Dr. Seuss, Civil Rights, and Middle School – Oh My! Dancing Poetry @ Kenmore MS

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 2.49.41 PM

Standards/Overarching themes for the week:
Sustained reading: 25 mins
Review plot structure/sequence: plot graph/elements of story
Poetry Forms: ABAB/AABB
Comparison/Contrast of text in different medium: Book/Video/Play
Text: The Sneetches, Dr. Seuss
  • Students will experience the same text (The Sneetches) via sustained reading (book), visual representation (video), and embodied story-telling (play)
  • Students will create a sketch of the main character in the text
  • Students will create poetry based on the main theme of the text: “Sneetches are Sneetches”
  • Students will physicalize, and therefore experience synergistic learning, of all materials by putting the key concepts, vocabulary, and themes into action with their bodies using the principles of B.E.S.S.T. (body, effort, shape, space, and time) as a definition of dance/movement in the classroom.

Incorporate for classroom  management:

Roll your shoulders back if you’re finished
Tap your toes
bounce in your seats
stand up by 8, sit down by 8
Wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care
Stand to answer

All that seems a little dry, doesn’t it? In truth, it was super exciting! This is what happens when you blend uber academic planning with dance: the reality jumps off the page and becomes magic for students and teachers alike. My residency at Kenmore Middle School in VA was anything but dry, that’s for sure! I was paired with a stellar educator who was willing to try anything; together, we had a blast.

What started out as a discussion on the Sneetches behavior towards one another, in the context of reviewing the poetry forms ABAB/AABB, morphed into a student-led discussion of the Civil Rights Movement and students’ personal experiences with bullying and racist behavior. We discussed how it feels bad to be mean to others. And how good it feels to be kind. Below is the poem that the students wrote as a group as a result:

I am a Sneetch

Yesterday, I was quite snide

I was rude to my favorite pair

I felt like I should hide

So, I offered to cut the girls’ hair

I just wanted to play

But, I felt ashamed

The others wouldn’t let me stay

They called me names

Now, I know about the human race

People should have the same rights

to stand toe to toe and face to face

United together for our fight.

Our final activity was to put an adaption of The Sneetches on it’s feet and physicalize the text as a class. We did not have time to memorize parts, create props, costumes, and all of the bells and whistles. Instead, we did a standing reading facing each other in a box shape. Each student stepped forward into the box when it was their time to speak/gesture/move/act. Aside from the benefits of working with text in a new/fresh way for the students, they experienced and conquered the fear and anxiety of “performing” text in front of their peers in a safe, and supportive atmosphere. They were simultaneously performer and audience member. They attended to each other and rose to the challenge within themselves. It was messy. We repeated the play twice. It got better. Much better. They felt their improvement, in the moment, without a test or a paper – and were proud.

I highly recommend offering students the opportunity to take positive risks like this one; I saw the self esteem of several students rise within one class period through this activity. And, as a bonus, they experienced all of this WITH their teachers; we chose to be characters in the play as well – so we all took the positive risk and learned together.

Here’s a screen shot of the text we used: Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 12.25.15 PM

More soon from the trenches!

  • k.k. 🙂
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