Hip Hip Hooray! Happy Birthday to Who?

Recognize Dr. Seuss Day with fun and creative activities in your classroom.

By Ann Whittemore

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Birthday cake

When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher rallied the entire teaching team to put on a play for the kids. They dressed up and performed Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat; it was brilliant! On Dr. Seuss’s birthday, the whole student body got to watch their favorite teachers bring an all-time favorite book to life.

Dr. Seuss is definitely one of the world’s best-loved children’s authors. He wrote forty-six wonderful books and was the inspiration for Read Across America Day. Here are a few activities to help you and your class celebrate both reading and the wonderful world created by Dr. Seuss.

Construct a Three-Dimensional World

Seuss created amazing environments in which to set his stories. They were truly fantastic; full of imaginative loops, curves, and spires. Divide your class into groups of three or four pupils. Each group uses recycled materials to create a 3D version of a scene from one of Seuss's stories. Provide each group with several Seuss books for reference, then have them work through the design process as they draw out a basic plan for their Seusstastic scene. Using cardboard, artist tape, glue, ribbons, plastic cups, and paint, have learners construct their cities on a 12x12 piece of cardboard. You can help pupils populate their scenes by photocopying pictures of the characters onto cardstock. Kids can place the appropriate characters in their finished scenes. Take some time for a class discussion about setting, design, and mood. Extend the discussion to each group's scene. You could even have each group make up a new, original story for their scene and characters. And, because you’ve used recycled materials to create these projects, it would be a great time to read The Lorax.

Relax with a Read-In

Read-ins are great fun for kids and they also provide an opportunity to have a familiar work interpreted in several different ways. As most of us know, read-ins start with pillows, blankets, and piles of books. Desks are made into forts and the floor becomes littered with little bodies. To break up the independent reading fun and provide interest, I like to incorporate several activities. First, I have children pair up and race to see who can read a page from Fox in Socks the fastest. This can be done several times for practice, and then with the entire class for a tongue twisting competition. Next, I have each child read one page (or paragraph) in round-robin style from a favorite Dr. Seuss book. Lastly, I ask special visitors to come read aloud to the class. Guest readers are great because each reader interprets or reads the text in a different manner. Some read fast, others slow, and some read with funny voices. Guest readers can be from any of the following categories: firemen, upper graders, members of a local college sports team, the principle, the school nurse, a grandparent, or a parent. I have each guest reader allow some time for a mini Q & A after they are finished reading the book. For the Q & A time, provide your class with questions to get them started. Here are a few suggestions: What is your favorite book and why? How old were you when you started reading? If you could be any character from a book, who would it be and why? What book are you reading right now?

Continuing the Story of….

Many of the Seuss characters are very memorable; Why not have learners write a narrative for one of them?  Have pupils read one or two Seuss books and then choose one character to write about. They can write a continuation of the original story, or respond to a specific prompt. For example: What happened to Horton and the Whos from Whoville after they made friends with the other jungle animals? Continue the tale of Yertle the Turtle. What happened after he lost his mighty throne? What would have happened if Marvin K. Mooney didn’t ever go to bed? Describe what the Cat in the Hat’s life is like when he’s not helping Dick and Sally have fun. Incorporate art by having learners illustrate their creative stories. 

Creating Literature-Inspired Art

Recently, I ran across a gallery full of art that was inspired by Dr. Seuss. All manner of art forms were displayed. Spark pupils' imagination by showing them a PowerPoint of art created or inspired by Seuss motifs. After a discussion about art forms and elements, have individuals create an original painting, collage, or drawing based on one of Dr. Seuss’s illustrations. Stress that the original work should be used as a reference, it should not be copied. Rather, they should attempt to reinvent it with their own unique artistic perspective. This activity works well with any book, it doesn't have to be by Dr. Seuss. Another variation on this idea is to read the class a highly descriptive passage or fairy tale and have them create a work of art based on what they heard. Stimulate creativity by asking learners what images came to mind when they heard the story. Then, read the passage a second time, allowing them to make rough sketches or notes while they listen. The finished project will be an extension of these rough drafts. 

Whether you're acting in a play, creating a 3D scene, having a read-in, continuing a story, or reinventing art, find a way to bring literature alive for your pupils.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, include Dr. Seuss, and add something new!