Project-Based Learning (PBL)

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

February 21, 2008

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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  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Creativity
  • K-2 Primary

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