It’s no secret, I love Dr.Seuss. From a young age, I became enamoured with his silliness and his rollicking rhymes. As I studied education and child development, I fell in love again as I realized how beneficial his playful prose were for building young readers (learn more about phonological awareness here). I would say Dr. Seuss is the Shakespeare of childhood. Any well-read (or well-read-to) child should be familiar with him!
One of my favorite Dr. Seuss tales is The Sneetches. You remember it, don’t you? The Sneetches on the beaches. Some have stars on their bellies and are rude to the ones who don’t until Sylvester McMonkey McBean (definitely my favorite literary name) comes with his star-on and star-off machines. The Sneetches run back and forth putting stars on and off, trying to be better than the other, until they run out of money and come to the realization that it really doesn’t matter, and they can all just be friends.
I really like to read this story at the beginning of the year as we talk so much about being good friends and getting along. But even better than reading this story, is acting it out. Story-acting is a great activity for building comprehension because the children don’t just hear and see the story, they ARE the story!
For this story, I prepare these props:
- Stars for their bellies, of course. I cut mine out of craft foam, punched a hole and strung them on yarn necklaces. You could obviously also use paper, but I like to be able to re-use mine. Make sure your yarn is long enough to place the star at belly level!
- A “contraption” they can go through as a star on/off machine. I used my crawling tunnel, and it worked great. You could also use a table with a sheet over it.
- It’s also nice to have a cool hat or bow tie for Sylvester McMonkey McBean to wear.
Before I start reading, I let the children know that they are going to be helping me out by acting out the story. I assure them that everyone will have a part to play and that if they listen very carefully, they’ll know just what to do.
I read the first page, which explains that some Sneetches had stars and others didn’t. At the end of the page, I give half of the children stars, and tell the other half, they are the Plain-Belly Sneetches. (If anyone is too sad about not having a star, remind them that it will all change during the story and everyone will get a turn.)
Over the next three pages of text, it talks about how the Star-Bellied Sneetches treat the Plain-Bellied Sneetches. Almost certainly, you’ll have one of your own Plain-Bellied Sneetches looking sad as she hears about this plight. Point that out as great acting! “She looks just like the Plain-Bellied Sneetches! How did they feel when they were left out? Sad! Of course! All the Plain-Bellied Sneetches, show me your sad faces!” The Star-Bellied Sneetches have a job to do as well. The story mentions them “with their snoots in the air”. Explain that their snoots are their noses and have them put their noses up and make a rude face. Talk a little about the Star-Bellies behavior, why it’s rude, and how it’s making the Plain-Bellies feel. (Talking about feelings during a story helps children develop their own abilities to verbalize their emotions.)
Now, as Sylvester comes onto the scene, you may want to put the hat on yourself, on a child, or a parent volunteer (the last being my favorite). Sylvester stands by your tunnel contraption as you read the next parts. After reading about the Plain-Bellies going through and getting stars, have your starless children go through (paying Sylvester either with play money, or imaginary money) and have your Sylvester put a star necklace on each child as they come through. While you’re waiting for everyone to go through, you and the Star-Bellies can make the sounds of the machine. I’m sure you can figure out, as the story progresses, the original Star-Bellies go through the same process, taking their necklaces off.
Eventually, the Sneetches all get mixed up, with one of my favorite Seussian stanzas: “Until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew, whether this one was that one…or that one was this one…or which one was what one…or what one was who.” Have each child go through one more time, and have Sylvester mix them all up, adding, taking away, and even giving some two!
At the end of the story, spend some time talking about the social moral of the story. We need to treat everyone kindly and include all our friends at school. Talk about how the Sneetches felt at different times in the story and connect those feelings to real-life situations for the children (How did the Plain-Bellies feel when they didn’t get to go to the Frankfurter roast? How would our friends feel if we didn’t let them play in the blocks with us?) Afterwards, you may want to extend the activity by leaving the props in your dramatic play area along with the book so that the children can act the story out again on their own!
Enjoy this activity with your little ones and they’ll be building language, literacy, and social skills with the story and discussion; dramatic play skills as they act; and large motor skills as they crawl through the tunnel. As an added bonus, they may also fall in love with one of the best authors in all of children’s literature!
For more Welcome Weeks activities, click here!