Dr. Seuss In My Classroom

I apologize for the hiatus, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks! The holidays were well spent amongst family and friends, I hope yours were too! So after all the chocolate eating, the puzzle making, the movie watching and people seeing – I think it’s time I update this blog!

So I am an ESL teacher now, which is exciting because I’ve never been! I’m gradually getting the hang of it. I’ve realized that ESL teachers need to know their own culture very well – everything from idioms to why people act the way they do. My students are my age, which is a lot of fun because it takes me back to the good ‘ol days in university when I worked with the International Student Ministry. I currently have 10 students – the maximum I will ever have is 12. Some days, I have had 3. It’s always fluctuating because the students register for how ever many weeks as they want. In one day, I teach four fifty minute classes, my day begins at 8:30 am and ends at 1:00 pm. There’s a bit of background for ya! Now let me talk about my most recent lesson…

The idea of using Dr. Seuss in my classroom came to me when I stumbled upon the Canada-ESL.com website. I’ve always loved reading Dr. Seuss, they were some of the first books I had ever read, so using these same beloved books in my lesson seemed like an exciting notion! I didn’t use the material on the site, instead I decided to bring in a couple of Dr. Seuss books for the students to read together since I’ve got quite the collection at home.

 At first, I was a bit apprehensive as to how my 20 something year old students would react to reading children’s books, but surprisingly they enjoyed it! I knew that I had to “sell” this lesson to them in order to get them engaged instead of feeling patronized, so I did a ‘lil bit of research and learned that Dr. Seuss’ work is great for developing rhythm when speaking. So that’s what I told them! Unlike most languages, English is not a tonal nor syllabic language, instead it is rhythmic. And I’ve noticed that whenever my students are reading off the page, they focus so much on pronunciation that they completely ignore stress and rhythm. So that’s what I decided to focus on for this lesson.

I began by teaching where to find stress in a sentence by writing a simple phrase on the board.

→ Students take tests.

This sentence has four syllables, but only three are stressed. So instead, we have:

→ Stu/dents/ take /tests.

I gave them longer versions of this sentence to show that not every word needs to be stressed:

→ The/ stu/dents/ are/ tak/ing/ the/ tests.

After giving a couple more examples and explaining that in English, the information/important  words are the ones that are stressed, we dove into some Dr. Seuss.

I gave each student a page of the first couple of stanzas from The Cat in the Hat and I read it aloud for them to hear the rhythm and where I stressed the words. Then I added tapping, which I found helped them understand better because every time I tapped was when a word was stressed. After reading altogether, I had students get into partners and gave each pair a book. Among these were:

Fox in Socks

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat Came Back

Sam I Am 

I was surprised that none of the students had ever heard of Dr. Seuss, so I explained who he was and his success in creating these children stories. I had learned just the night before that his first books came out in the early 1950’s! Anyway, I had students read through the book aloud together and had them choose 15-20 lines in their book to analyze stress patterns, linking of words and elision. After they had done that, they read aloud their section to the rest of the class. It was pretty fun to watch! It was great to see them stressing the right syllables and not reading robotically anymore. After the presentations, I had them do a little journal writing on their favourite childhood storybook or a famous writer that they admire. Finally, we ended the day with a spelling game.

So basically, whether you’re 5 or 25 , you can never go wrong with Dr. Seuss!



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