Student-teacher Seiler reaches third-graders with Dr. Seuss

Release Date: 4/21/2014

"I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living; it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities." -Dr. Seuss

Monica Seiler grew up with Dr. Seuss books, gaining a deep appreciation and love for the colorful imagery and life's lessons that the famous children's author imparted in his books. As a budding elementary school teacher, she's now making it a point to make sure that today's young children know about Dr. Seuss.

Seiler, a senior early childhood education major from Rogers, Ark., is completing her student-teaching this semester at Elgin B. Milton Elementary School in Ozark, Ark. As part of her work with the third-graders in her class, Seiler developed a two-week project that incorporated Dr. Seuss readings with lessons in literacy, math, science, social studies, art and health.

Monica Seiler

Senior early childhood education major Monica Seiler shared her love of Dr. Seuss books to impart lessons on literacy, math, science, social studies, art and health to her third-grade students during her spring internship for the Ozark (Ark.) School District.

"Each lesson of that day had a specific theme to it that correlated to the Dr. Seuss book that I was reading that day," said Seiler, who will graduate during the May 17 Spring Commencement. "For example, in the book 'The Lorax,' the message is all about recycling and taking care of the world we live in. Therefore, I connected it to science material on reducing, recusing, and recycling. In 'Oh, the Places You'll Go!' the message is all about finding positivity, even when times get hard, and to never give up and to persevere."

The students especially liked one of Seiler's favorite Dr. Seuss books, "Horton Hears a Who."

"The message in this book touches my heart every time and I think it is because I have a soft spot in my heart for young children," Seiler said. "The theme, 'A person's a person, no matter how small,' is a great theme."

Seiler said even she was amazed with how much the children looked forward to the Dr. Seuss lessons each day.

"Hearing the unique vocabulary in Dr. Seuss' masterpieces created a way to broaden the student's imagination," she said. "They were truly excited to hear the books and to get into each of the lessons."

Seiler even went as far as dressing up to match the theme of the book, including donning a red and white striped hat and bowtie for "The Cat in the Hat" theme.

"For the book, 'Wacky Wednesday,' I mismatched my clothes and shoes and the students loved that," Seiler said. "When they saw me each morning, they tried to guess which book we would be reading that day. It just made them much more enthusiastic about the lessons."

Even on the sad day that the Dr. Seuss project ended, Seiler was able to incorporate an important message into the theme.

"One of Dr. Seuss' famous quotes is 'Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened,' and we talked about what that meant," Seiler said. "The students understood what that meant and how it applied to the ending of that unit."   

Seiler said she was surprised how many of the third-graders had never heard of Dr. Seuss and that the ones who were familiar with him had only heard of one or two of his books. Born in 1904, Theodor Seuss Geisel published 46 children's books before he passed away in 1991.

"In my opinion I think Dr. Seuss is a genius," Seiler said. "His poetic play with words and the lessons that he weaves into his books are amazing. Dr. Seuss created such deep messages within his text that can reach and touch people of all ages. I was surprised that so many children had not read his books or knew who he was. It was a great feeling to see the children connect with his books and learn something from them."

Seiler said that one girl in her class was especially touched by the Dr. Seuss books.

"After the lessons ended she went to the library and checked out every Dr. Seuss book she could find," Seiler said. "For this girl, the books just clicked."

The underlying theme for all the lessons was literacy and getting children excited about reading.     

"Literacy is vital to education," Seiler said. "According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), young children need writing to help them learn about reading, they need reading to help them learn about writing, and they need oral language to help them learn about both. The skills found within this project are important because each lesson touches on literacy in some shape or form.  Without literacy, children cannot grow further in school.  Literacy does not have to be complicated. It just simply has to address reading or writing in some way."

Seiler, who already has several interviews lined up this summer for teaching positions, said her Ozarks education has fully prepared her for a career in the classroom.

"I can't imagine being better prepared than I am now," she said. "The great thing about this program is that I've had classroom experience since my sophomore year and that's given me a variety of classroom settings. And the professors have been so supportive and helpful."