As part of the Read Across America celebrations that are held annually in our school, I like to have the freshmen analyze books written by Dr. Seuss. They are always drawn to Seuss' work because of the color, rhythm, rhyme, and fun that the books have to offer. Through this unit, even struggling readers can find a deeper meaning in the writing and often understand the concept of making a connection to their own teenage lives after this unit.

Nebraska State Standards Addressed in this lesson:
12.1.3 (word analysis), 12.1.6 (extract and construct meaning using prior knowledge), 12.2.2 (write for a variety of audiences), and 12.4 (research, synthesis, and communicate info from a variety of media and formats)

What you will learn: styled after the last two stanzas of "Horton Hears a Who" (written by Mrs. Moninger)
Dr. Seuss made a big splash on children's lit...
And the people came shouting, “what’s all this about…?”
They looked! And they stared with their eyes popping out!
Then they cheered and they cheered and they cheered more and more.
They’d never seen anything like it before!
“An author! An Illustrator!” they shouted. “And so much more!
He's an activist, a politician --
and teaches history galore!!
And it should be, it should be, it should be like that!
Because Dr. Seuss was faithful! He wrote and he drew,
teaching true lessons in each story he told
And he said what he meant…”

…And we'll explore and explore
to discover hidden meanings in his text,
One hundred per cent!


Directions: As a class, we are going to define and discuss the following words. Not just the dictionary definitions, but what you instantly think (or feel) as you hear the word. Then, writing our own connotative definition.
Lorax.jpg

Vocabulary Terms to think about:

  • corruption
  • power
  • human rights
  • racism
  • tolerance
  • greed
  • pollution
  • war
  • warfare
  • anti-antisemitism
  • environmentalism


Individual Activity:
1a. First begin by reading each of the following Dr. Seuss books. Each of them has a deeper meaning related to history and making moral decisions. Be watching for that deeper meaning as you read each one. Jot a few notes of your thoughts for each one.
a. The Cat in the Hat
c. The Lorax
d. Horton Hears a Who
e. The Butter Battle Book
f. Yertle the Turtle
g. The Sneetches

1b. As you read each one, write down a key word, or more, from the above vocabulary list, that matches with the reading. Also, if you can see a deeper meaning tied to the children's story, write that down too.

1c. Write a simply summary of the story with no deeper meaning. This is a summary that a child would read to get interested in the book.

2. Once you have read each one, you now need to choose your favorite one. This is the one you will work closely with to find out more information. Start with the basics and do some research. (Make sure you bookmark the sites so you can use EasyBib on them for your assignment later. See the EasyBib example at the bottom of this page.)
a. What year was the book written?
b. What was going on politically and historically when it was written or just prior to its writing and publication?
c. How might Dr. Seuss' real life and upbringing have appeared in the story?
d. What ideas do you have for the deeper meaning?
e. What political statement might Dr. Seuss be sending out to the adults who are reading the book to their young children?


What do you think?

  1. Create a wikipage named: LoraxDeeperMeaning or ButterBattleDeeperMeaning or CatinHatDeeperMeaning or YertleTurtleDeeperMeaning or HortonHearsWhoDeeperMeaning or SneetchesDeeperMeaning
  2. At the top of the wiki page, list the following information:
    • title of the book, author, year it was written (get from the copyright on the back of the title page... use the oldest year listed)
    • picture of the cover the book (need to upload onto your page)
    • write your own summary of the book (5 sentences) write it for an elementary student who is only trying to take an AR test
  3. Read the entire story to yourself. As you read, take notes of what you think the deeper might be. Remember, this is what you think, not what is on the Internet, so you don't need to look anything up for this step.
a. Look closely at what the characters are wearing.
b. Read closely for words or phrases that might help with deeper or double meaning.
c. What might different characters symbolize? What does "he" do to "them"?
d. What might different situations symbolize? What could this situation represent as a different situation?

What do other people think?

Now you can start with the basics and do some research. (Make sure you bookmark the sites so you can use EasyBib on them for your assignment later. See the EasyBib example at the bottom of this page.)
  • What year was the book written?
  • What was going on politically and historically when it was written? List the major historical events that have happened around this time period. The previous 5 years might help...
  • How might Dr. Seuss' real life and upbringing have appeared in the story?
  • What ideas do you have for the deeper meaning?
  • What political statement might Dr. Seuss be sending out to the adults who are reading the book to their young children?

Find locations on the Internet and copy and paste the links in your wikipage:
  • Find a YouTube video of the original book that was animated in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
  • Find a site where you can see the pages of the book. (The entire book, so someone can read it for themselves online.)
  • Find a site or video that shows a modern version of the book. (if possible)
  • Find 5 links to different people who have interpreted the meaning of your book and written about it online. They may not all have the same opinions, but they have to be different people. Include the link and a short summary for each site summarizing what they think is the deeper meaning.

To Prepare to write your essay:
Research the book:
  • What "themes" are hidden in Seuss' story
  • What historical events is he trying to teach about
  • What is Seuss' position on the historical event? How does he feel about it?
  • Put your bookmark links with your information

Analyze the book itself
  • Analyze the words and how they relate to history
  • Analyze the pictures and how they relate to the same story in history
  • Include your own opinions

Comparison of the book to the movie and what is added to the Seuss version of the movie to add to the political message:
  • Write an overview of the story in the video and how it adds to the political message. (Seuss included a lot more in the movies than he could in the book. There is movement, sound, added scenes, etc.)
  • Use screen shots to show how the video supports the political message of the book and put the pictures on your page.
  • List the exact time in the video where we should begin watching to see your examples. Make sure you have a live link to the video you are referring to as well.
  • Put the video link your bookmarks and in your works cited.

Connecting it to your own teenage life

Your individual meaning of the story that you could apply to yourself or history since the book was written.
connect the characters to the people in your life.
Connect the setting to places you have been

Works Cited and Consulted Page:
  • Use proper MLA format for all sites you have looked at and used throughout the course of this project
  • You may use EasyBib.org or Citation Machine to create your MLA entries for web sites and for the books you have read.
  • Remember to put all citations in alphabetical order.


References to Continue Learning: