Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yo, Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Today in the clink we're celebrating the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. Here are some sound bites from the day so far:

"What? Man, Dr. Seuss is like for babies, Miss. What we readin' that for?"

"Yo, you didn't show me the pictures. Show me the pictures after you read the page. I mean, please show me the pictures, Miss."

"You skipped one. You skipped a page. Miss, lemme read that. Gimme that book. Miss, can I read now? I can read better than that."

"All that brother had to do was rhyme, and he got rich? That's easy, man. I'm 'bout to do that."

After building the background of the legacy of Dr. Seuss, including the fact that Theodor Geisel was born in the city in which most of my students grew up, the boys appear to warm up slightly to the fact that I am reading a "babyish" book to them for today's lesson. "Go get your pillow, if you want," I tell them, and I see a little glint in their eyes, something that reminds them of the magic they perhaps used to feel when they were in early elementary school, and someone read to them while they got to lie on a soft carpet, listen to a kind voice and look at pictures. The idea of reading for pure pleasure...they go to their rooms and get their pillows (one brings back his blanket) and off we go.

"The news just came in from the county of Keck / That a very small bug by the name of Van Vleck / Is yawning so wide you can look down his neck..." I begin reading, with my most animated reader's voice, from Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book. I happen to be reading this one to my first grade son's class this afternoon, but I also thought this to be the PERFECT book to read to these kids, who are constantly telling me how tired they are, how all they want to do is go to sleep, how weekends are all about sleeping as late as they can. Ah yes...teenage boys. They can't help it, I suppose.

I finish reading the book and remark how similar the rhyming patterns that Dr. Seuss used are to rap and hip-hop lyrics. "Here, Kyle," I say, handing the book to a student. "Read a page as if you were rapping." Kyle, an aspiring rapper, easily obliges and puts on a little impromptu show.

"Everywhere / Creatures / Have shut off their voices / They've all gone to bed / In the beds of their choices," Kyle raps, complete with a puffed out chest and lots of hand gestures. "Miss, you're right!" Kyle chuckles. "That's funny."

We talk about the different rhyming words in the Sleep Book, and about rhyming patterns, including the difference between perfect and slant rhyme. I can tell they're getting into it. I assign a short writing exercise in which they create a rap, poem or song using whatever rhyming pattern they like. "Think about what you want your rap to be about. What kind of story do you want to tell? Or, what question could you ask?"

They jump right into this assignment. I don't have to say another word. What they come up with is clever, hilarious, and intelligent. And it all came from a lesson based on some "baby" book.

1 comment:

  1. Kate, that's my favorite story of celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday ever! Actually, I think you should send it to a local paper, though that might embarass your students.