Children from Clarendon Elementary School participated in a series of cross-curricular activities last month for Read Across America, a week of reading beginning Feb. 27 that focused on books written by well-known children’s author Dr. Seuss. The week culminated in a day of festive and fun-filled activities on Mar.2, Dr. Seuss’s actual birthday.
Promoting reading fluency
Each grade level read a different Dr. Seuss book.
“I love Dr. Seuss because he promotes fluency and that is what makes a child a great reader,” said Literacy Coach Lucy Biegler. “I wanted children to realize you can have so much fun with reading and when there is a personal connection.”
Educators addressed themes about individuality, accepting differences, conflict resolution, and protecting the environment.
Activities ranged from first graders wearing pajamas, inspired by The Sleep Book, to a great fifth grade debate on whether to have more recess time or more lunchtime, which was influenced by The Butter Battle Book.
Second graders in Anna Mongiello’s classroom were anxious to talk about the book The Sneetches, which is about prejudice and inequality. The characters in the book, referred to as Sneetches, differ from one another in that those with stars in their bellies treat the plain-belly Sneetches as inferior. To bring the lesson to life, Mongiello placed stars on half the students’ desks one morning.
“As the morning progressed I started paying more attention to students who had stars. They had snack earlier. They got to make a bookmark,” said Mongeillo. “They had some extra privileges that the rest of the students didn’t have.”
“I wanted everybody to be treated the same way,” said Darra Lewis, 7. She didn’t have a star the morning she arrived in the classroom.
Mongiello said that she noticed the children who were favored had a shift in their attitudes as the day wore on.
“The children with the stars started to feel bad for the children without the stars,” said Mongiello.
“I felt sad for the other people,” said Kyle Woltman, 7. He had a star that morning.
After Mongiello read the book to the class, the students made the correlation.
“It wasn’t really fair that the star-bellied sneetches could do a lot of stuff but that plain bellied sneetches couldn’t because the star-bellied sneetches thought they were perfect,” said Nicholas Matos, 8.
Afterwards, each student had the opportunity to make his or her “I am special star,” and they also wrote something nice about a fellow student.
“They were so kind to one another,” noted Mongiello.
“It doesn’t matter who gets a star and who doesn’t. Everybody is special inside,” said Kailey O’Donnell, 7.
“It is kind of cool that Dr. Seuss made an educational book into a fun book.” – Olivia Fox
The third grade read Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! and discussed individuality and the importance of school and teachers, while the sixth graders read Oh The Places You’ll Go! about self-esteem and reaching one’s potential.
The sixth graders chose careers to research and presented to the third graders on Mar. 2 about their career trajectory and success. Students adopted a number of different professional roles including engineers, doctors, professional athletes, dancers, fashion designers, and teachers.
“[Students] had to tell us how to get to those careers,” said sixth grade teacher Karen Bonin.
Olivia Ventura, 11 spoke about being an actress and famous singer. “I never listened to anyone who said I wasn’t good enough,” said Ventura. “I had people believe in me. I never gave up.”
Protecting the planet
“It is important for people to plant trees. The more trees getting cut down, the less oxygen we have, and the less materials we have to use,” said fourth grader Coco Peddinti, 9. She stood over a brown carton in a “Save the Planet” t-shirt adding seeds to dirt.
Fourth graders read The Lorax about the dangers of deforestation and pollution and the importance of protecting the environment.
“It is kind of cool that Dr. Seuss made an educational book into a fun book,” said Olivia Fox, 9.
“I thought it was a really good book,” said Sydney Fournier, 10. “I thought it was really cruel that this guy knocked down all the trees and polluted all the air. Since they chopped down all the trees the little animals couldn’t live there anymore.”
“The Lorax had a very valuable meaning behind it,” said fourth grader Anushka Advani, 9. “Without trees we wouldn’t be able to live.”
Birthday bash for Dr. Seuss
Kindergartners learned lessons about individuality from reading Happy Birthday to You!, a story that takes place in the land of Katroo. The kindergarteners wore party outfits and paper hats to school on Mar. 2 to decorate cupcakes and attend a special birthday party. They sang and danced to pop music.
Adriana Rambay Fernández can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.