Last week was spent with the stupendous students of Blackford Elementary where we enjoyed Read Across America celebrated all week long! This week, I will share a few of the activities we engaged in, perhaps they are things you can incorporate at home or in your own classroom.
Each day was spent visiting a different grade. The first day, I spent working with all of the first graders. We read and discussed the story Yertle the turtle. Now, if you are unfamiliar with this story I will give you a very brief synopsis. There is a turtle named Yertle, who wishes to be king over everything he sees. He commands all of his turtle subjects to stack on each other‘s back with poor Mack at the bottom of the stack to take the brunt of everything. Why? So he can be higher than all of the rest. One of the morals of this story that I like to focus on is how we treat our friends and even those who are not our friends.
It always fascinates me how intuitive these first graders are with their answers on how we need to treat one another. We can easily spend 30 minutes or more just discussing lessons from this story. The really fun part is the turtle stacking activity. It’s a very simple game that incorporates math, art, and peer building skills.
Simply take a paper plate and tape a bowl upside down to the bottom of the paper plate and voilà, you have a turtle shell! I recommend using pure white paper plates and paper bowls, part of the activity is where the students decorate their own turtle shell. Then, we stack the turtles as high as we can before Mack (the bottom turtle) burps and the stack falls over. The children go insane over this simple game! Many teachers have told me they saved the turtle shells for a reward at the end of the day to play if the students were well behaved.
My favorite story by Dr. Seuss is: Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Remember to step with great tact, as life is a great balancing act. The ups and downs one might face in life are very accurate. Sometimes you will be on top of the world. The next moment, you’re as lonely as can be. Activities for this book are very simple, students draw a picture of themselves in the hot air balloon of what they want to do when they grow up. I’ve seen everything from you tubers, professional video game players, to educators and even yes, a children’s author like yours truly. Teachers have expressed it’s helped them to gain a better insight into some of their more reserved students.
One last activity to share with all of you today accompanied the book, Ten Apples up on Top. It’s a very simple, almost minimal book if you will. It is a great way to teach children counting, it is a basic book with funny illustrations. I always feel a little concerned over how juvenile the writing is and if it will be too young for older elementary students. Those feelings of anxiety are quickly squashed once we start the hands-on engineering activity using apples.
It’s apples, only apples that we use. Nothing fancy, just apples. You think these fourth graders have never seen nor played with apples before! They go gaga over apples! The goal with this activity is two-fold, a fun element to see if you can walk with apples stacked on your head (for the record, we have had two students walk with three apples stacked on top and one took five steps before they fell) and using creativity to engineer a structure using only apples.
The boys and girls love this game so much and really think outside the box with their ideas. Afterwards, we discuss what was learned about building with apples. What would the effects be if we used a variety of apples? I’m always begged by them to keep an apple after we are finished. The answer is yes. Everyone may keep an apple as long as they agree to wash it before eating.
These were just a few of the events that took place during Read Across America week. Each year, I visit a different school and perform the same activities for the students. Why the same activities? They are tried and true and that is what the district’s request when we sign our contract. I am learning a lot about how the students respond to the games and stories shared. It’s always so much fun, and I get to dress up each day. How awesome is that!?!
Next stop, a similar program in another district in two weeks. Only, instead of a Dr. Seuss theme, I will be sharing my stories and related activities with the students that accompany my books.
How do you like to celebrate Read Across America? Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss book? Leave a comment below to share!