so much for sharing such a great idea. I am the Read Across America Chairperson for our district's Read Across America Day held in the beginning of March. We are always looking for ideas that can be used with all the students throughout all the buildings (various grade levels). It seems as if you had a huge success with this even up to the Middle School. I will be sure to share this with my team.

Kristin's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a wonderful idea! Each March my school likes to do a theme for Reading Month. This time we chose pirates, but I would love to base our theme on an author. Dr. Seuss is a perfect choice because he appeals to a large audience, young and old. I would like to know more about the hands-on workstations, such as, what kinds of activities were available for the students?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great info. thanks for the idea...definately something that can be very beneficial and fun for students of all ages.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for sharing the creative idea. It's neat that the children were able to have such an event and change in routine for the day. Certainly, the event allowed the studnets' to learn while at the same time have some fun!

B. Cahill's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love this school wide activity! I teach first grade and I do a huge across the curriculum unit with Dr. Seuss, but I love the idea of a school wide event! Dr. Seuss might seem childish to the older students, until they can relate to the stories, lessons learned, and all the different concepts that can be taught at all the grade levels; I would imagine this to be an eye opening event for everyone involved. This would give the students the opportunity to learn, interact and apply all the different concepts and skills they have learned and through all the different styles, creativity outlets and from each student.
What a way to show a well rounded community working together. I imagine the students get more out of this activity than what is covered in the curriculum; they see relationships and teamwork, they learn not only from their teachers, but peers and younger students and vice versa.

B. Cahill's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I love this school wide activity! I teach first grade and I do a huge across the curriculum unit with Dr. Seuss, but I love the idea of a school wide event! Dr. Seuss might seem childish to the older students, until they can relate to the stories, lessons learned, and all the different concepts that can be taught at all the grade levels; I would imagine this to be an eye opening event for everyone involved. This would give the students the opportunity to learn, interact and apply all the different concepts and skills they have learned and through all the different styles, creativity outlets and from each student.
What a way to show a well rounded community working together. I imagine the students get more out of this activity than what is covered in the curriculum; they see relationships and teamwork, they learn not only from their teachers, but peers and younger students and vice versa.

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