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Kindergartners grade high school author’s books

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image Kindergartners at Summerfield Elementary School listen to three young authors read their Dr. Seuss-style children’s books April 23. Penny Fletcher Photo

For more than two weeks students in Riverview High School’s creative writing class got to study Dr. Seuss books

By PENNY FLETCHER

For more than two weeks students in Riverview High School’s creative writing class got to study Dr. Seuss books, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Green Eggs and Ham.

No, creative writing teacher and student newspaper advisor Mike Zelazo wasn’t teaching intensive reading to people just starting out. He was working with extremely talented young authors on a project to write children’s books.

Zelazo came up with the unique project during a class about poetry, rhyme and meter.

“I had two classes involved,” Zelazo said. “Maybe 40 students who had been working on poetry, rhyme and meter for a couple of months were asked to write Dr.Seuss-type children’s books. I left One Fish, Two Fish… and Green Eggs and Ham out on my desk for their perusal the whole time.”

He contacted Jeannette Alcantara, speech and language teacher at Summerfield Elementary School about doing a project where kindergartners would listen to the books and see the artwork, and judge which three they liked best.

About 30 books were sent to the school.

Alcantara had met Zelazo when he allowed her to observe his class as part of her work in grad school, which she is still attending while she also works. After six years as a speech and language teacher at Summerfield, she is studying to be a school counselor, a decision she says is supported by everyone she works with now.

“The students graded the books by multiple choice,” Alcantara said. “We asked questions about how they liked the stories and the artwork. They were all open-ended questions so they could answer any way the books made them feel.”

The Summerfield teachers put two children to work on each book.

Zelazo and Alcantara worked with kindergarten teacher Danielle Benedict.

“I thought the stories were wonderful,” Benedict said. ”It’s funny; though, when we first read them they were full of questions and just kept talking about them. But now (when the group from Riverview High School was there) they’re so quiet.”

Even though they didn’t ask many questions, their faces showed appreciation of the stories while they listened to each author read aloud as pages of the book were shown on a screen. Two of the authors, Alyssa Morley and Isabella Seijo, drew their own artwork. The third, Matthew Kramer, looked up and printed out clip art from the Internet to illustrate his theme.

Every page had pictures, and all the books were done in true Suess style. Each had a “learning lesson” in the story.

After the students caught onto the concept about two months ago, Zelazo said he gave them two weeks to complete the books.

Once the top three were chosen by the students at Summerfield, the teachers arranged a reading.

Morley’s story, “The Trip to Mount Stump,” was about everybody being different. Seijo’s, “The Shoes of Tooze,” was about each person mattering, no matter how important or small, and Kramer’s, “Stop and Listen,” was about really looking at all the things around you in the world and in life.

Students at both schools said they learned a lot from the unusual assignment. But that’s not all. Makayla Lindecamp and Kelly Livingston of Riverview’s high school newspaper interviewed and took photographs at Summerfield as the authors read their works.

“This is a learning assignment for them, too,” Zelazo said.

The teachers agreed the original Dr. Seuss would have been proud.

Theodore Seuss Geisel lived from 1904 to 1991 and was known as an American writer, poet and cartoonist as well as for his widely known children’s picture books, which he wrote and illustrated himself. His published biography shows he wrote 46 children’s books, all of which were characterized by imaginative characters, rhyme and frequent use of anapestic meter — which is characterized by two short lines followed by a longer line, as demonstrated here in the middle stanzas of Green Eggs and Ham:

“… Do you like
green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam I am.”

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