Tag Archives: Oobleck

Building Background Knowledge with Oobleck? Part 3

From my last post about Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss, I left off with a qFrom amazon.cauestion:  if I am reading this book to my daughters (or any other book), I wondered about how much I point out certain ideas or concepts so as to deliberately build their background knowledge.

While on Twitter, I discovered Mem Fox’s Ten Read-Aloud Commandments for parents. Although the ‘commandments’ are geared towards parents of young children, elements of the list are applicable to reading aloud to teenage students, I should imagine

For reading to my girls at home, Fox’s Commandment #9 states:

“Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.”

From this commandment, I think I take that it is my job to simply to expos664px-In_the_evening_they_were_read_aloud_to_Cornelia_(The_Works_of_J._W._von_Goethe,_Volume_5)e them to a lot of ideas and words and characters and stories with animation and enthusiasm and positivity, and if they ask for clarification about something organically, then I can explain or elucidate.

But if they don’t ask, I infer that Fox is saying don’t make the reading aloud about learning; instead make it about enjoying reading for the sake of enjoying reading.

So, then, if my girls just listen to stories for the sake of listening to stories, how is their background knowledge being built indirectly?

In a different article (Building and activating students’ background knowledge: It’s what they already know that counts), Fisher and Frey go on to suggest how wide reading indirectly builds background knowledge:

“Reading is an excellent, indirect way to build background knowledge. Through books, readers meet people they otherwise would never have met, visit places and times that they would not have otherwise been able to visit, and interact with ideas that shape their understanding of the world.”

In Deeper Reading, Kelly Gallagher quotes David Sousa:

“…much like a tree growing new branches, tree-576847_640everything we remember becomes another set of branches to which memories can be attached. The more we learn, the more we can learn and retain.” (34)

Gallagher continues:

“The more branches I grow, the easier it will be to add new ones.” (34)

Gallagher also notes:

“…reading comprehension is tied closely to what the reader brings to the page — to what the reader knows before reading.” (26)

If this is true, then hopefully, when faced with challenging reading, my daughters may have the story of Bartholomew and the Oobleck bubble to the surface.

Advertisements

Oobleck: A Lesson in Leadership?

While From amazon.caexploring Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck as a text for my children, I was struck with an idea:another lens through which I could look at this book. My Learning Coordinator colleague, A. Gilbert, and I have put forth the idea to secondary teachers of reading picture books in high school English classrooms, and this book might work.

Specifically, it might be interesting to explore the nature of leadership. Jeffrey Wilhelm promotes the idea of re-framing our lessons through an essential question, as explained in his book Engaging Readers & Writers with Inquiry.

Perhaps this book could be used to set up an exploration into the nature of leadership and the essential question: What is the nature of good leadership? What, then, is bad leadership?

Another essential question could be: What is the role of the ‘common person’ when faced wiboss-vs-leader-800x800th ‘bad’ leadership? What is my responsibility when faced with injustice?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to use this question and then Bartholomew and the Oobleck for Grade 12 students who then studied George Orwell’s 1984 to find out those answers? And then possibly studied Hamlet with the same essential questions?

Bartholomew, for example, confronts King Derwin of Didd,

“You may be a mighty king,” he said. “But you’re sitting in oobleck up to your chin. And so is everyone King-Derwinelse in your land.  And if you won’t even say you’re sorry, you’re no sort of king at all!”

It might be interesting to ask students: is this what good leadership looks like? Is this confrontation the responsibility of Bartholomew?

And we could explore the nature of leadership by way of sites such as Leadership Freak or Modern Servant Leader.

IMG_1727Indeed, the more I think about this book, the more I sense it was written as a commentary on leadership. (And this is also supported by the fact that some of Dr. Seuss’ books are meant to be commentaries on certain topics, such as fascism in Yertle the Tertle or destroying the environment in The Lorax.)

I think the commentary on leadership was driven home to me when I happened to look at the back cover of IMG_1710Bartholomew and the Oobleck, which depicts a person having the Oobleck land on their head, to their obvious dismay under the words “Beware the Oobleck!”

If the Oobleck is a metaphor for a ill-conceived idea from a detached and capricious leader, then what might be the lesson for teachers and leaders in the education system?

Is this a commentary by Seuss about how the common person must pick up the tab, so to speak, and bear the brunt of the short-sighted, common-sense-defying ideas of a power-wielding leader?

I wonder if this book should be required reading for leadership and teacher candidates…

Building Background Knowledge with Oobleck? Part 2

In my last post, I explored how reading Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck

From amazon.ca

From amazon.ca

to my two older girls (ages 7 and 9) might help them indirectly build background knowledge, as explained in Fisher and Frey’s article  Building and Activating Background KnowledgeIn that article, the authors state:

“…reading a wide range of texts on a given topic builds background knowledge. When students read texts at their reading level, their understanding of the topic improves.”

So, I wondered what background knowledge is being indirectly built by reading this text.

Some possible topics and messages could be:

  • The world of royal hierarchy: Kings have people who work and live under them
  • The nature of being a ruler vs. being a leader.
  • What power can do to a person / The desire for power can blind a person to what is going on around them: the ‘riches’ they already enjoy as well as the suffering of the people around you.
  • Be careful what you wish for.
  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  • A hero can be anyone, including the smallest person with the least amount of power.
  • Bravery means standing up for what is right in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
  • Taking responsibility for one’s actions, particularly mistakes.
  • The power of saying “Sorry”.
  • Change is not always for the better.

The question I now have is: will my girls get all of that from hearing this book read to them? How much should I guide them to a particular understanding of this text?