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Friday, March 1, 2013

Simple Reading Sparks Critical Thinking

I love when all the Cat in the Hat hats come out for Read Across America!  I find myself reciting those Dr. Seuss books….”One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, this one has a little star, this one has a little car, my what a lot of fish there are!”  “I do not like them Sam I am, I do not like green eggs and ham.”  Funny how those words stick in my brain, while so many others seem to just bounce off!  Dr. Seuss wrote great books to help get kids reading AND they often had a message to get kids thinking.  Why not use those books as a springboard for some great critical thinking?
Here are some resources and ideas:
Developing Questions
As usual, Read,Write has a great 4 day lesson, Seuss and Silverstein:  Posing Questions, Presenting Points, which has students developing their own critical thinking questions and leading class discussion on stories from those authors.   They point out that simple books from Dr. Seuss may address complex themes.
Teaching Philosophy
In my never ending quest not to re-invent the wheel, I found some great philosophical questions about the nature of pride and the nature of compromise for “The Zax”, in this wiki about teaching children philosophy.  There are also some critical thinking discussion questions for “The Sneetches”, about   the nature of prejudice and the nature of differences. includes some great critical thinking questions based on The Lorax which deals with environmental issues.
Writing with Deeper Meanings
Older students might like to take a look at “The Political Dr. Seuss” to see how he started his career in political cartoons and wrote most of his books with a political agenda.  From there  they can pick a political issue and sketch out a children’s story that would illustrate that issue.  They might also find interesting (I did) “10 Stories behind Dr. Seuss Stories” – Did you know that the story “Yertle the Tertle” was about Hitler and that it was controversial, not because of the Hitler connection, but because the turtle burped in the story!  Or that Green Eggs and Ham was written with just fifty words?  Sounds like a great challenge to give any student! (You might want to have them look at some of these 6 Word Stories or have them write their own!
Simple stories can have complex meanings, stimulate critical thinking and be used as reading and writing springboards.  
Do you use simple stories in your classroom?  Please share!

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