Maria has taught University level psychology and mathematics courses for over 20 years. They have a Doctorate in Education from Nova Southeastern University, a Master of Arts in Human Factors Psychology from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Flagler College.
If I Ran the Circus
In If I Ran the Circus, Dr. Seuss tells an enchanting story of a child's imagination. Children do tend to plan big, often without thought to the practicality of their dreams. Morris McGurk sees a plot of land filled with trash and dreams of the amazing circus he could build in that space. It is a beautiful story of imagination and ambition. If the store owner, Mr. Sneelock, doesn't quite know how involved he will be in this imagined dream of a circus, well - he'll be okay with it anyway, I'm sure.
This lesson builds on those dreams and ambitions to encourage students to be creative and active. You will find repeated themes of imagination, adjectives, and synonyms in order to incorporate these activities into your regular course curriculum requirements. Students can focus on If I Ran the Circus while learning literary concepts at the same time. The lesson is organized by level of activity: from quiet projects completed individually at each student's own desk, to the whole class being up and moving about (even outside the classroom). Feel free to alter these activities in whatever way they will most accommodate your classroom situation.
What would you run?
After reading If I Ran the Circus to your class, ask your students to think of something they would like to run (a circus, a zoo, a swimming pool, etc). Instruct them to write a poem in Dr. Seuss style about their plans and how running this place might be fun. Encourage them to add detail to their poems through the use of adjectives (descriptive words) and synonyms(words with the same meaning).
- While it isn't expected that children could write a book the size of Dr. Seuss', make sure to give them a minimum/maximum word limit.
Say That Again
Dr. Seuss uses an astounding number of synonyms in If I Ran the Circus (for example, when Morris begins imagining his circus he says it will be 'cream of the cream, supreme, colossal, stupendous, astounding, fantastic and tremendous'). Ask your students to choose two descriptive words from the story and write as many synonyms for those words as they can.
- No using a thesaurus for help!
- As additional motivation for engagement, offer a prize for the student who comes up with the most synonyms for their two chosen words.
Read If I Ran the Circus to your class, and discuss the fascinating animals performing amazing talents in the Circus McGurkus. Encourage your students to use their imaginations to invent a new animal that might fit in well at the circus. They should draw a picture of the animal and give a written description similar to the descriptions used in the book (e.g. where the animal is from, what it looks like, and what its special talent is).
- Remind students that they are creating a pretend animal so they can let their imaginations run wild.
Whole Class Activities
After reading If I Ran the Circus, divide your class into groups of 4-5. Give the class a set amount of time to consider and practice a very brief circus act. If children struggle with an idea, you can suggest juggling, balancing items, bag tossing/catching or silly noise making. Make sure to encourage them to be creative. Ask groups to perform their circus act for the class.
- You may like to collect props suitable for mini-circus acts.
- Some items might be hula-hoops, juggling balls, small bean bags, or any other small items children might use to invent a circus act.
Remind students that Morris McGurk is interested in building a circus behind Mr. Sneelock's store, but he realizes he must first clean up the cans. It is true that, often, we must clean-up or prepare an area before we can actually do anything with it. Discuss how cleaning up our environment allows for all sorts of wonderful things to be done in areas that were not able to be used because of the trash. Encourage your students to help clean up the environment by organizing a playground clean-up.
- You may need to go over some safety rules about what is okay to pick up (weeds, old cans, general garbage, etc.) and what is dangerous to pick up (needles, broken glass, rusty nails, etc.).
- Plastic safety gloves may need to be worn (check with your administrators for specific rules at your school).
Roller-skate Skis Slalom
Discuss Mr. Sneelock's astounding trick of riding on roller-skate skis around stickle-bush trees without getting a single 'hole in his pants'. Divide the class into teams. Each team will create a slalom course with obstacles to avoid. Then players swap courses and run the slalom created by another team. The team that gets the most players through their course without touching an obstacle wins.
- For this activity you will need obstacles to create slalom courses.
- Small throw cushions would work well (at least 10 for each team), but pictures of trees/cacti would be fine, too.
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