Yertle the Turtle Discussion Questions

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Oh the fun you will have when reading in rhyme; you will learn and grow and have such a good time. These discussion questions will guide students of all ages through deep contemplation of the lessons learned from Dr. Seuss' 'Yertle the Turtle.'

Discussing ''Yertle the Turtle''

Dr. Seuss is famous for his imaginative, rhyming writing style. Children of all ages love his stories and made-up words. What they may not realize, at first, is that each story carries a strong social message. Yertle the Turtle is no different in that its cute rhymes and wonderful story line encase an important lesson for students to consider.

The discussion questions offered here can be adjusted to work for all ages. You may prefer to conduct a class discussion for younger children, while older students can discuss the book in small groups.

Character Analysis

Young Students

  • Do you think Yertle is a good king?
    • Can you pick out one or more parts of the story that support your opinion?
    • What could Yertle do to be a better king to his turtles?
  • The only other characters in the story are the other turtles.
    • Do you think that is enough characters for a good story? Why or why not?
    • How do you think the other turtles felt being subjects of King Yertle?
  • Was Mack brave to question the king?

Older Students

  • What characteristics do you expect of a good king?
    • Which of these characteristics do you think Yertle has?
    • In what ways is Yertle a good/bad king?
  • Why do the other turtles do what Yertle says even when it is contrary to their own health?
    • Do you think this is a metaphor for how humans behave in society?
    • Who is the king in a group that really has no formal hierarchical line?

Themes

Greed/Ambition

Young Students

  • What happened when Yertle got too greedy?
    • Was Yertle really king of all that he could see?
    • Why do you think he wanted to be king of so much?

Older Students

  • Was Yertle greedy or ambitious?
    • Do we sometimes need people that are willing to be ambitious in society?
    • Yertle's opinion of himself inflates as he is elevated on the stack of turtles. Do you think this is true of humans, too? Do we tend to get a false sense of self when we are raised up by others?
    • Discuss the phrase ''Absolute power corrupts absolutely'' as it applies to this story.

Bravery

Young Students

  • What does it mean to be brave?
    • Which turtles were brave in this story? Why do you think so?
  • Do you think Mack was brave to talk back to the king?
    • What about when he burped? Was that brave or just something that happened?

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