Dr. Seuss teaches peace - The Sneetches

"If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children."  Gandhi

The Sneetches (about us vs. them and anti-Semitism, racism, tolerance). Students are informed that the Nazis often required Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing to identify themselves as Jewish. (3rd- 4th graders) 

Background/ History

Published in 1961, The Sneetches was written during the controversial times in America of the civil rights movement. Depicting messages of racism, and discrimination, he uses a simple star as the cause for major conflict in this story.  The yellow, seemingly primitive Sneetches try to find power through discriminating against one another based on a distinction so insignificant as the presence of a star on their belly. 

Dr. Seuss also tactfully points out the unfortunate truth that people sometimes profit from conflict and harmful products, using Sylvester McMoney McBean as a personification of this danger. 

Objectives   

  • Students will discuss the concepts of seclusion, racism, and discrimination
  • Students will analyze the significance of diversity, differences, and stereotypes
  • Students will compare the story’s themes to historical events
  • Students will discuss the role of profiteering from conflicts and harmful behavior
  • Students will discuss how being good global stewards requires treating others with kindness and respect

Instructions:

1. Provide students with instruction on how to tell powerful stories. 

2. Hand out copies of the book and have the students read it giving many students a chance to read.

3. Start a class discussion with open ended questions such as: 

  1. Dr. Seuss uses stars to create a wedge between two groups of Sneetches.  What are some more modern causes of conflict?
  2. Were the two groups of Sneetches really different in any way other than the stars?  What does Sylvester McMoney McBean inevitably show the Sneetches by the end when they have lost track of their groups?
  3. Why does Sylvester continue the conflict between the Sneetches?
  4. What is important about ending discrimination and finding win-win outcomes?

4. Pointing out that Sylvester essentially used a game plan to continue profiting, transition into a class activity. Give half the students rubber bands to put on their wrist.

5. Next, play a short game of musical chairs. Only students without rubber bands can play.

6. At the end of the game ask the students with the rubber bands how they felt.

7. Repeat the game but this time it is the students with rubber bands that can play.

8. Ask the students without rubber bands how they felt.

9. End by reinforcing that rules to discriminate interfere with becoming good local and global stewards.

Evaluation

Start a class discussion prompting the students to see that even in a children’s game, discrimination leads to bad feelings and injustice.

Roleplay by having students present The Sneetches story and helping students appreciate how the message relates to being a good global steward. Start a class discussion prompting the students to discuss what is important about ending discrimination and how to find win-win solutions.

Optional follow up activities

1. Create human cut-outs so that every student receives one.  Then, using ethnic colored pencils/crayons as well as normal colors, have the students color the cut-outs in as themselves.  Once they are finished, have a large rainbow shaped cut-out on which the students can glue their drawings on to demonstrate how all the colors come together to illustrate the beauty of diversity.  Prompt a discussion to illustrate that although their drawings are all different and unique, they all started with the exact same cut-out, and that despite their differences, they all share commonalities as well.

2. Show the animated movie The Sneetches.

3. Make an act of kindness jar. This is a fun tool to record and reward acts of kindness.

 

Parent Adaptation

Background/ History

Published in 1961, The Sneetches was written during the controversial times in America of the civil rights movement. Depicting messages of racism, and discrimination, he uses a simple star as the cause for major conflict in this story.  The yellow, seemingly primitive Sneetches try to find power through discriminating against one another based on a distinction so insignificant as the presence of a star on their belly. 

Dr. Seuss also tactfully points out the unfortunate truth that people sometimes profit from conflict and harmful products, using Sylvester McMoney McBean as a personification of this danger. 

Objectives   

  • Students will discuss the concepts of seclusion, racism, and discrimination
  • Students will analyze the significance of diversity, differences, and stereotypes
  • Students will compare the story’s themes to historical events
  • Students will discuss the role of profiteering from conflicts and harmful behavior
  • Students will discuss how being good global stewards requires treating others with kindness and respect

Instructions:

1. Hand out the book and have your child read it.

2. Start a discussion with open ended questions such as:

  1. Dr. Seuss uses stars to create a wedge between two groups of Sneetches.  What are some more modern causes of conflict?
  2. Were the two groups of Sneetches really different in any way other than the stars?  What does Sylvester McMoney McBean inevitably show the Sneetches by the end when they have lost track of their groups?
  3. Why does Sylvester continue the conflict between the Sneetches?
  4. What is important about ending discrimination and finding win-win outcomes?

Evaluation

Start a discussion prompting your child to see that even in a children’s game, discrimination leads to bad feelings and injustice.

Start a discussion prompting your child to discuss what is important about ending discrimination and how to find win-win solutions.

Optional follow up activities

1. Create human cut-outs for your child.  Then, using ethnic colored pencils/crayons as well as normal colors, the student colors the cut-outs as people around the world.  Once they are finished, have a large rainbow shaped cut-out on which the students can glue their drawings on to demonstrate how all the colors come together to illustrate the beauty of diversity. 

2. Show the animated movie The Sneetches.

For more information please call us or write to contact@teachpeace.com.