Tag Archives: Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss’ Birthday is on the Way!

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss.  Not only is his writing creative, humorous, poetic, and lovably quirky, but as an educator I’ve found it to be the perfect vehicle for promoting phonological awareness, a critical skill for building readers.  With his birthday looming just around the corner (March 2), this is a popular time of year for all things Seuss!

Last year I wrote about some of my favorite Dr. Seuss activities in these three posts:

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Five Favorites…To Start

A Triple Scoop of Seuss

This year, I went looking around the blogosphere for some new ideas and found some I can’t wait to try! 

  • An entire Dr. Seuss unit from Chalk Talk, with 40 pages including patterns and printables!
  • Make a hat like the Cat in the Hat using an oatmeal canister with these pointers from Frugal Family Fun Blog.
  • Amy lists some irresistible ideas at Serving Pink Lemonade (Thanks for including mine by the way!)

Do you celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday?  What are some of your favorite activities?  (Feel free to add your links!)

Top photo by EvelynGiggles.
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A Triple Scoop of Seuss

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street

This was Dr. Seuss’ first book to be published.  He said that as he was riding on a ship on a trip back from Europe, he became enchanted with the rhythm of the ship’s engine.  As he listened to the rhythm over and over in his head, the words forming this book’s title seemed to flow right into the rhythm.  This is great for helping children hear the rhythm in words (a key phonological awareness skill) as well as another great book celebrating the fantastic imagination of children!

After discussing the origin of this story with your children, imitate a chugging engine’s rhythm (in keeping with the rhythm of the title as well)  Something like, Poof – Chug – Chug – Poof – Chug – Chug, basically the same rhythm as a waltz!  Point out the rhythm in the story’s title.  Have half of the children keep the engine rhythm and half repeat the title over and over, keeping time together.  Next, have them participate by keeping the rhythm in a simple clap-tap-tap pattern, using their hands or rhythm sticks:

 And    to    think    that    I    saw    it    on    Mul-berr-y    Street.                         

   x       x        X           x       x      X       x     x        X       x      x         X               

(tap tap     CLAP   tap  tap  CLAP tap tap CLAP tap tap CLAP)

  Repeat the book’s title with the rhythm a few times again.  You may wish to read more of the book to demonstrate how the book maintains the rhythm (be sure to familiarize yourself with the rhythmic reading ahead of time). 

Experiment with other rhythms.  You may wish to demonstrate a few variations (tap, tap, clap, clap; tap, tap, tap, clap; tap, clap, tap, clap; etc.), and then allow the children to take turns creating new rhythms for the group to follow.  Remind them to repeat the pattern, and to remain slow enough that everyone can follow.  If you wish, you may want to call out words or phrases that the rhythms call to mind (ex: tap-tap-clap-clap = “Green-Eggs-and-Ham”; also, nursery rhymes lend themselves very well to this activity).  To end the activity, tell the children to follow you.  Lead them in a pattern, and then end by putting both of your sticks on the floor.  The children should follow suit, and the sticks may be collected.

If I Ran the Zoo 

It’s fun to tell the children that when Dr. Seuss was a child, his father actually helped to run the zoo!  Dr. Seuss had probably been to the zoo quite a lot.  Talk with the children about whether they have been to the zoo, and what they enjoyed there.  What would they do if they were able to run the zoo?  Dr. Seuss came up with some creative suggestions that your children are sure to enjoy!

Now it’s time for the children to let their own imaginations run wild!  What kind of an animal would they create for their zoo?  Provide the children with art paper, glue, collage materials, and crayons.  As they generate their novel creatures, talk to them about what their creatures are named, where they come from, what they look like (discuss the materials they have used), what they sound like, and what they eat.  You may wish to write what each child dictates as part of a whole language activity!

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

This is a great book that explores the common sounds around us and helps children hone their auditory sensitivity.  It is also a great book for transitioning from louder activities (like free play) to quieter activities (like large group), because it starts with loud sounds, but ends with a very quiet whisper, most often bringing the children’s sound and activity level with it.  Let the children imitate the sounds in the book along with you!

For an extension activity, the children will use both their sense of hearing as well as cognitive and memory skills.  One at a time, play recordings of familiar sounds and have the children listen quietly, and then guess what the sound is.  You can do this using ready-made tapes or CDs (Sound Bingo games are a great source for these) or make your own with a tape recorder.  If making your own tape, consider your own resources and the interests of your children.  Look around your own classroom and consider the sounds they hear everyday.  Here are a few suggestions to get you started:  running water; vacuum; pencil sharpener; a chair sliding on the floor; knocking; animal sounds from the classroom, home, or zoo; bell; blocks falling; pages turning.  As you play each sound, you may want to encourage the children to focus on their sense of hearing by closing their eyes as they listen.  After the children have guessed the sound’s source, give them the opportunity to be like Mr. Brown and imitate the sound they have just heard.

For more Dr. Seuss activities, click here!

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Five Favorites….To Start

OK, for those of you looking for more Dr. Seuss activities, here are five favorites to start off with!  More to come!

(Does anyone else ever feel like they’re juggling this many things?)

The Cat in the Hat

After reading this timeless and iconic favorite, follow-up by playing your own version of UP, UP, UP with a Fish!  You can use balls or bean bags to represent “the fish” and toss with a partner, stepping backward after each catch.  Or you can simply add physical tasks, one on the other.  Stand on one foot.  Now hop!  Now reach one hand up like you’re holding a fish bowl.  Now fan yourself with the other hand.  Oh, no!  Everyone fall down!  Great for large motor skills!

Green Eggs and Ham

Do I have to say it?  Make some green eggs!  Just add a little green food coloring (maybe even play around with color mixing by adding blue to the yellow eggs).  Involve the little ones and build vocabulary by using good descriptors as you work.  Emphasize the change from liquid to solid as you crack, whip, cook, and serve!  I do so love green eggs and ham!  Oh, as an insider tip, when you read this book, toward the end, the characters are talking underwater.  Wiggle your finger over your lips as you read those lines to simulate underwater talking.  The kids eat it up!

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

This book is essentially a series of wacky rhymes!  One advantage to this is the fact that you can edit and shorten it as much as you need to in order to match the attention span of your audience, since you don’t really need to tie together a storyline.  Since it’s all about rhyming, follow up with a rhyming activity.  Make rhyming sandwiches, as in this activity, or use the same cards and have the children jump, clap, ring a bell, etc. when they hear a rhyming pair.

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

This is another perfect book for rhymers!  Especially to help them focus on the sound, not the meaning since the rhyming pairs are all invented.  Play a Wocket in the Pocket game afterward.  Create a wocket by enlarging the illustration onto tagboard or simply drawing a face on a tongue depressor. It doesn’t have to be elaborate!  Have one child, the seeker, close her eyes, while someone else hides the wocket by sitting on it.  The seeker then asks a child, “Is there a wocket in your pocket?”  If the guess is wrong, that child can give a clue as to where the wocket is.  (“No, but it’s hiding by someone with pink shoes.”)  Rhyming clues are even better.  (“No, but it’s hiding near someone with pink moos.”)  Take turns being the seeker and the hiders!

The Foot Book

Even as babies, my boys loved this book!  Extend by painting with your feet!  Use the same materials you would for finger painting, but use your toes (or entire feet) instead.  Have children sit in a chair and paint on the paper on the floor, or roll out some big sheets of paper and let them run with painted feet!  Have a wash bin and towels handy!

Next up: If I Ran the Zoo, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

For more Dr. Seuss activities, click here!

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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

I have always loved Dr. Seuss!  As a child and even a teenager, I was drawn to the wackiness of his themes and made-up words juxtaposed with the reason of his perfect prose.  As I’ve studied early education and early literacy, I’ve come to love Dr. Seuss even more!  His books are pretty much the best for building phonological awareness, the development of which is critical for reading (read more here).  They not only expose children to rhythm and rhyme in an enchanting, almost intoxicating way, but they also introduce rhyming with invented words, which emphasizes further the importance of sound in rhyming – not meaning.  These “nonsense words” also open the imagination and  creativity of children in a simply magical way.  In my opinion, his work is so critical to a good education, I refer to him as the Shakespeare of childhood!

Dr. Seuss (born Theodor Geisel) was a pioneer on the front of children’s literature.  His first children’s book, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, came about when he couldn’t get the rhythm of a ship’s engine out of his head.  He took that pervasive beat and used it as the meter for his prose in this somewhat reflective look at his childhood.  It took some time to get published, but established him as a quality children’s author.  His most famous work, The Cat in the Hat, came about as a response to the claim that basal readers for children were too staid and boring, and that children were not developing as readers because the material they were given in school was not enticing enough.  Using the same required 250 word list, The Cat in the Hat turned basals on their heads.  Almost literally!  The book seemed too radical to some in the education profession, but parents and children couldn’t get enough!  Another early reader favorite, Green Eggs and Ham, actually came about as the result of a wager!  A publishing friend bet Ted that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words.  He did, and decades later children still can’t stop reading it!

Dr. Seuss was prolific and amazing, and he changed the face of children’s literature forever!  If you’re a Seuss-ophile like I am, check out the biography Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel by Judith Morgan and Neil Morgan, it’s fascinating!  You can also read a summarized biography as well as check out some great activities and quotes at the Seussville website.

So in honor of Dr. Seuss’ 106th birthday, I’m posting some of my favorite Dr. Seuss Book Activities!

The Cat in the Hat

Horton Hears a Who

Story-Acting with The Sneetches

Bartholomew and the Oobleck

If I Ran the Zoo

And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street

Green Eggs and Ham

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket!

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

The Foot Book

*For those of you looking for a dramatic play idea to correspond with Dr. Seuss this week, try a birthday party set-up!  Or provide props from any of his stories and let the children recreate and extend the stories. (Cat in the Hat – Chairs by a rainy window, Cat’s Hat, Box for the Things; Green Eggs and Ham – Hats, Green Eggs of course, Housekeeping setup, cars, train, and/or boat; Sneetches – props from activity above)

Top image from Newark Library.

You might also be interested in:

A Culture of Literacy: Teaching Preschoolers the ABCs and More

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Storytime with Your Preschoolers

The Secret’s in the Sound: Phonological Awareness and the Preschooler

 

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Story-Acting with the Sneetches

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It’s no secret, I love Dr.Seuss.  From a young age, I became enamoured with his silliness and his rollicking rhymes.  As I studied education and child development, I fell in love again as I realized how beneficial his playful prose were for building young readers (learn more about phonological awareness here).  I would say Dr. Seuss is the Shakespeare of childhood.  Any well-read (or well-read-to) child should be familiar with him!

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss tales is The Sneetches.  You remember it, don’t you?  The Sneetches on the beaches.  Some have stars on their bellies and are rude to the ones who don’t until Sylvester McMonkey McBean (definitely my favorite literary name) comes with his star-on and star-off machines.  The Sneetches run back and forth putting stars on and off, trying to be better than the other, until they run out of money and come to the realization that it really doesn’t matter, and they can all just be friends.

I really like to read this story at the beginning of the year as we talk so much about being good friends and getting along.  But even better than reading this story, is acting it out.  Story-acting is a great activity for building comprehension because the children don’t just hear and see the story, they ARE the story! 

For this story, I prepare these props:

  • Stars for their bellies, of course.  I cut mine out of craft foam, punched a hole and strung them on yarn necklaces.  You could obviously also use paper, but I like to be able to re-use mine.  Make sure your yarn is long enough to place the star at belly level!
  • A “contraption” they can go through as a star on/off machine.  I used my crawling tunnel, and it worked great.  You could also use a table with a sheet over it.
  • It’s also nice to have a cool hat or bow tie for Sylvester McMonkey McBean to wear.

Before I start reading, I let the children know that they are going to be helping me out by acting out the story.  I assure them that everyone will have a part to play and that if they listen very carefully, they’ll know just what to do. 

I read the first page, which explains that some Sneetches had stars and others didn’t.  At the end of the page, I give half of the children stars, and tell the other half, they are the Plain-Belly Sneetches.  (If anyone is too sad about not having a star, remind them that it will all change during the story and everyone will get a turn.)

Over the next three pages of text, it talks about how the Star-Bellied Sneetches treat the Plain-Bellied Sneetches.  Almost certainly, you’ll have one of your own Plain-Bellied Sneetches looking sad as she hears about this plight.  Point that out as great acting!  “She looks just like the Plain-Bellied Sneetches!  How did they feel when they were left out?  Sad!  Of course!  All the Plain-Bellied Sneetches, show me your sad faces!”  The Star-Bellied Sneetches have a job to do as well.  The story mentions them “with their snoots in the air”.  Explain that their snoots are their noses and have them put their noses up and make a rude face.  Talk a little about the Star-Bellies behavior, why it’s rude, and how it’s making the Plain-Bellies feel.  (Talking about feelings during a story helps children develop their own abilities to verbalize their emotions.)

Now, as Sylvester comes onto the scene, you may want to put the hat on yourself, on a child, or a parent volunteer (the last being my favorite).  Sylvester stands by your tunnel contraption as you read the next parts.  After reading about the Plain-Bellies going through and getting stars, have your starless children go through (paying Sylvester either with play money, or imaginary money) and have your Sylvester put a star necklace on each child as they come through.  While you’re waiting for everyone to go through, you and the Star-Bellies can make the sounds of the machine.  I’m sure you can figure out, as the story progresses, the original Star-Bellies go through the same process, taking their necklaces off.

Eventually, the Sneetches all get mixed up, with one of my favorite Seussian stanzas: “Until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew, whether this one was that one…or that one was this one…or which one was what one…or what one was who.”  Have each child go through one more time, and have Sylvester mix them all up, adding, taking away, and even giving some two!

At the end of the story, spend some time talking about the social moral of the story.  We need to treat everyone kindly and include all our friends at school.  Talk about how the Sneetches felt at different times in the story and connect those feelings to real-life situations for the children (How did the Plain-Bellies feel when they didn’t get to go to the Frankfurter roast?  How would our friends feel if we didn’t let them play in the blocks with us?)  Afterwards, you may want to extend the activity by leaving the props in your dramatic play area along with the book so that the children can act the story out again on their own!

Enjoy this activity with your little ones and they’ll be building language, literacy, and social skills with the story and discussion; dramatic play skills as they act; and large motor skills as they crawl through the tunnel.  As an added bonus, they may also fall in love with one of the best authors in all of children’s literature!

For more Welcome Weeks activities, click here!

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Book Activity: Horton Hears a Who

Horton Hears A Who!Horton Hears a Who is a Dr. Seuss classic, with revived interest from the younger generation thanks to Hollywood.  This story is a great tale of the commitment and unselfishness of Horton, and the importance of cooperation and individual contribution from the Who’s.  It reiterates the famous line, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”  That’s something every young child can appreciate!  Reading this story also incorporates some fantastic language components including new vocabulary, such as “shirking” and “keen”, and as always, Dr. Seuss’ rhymes are great for building phonemic awareness!  Use this story in conjunction with teaching social skills, while doing a Dr. Seuss author study, or as part of a zoo or jungle theme.

After reading and discussing the story, do a little clover mathas an activity!  Buy a multi-colored package of pom poms from your local craft store.  The ones I used recently were sized about 1 inch, and that was a great size for the little fingers.  You’ll want to get enough for each of the children you’re working with to have several to use.  These are your clovers.  Just as Horton protected his one special clover, assure the children that at the end of the activity, each child may select one special clover to keep.  Use the pom pom clovers as you would any other math manipulative and give the children at least 5-10 minutes to use them and explore with them as such.  Here are some suggested ways to use these pom poms as math manipulatives:

Count.  How many pom poms do you have?  It’s the simplest way to go with math manips, but can evolve into so much more!  Be sure that the number of pom poms you give the children corresponds with their proximal counting range.

Sort, and Count Again.  Sort by colors.  Count the groups.  Which color do you have the most of?  Ask questions and encourage math vocabulary growth by using terms like “more”, “less”, “most”, “least”, etc.

Build a Graph.  With sorted colors from above, you can build a graph to show very quickly which color has the most to the least and put them in ascending or descending order.  Some children will even build the graph in that order intentionally.

Make a Pattern.  Use the different colors to make patterns.  Some children may do this on their own, others may need a “What should come next?” type of prompt.  Start with the basic ABA or ABC patterns before proceeding to the more complex, such as ABBA, or AABB, if that’s needed.

Group Count.  For older children, you may want to group several children together and have them count their combined clovers by organizing them into groups of tens and then, of course, counting by tens.  This is definitely an advanced skill, but one to be aware of for those who may be ready for such a challenge!

The sky’s the limit!  You can use these pom pom clovers to do almost any math practice to match the level of your little clover counters!  As promised, let each child choose a very special clover to keep when all the play work is done!

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Book Activity: Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Bartholomew and the Oobleck is an enthralling story to read with children!  It follows a king who wants something new to come from the sky, so he orders his magicians to make “oobleck”.  As with many alterations of Mother Nature (Michael Jackson comes to mind) this, of course, turns out to be a disaster!  It is only remedied when his page, Bartholomew, convinces him he needs to say the words, “I’m sorry.” 

In addition to being a great literacy experience (as almost any Dr. Seuss production is) this story is also great for integrating with a weather theme, a Dr. Seuss author study, or for talking about the social skill of apologizing.  This is a little on the longer side, so for younger audiences, be familiar enough to summarize the story if you need to speed it along.  Follow up this story with a batch of your own oobleck!

You don’t have to be a magician to make oobleck!  Either ahead of time or with your children, mix 1 ½ parts cornstarch to 1 part water (colored green, of course, to replicate the oobleck).  Give each of the children a small bit to work with on a tray.  Discuss the way the oobleck feels and the way it responds as they play with it. 

This type of oobleck is what is technically called a “Non-Newtonian fluid”, meaning that its viscosity changes in response to force, causing it to act much like a solid at times.  You’ll notice that when the oobleck is left still, it runs like a liquid.  When it is touched with force, however, it responds as a solid.  Encourage your children to try different ways of manipulating the oobleck to demonstrate this unique trait.  Here are some suggestions:  hold it in an open hand, roll it into a ball and then leave the ball on a tray, tap it with your fingers or open hand, try to cut or tear it.  A great sensory/science activity!

*Be sure to dispose of this in the garbage, and not in the sink.  If you need to clean the oobleck off of something, it is most easily done when it has dried.  If you clean off as much as you can when it is wet, the remainder will dry and leave a powdery residue which can easily be brushed off or vacuumed.

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