I begin by asking the kids general questions about tolerance - What is means to be tolerant of others? How it feels when others aren't tolerant of them? The word begins a rich discussion leading inevitably to the tolerance, and intolerance, of people's different beliefs. In the book, The Sneetches, they listen to how these Dr. Seuss characters experience the themes of discrimination and intolerance, and the absurdity of it all. This is a book the students embrace "The Sneetches!" immediately, and never forget.
Read Across America and my lesson on The Sneetches always fall on the heels of Black History Month, which is ideal. The students have recently experienced lessons in the categories of segregation, discrimination, and intolerance. I find it quite helpful as they relate these lessons to our discussion...and they do so frequently.
Next, I present, The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, and ask how many kids have read the book. More than half have heard of it, but surprisingly, not as many as I expected have even leafed through on their own. This news is just fine because I'm pleased to watch their initial reactions.
I introduce the story, "The Sneetches," and instruct the kids to write down the different themes as they occur on scrap paper. I also urge them to think broadly about the themes because so much is going on. After our warm up discussion, they easily make the connection between the story and diversity, but I'm looking for them to expand their thinking toward less significant ideas as well, which will add depth to the summaries they write during closure.
Once they've heard the story, it's time to list these themes ideas and analyze the actual meaning of the text. I pass out a Themes and Character Response worksheet for them to organize their thoughts and write a Themes and Character Response into (1) the themes they identified and (2) evidence to prove the themes by writing how the character(s) reacted. Next, we compile these themes on the Smart Board. Here are Class contributions after hearing, "The Sneetches." The students then have a chance to read their ideas and themes to the class.
To close the activity they are to write a Summary of, "The Sneetches." In this summary they include the theme words written during the reading of the story, and the graphic organizer used in the Application section. Most kids write these pretty quickly. I always enjoy watching this particular writing session because it's a fast and furious type of experience. In one of the photos titled, "Working hard on his summary" it captures what I'm trying to say. They're eager to share their completed summaries.
After we've concluded, I surprise them with the YouTube video of "The Sneetches," which is a little over 12 minutes long. I like the abbreviated length, the kids enjoy seeing this wonderful book onscreen, and it solidifies our lesson about the Effect of discrimination by reviewing the book just after they've completed their summaries. The final image Sneetches are Equal sums it up! Student Summary Examples 1 and 2 and Summary Examples 3 and 4.