Geisel, T. (1998). Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
I like to use this book to talk about school and students’ ideas about it. The book is about a wacky school with weird teachers and a distressed principal. The principal announces that the students must do well on a big test in order to save the school from shutting down. Oh, and by the way, the test is tomorrow! While student begin to panic, one teacher saves the day by reminding them of all that they’ve learned throughout the year.
This book is wonderful for several reasons. First, it always grabs students’ attention. When I explain that this is one of Dr. Seuss’s last books and it was one he did not finish before he died, they always want to know more! I explain that a couple of authors found the manuscript after Dr. Seuss died, wanted to see it published, and so they finished it themselves! I briefly discuss the other authors especially Jack Prelutsky, whom they sometimes are familiar with through his poetry. I let students know that this is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books because it’s not well known. This usually means that when I read it to a class, it’s the first time they’ve heard it. I love watching their reactions as they hear this crazy tale for the first time.
When we come together in the meeting area I show students the text and explain briefly why I’ve chosen it. I give a short summary and tell them that the book is about an unordinary school and its teachers. As they listen, I want them to think about how this school is different from their own.
After reading the book out loud, I lead a short book talk. We do a quick compare and contrast of our school and the school in the book. I ask students if there were parts of that school that they would like to see in our building. A few students share and they become more and more animated about their visions of school.
I extend the conversation and lead students into our activity by asking them to consider creating their very own school. If they could create a “perfect school,” what would it be like? What would you name it? Where would it be located? What would the building look like? What kind of teachers would work there? Think of one teacher who is the star of the school. What is her name? What special skill does he have?
I ask students to turn to their writing partners and discuss their ideas of a perfect school. After both partners have had a chance to share, I ask students to give me a thumbs up if they are ready to put their ideas onto paper. I explain that today, they will write about and then illustrate their idea of a perfect school.
As students return to their desks, I hand out the writing materials. They complete their descriptions on the lined page and then draw a detailed picture of their buildings and/or teachers on the second page. I encourage them to write as much detail as possible and to include those details in their drawings.
After most students have finished, I ask everyone to return to the meeting area to share. I have them show their pictures and read a portion of their writing. This is another sample I keep for students in their writing portfolios.