On March 2 we celebrate Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, the bestselling author of children’s books. Dr. Seuss changed the world of children’s literature while introducing a new form of artistic style. The idea of this lesson is for students to learn about Dr. Seuss, study his artistic style from his stories, and then create their own Seuss interpretations.
I started by asking students if they knew who Theodor Geisel is. One, maybe two hands went up. I explained that Geisel played an important role in children’s literature and that he has inspired kids all over the world to read. I asked the class to turn to a partner and discuss who they think I could be referring to. We then re-grouped as a class, and I prepared students for a read-aloud. I said, “ We are going to read a story about Theodor Geisel. As I’m reading, I want you to be thinking about two things: Why is Theodor Geisel important to us? What message was Theodor Geisel sharing with the world?”
I reminded students that good readers ask questions before, during, and after they read. I asked students to share with a neighbor any questions they might have before we start. I wrote these questions down so that we could go back and answer them while we read the story. I wanted to model for students how to actively read by stopping, answering, or asking questions and then continue reading.
I read the story The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss, by Kathleen Krull. This picture book biography takes a closer look at the first 22 years of Geisel's life. It focuses on all things that shaped the Dr. Seuss persona, from how his parents raised him to how others treated him. It is a great introduction to this extraordinary author. After the story was over, we returned to any questions that weren't answered during the reading and discussed how we planned to answer them. Many students discussed researching online or looking at other Dr. Seuss books for answers.
Our next step was to take what we learned and create a summary with it. To do this we started with a five W’s note-taking template. I split the class into small groups and let them work together to answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of Dr. Seuss. Scholastic has an easy-to-use template that worked well for this portion of the activity.
Once group members came to a consensus, they needed to write their own nonfiction summary on our Dr. Seuss reading. This is a skill that we have been working on as a class. Students had been previously instructed on creating a title for their piece and proper formatting using the "Someone, Wanted, But, So, Then" graphic organizer for creating a summary. I went around and monitored rough draft work and worked with those who needed more guidance. Students wrote their final drafts on Seuss-themed lined paper.
The final task in our Dr. Seuss research was to study his art. The art of Dr. Seuss website offers supplemental information that we did not find in our Krull read-aloud. There were more descriptions on how Dr. Seuss used pen-and-ink illustrations and flat colors. I read these short passages to students while we viewed the work of Dr. Seuss. I displayed images from his books on the screen and students discussed them with the person sitting next to them. On the board we wrote down things we noticed.
Students got back into their groups and looked in actual books. Each group had the task of describing a technique they noticed with a visual example to demonstrate what they saw. An example of this was one group that observed, “All of the characters have long eyelashes and some kind of hair sticking out.” Another group shared, “There is not a lot of color in his drawings.”
All of the things we noticed were written on chart paper for students to refer back to when completing their final task.
Students were given a half-sheet of paper to create their own “Seuss” creation. They were instructed to draw like Dr. Seuss remembering what they learned about how he drew as a kid, the illustrations in his books, and any other things that were noticed while we studied his art.
Looking for other ways to celebrate Dr. Seuss? Check out these incredible posts by other Scholastic bloggers. Lots of great ideas!
Many more can be found here!
What did you have in mind? I’d love to hear your Dr. Seuss plan! Leave a message in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading.