ELD with Dr. Seuss Will Turn Their Creativity Loose!

Use the timeless story of Green Eggs and Ham to excite learners of all ages and proficiency levels.

By Jill Clark

plate of eggs and ham

Finding interesting and fun ways to teach English Language Development can be difficult. Many of the systematic ELD programs I have used in my teaching, while effective in addressing important language functions and forms, fall short when it comes to engaging and exciting learners about the subject matter.  

Integrating literature with ELD lessons is a way to capture interest while teaching the four language domains:

  • listening
  • speaking
  • reading
  • writing 

The domains of listening and speaking seem to be taught less frequently than reading and writing. In order to gain proficiency in a language, all domains should be practiced and explicitly taught. 

Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham lends itself well to otherwise potentially uninspiring listening and speaking ELD lessons. A number of language functions can be taught and practiced using this story. These include, but are not limited to: describing actions and spatial relationships, retelling past events, comparing, and explaining.

Ideas For Teaching the Language Functions and Forms

The following activities require pupils to actively listen and respond, while also targeting the language forms.

Describing Actions, Retelling Past Events

    • Forms: Past tense positive and negative statements                                   
    • Activity: Read Green Eggs and Ham aloud. Explicitly teach the concept of "past tense" and the verbs they will be using. Tell them they will be describing the characters' actions in the past tense. 
    • Use question and answer sentence frames to guide their responses.
    • Example:  Q: "What did Sam-I-Am/His Friend want?" A: " ______ wanted/did not want_________."
    • Student responses could include: "Sam-I-Am wanted his friend to try green eggs and ham." or "His friend did not want green eggs and ham in a house."

Describing Spatial Relationships

    • Forms: Prepositional Phrases
    • Activity: This story is filled with prepositions! Introduce the concept of prepositions using pictures and text from the book. The class can take turns brainstorming different places Sam-I-Am wanted his friend to try the eggs. Use the pictures to show how the prepositional phrase describes where the friend is in relationship to the green eggs and ham.
    • A way to incorporate writing into this activity is to have learners write a sentence from the story and then highlight the prepositional phrase. If time permits, they could add illustrations to their sentences.

Model and Practice

Language proficiency can be acquired through many different experiences. Lessons that capture interest and provide ample opportunities to learn and practice the forms and function are key.

Green Eggs and Ham, although wacky, offers creative options for ELD lessons. This classic story is fun to read and fun to listen to. Dr. Seuss' use of humor and rhyme is great for all ages and proficiency levels. Introduce each lesson by modeling proper usage of the language forms and functions. Then, divide the class to practice in small groups or in pairs.  Sentence frames, visual aids, and vocabulary introduction will also support learning and are a vital part of making language development accessible for all learners. The visuals can also be student-generated, allowing for even more investment in the lesson.

Other Resources:

Awesome Action Words

Introduce a plethora of precise action words with this simple yet engaging ELD lesson. Pupils will learn how to replace generic verbs with more precise, descriptive action words.

Sounds You See, Hear, and Feel

Integrate music education and ELD with ease! While exploring concepts relative to music, learners will practice describing, comparing and contrasting actions they see, feel and hear during the lesson.