Monday, January 26, 2015


A big focus of the quarterly reading class I teach is getting sixth graders to begin to identify theme as it relates to author's message. Most often, they want to boil it down to a moral or lesson, and that's a pretty good place to start. Today I read one of Dr. Seuss's lesser known tales to the class and then asked them to write down the message on an index card.

The story was "What Was I Afraid Of?" from the Sneetches collection, and for those who are unfamiliar, it is the truly bizarre account of a strange yellow (everybody is yellow in that book) nocturnal bear-like creature (the main character) who is (not surprisingly) terrified when he repeatedly runs into an empty pair of green pants that is able to walk, ride a bicycle, row a boat, and shiver in fear. In the end, he realizes that the pants are just as afraid of him as he is of them, and they befriend each other.

The moral of the story? According to the vast majority of my students it is Don't judge people by the way they look.

It could be, but here's the rub: I always ask them to test out their theories about theme by telling a story from their lives where they learned this lesson. Today? Not a single child of the 18 present could muster an anecdote of a time when they judged someone unfairly by their appearance. Neither have they ever been so unfairly judged, according to them.

Wow! Could it be that mankind has progressed that far?

Either that, or I have some work to do this quarter.

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