Dr. Seuss teaches peace - The Butter Battle Book 

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

Yertle the Turtle (about tyranny and Hitler's thirst for power)

(5th-6th graders)

 

Background/ History:

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories is a picture book collection by Theodor Geisel, published under his more commonly known pseudonym of Dr. Seuss. It was first released by Random House Books on April 12, 1958, and is written in Seuss's trademark style, using a type of meter called anapestic tetrameter. Though it contains three short stories, it is mostly known for its first story, “Yertle the Turtle”, in which the titular Yertle, king of the pond, stands on his subjects in an attempt to reach higher than the moon—until the bottom turtle burps and he falls into the mud, ending his rule. The story, among Seuss's most notable, is widely recognized as condemning fascism and absolute power; the despotic ruler Yertle was intended to parallel the dictator Adolf Hitler.

Objectives:

  • Students will explore the themes of dictatorial governments and ways people can affect change in regards to human rights
  • Students will analyze the significance of these messages in today’s world
  • Students will learn about fascism, absolute power, and Adolf Hitler
  • Students will discuss present issues they see in their own societies

Instructions:

1. Hand out copies of the book and have the students read it in a read aloud so many students get a chance to read.

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

  1. Why do you think Yertle the Turtle thought he was superior to the other turtles?
  2. Why did the other turtles obey his commands?
  3. How do you think this happened during WWII?
  4. What do you think the other turtles could have done to prevent such a dictatorship?
  5. Can anyone think of a similar situation in our world today?

3. Direct the conversation by explaining:

Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime that places nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Dictatorship is a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique.

Prejudice - preconceived judgment or opinion formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge resulting in an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.

Racism- a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

4. Transition into class activity by putting the students in groups of 3-4. Hand out a blank sheet of paper to each group. White on the board several different methods of nonviolent protest (Petitions, parades, walkouts, demonstrations, sit-ins, nonviolent protests, strikes and blockades).

5. Then in a computer lab or library, assign each group one method from the choices on the board.  Have them look up 3-5 historical examples of their assigned methods of protest and ask the students to explain the outcome. 

After about 20-30 minutes have the groups present their nonviolent methods and their purpose.

Evaluation

Next lead a discussion about nonviolent protest in today’s world. Ask the students if they think it is still used often, if they believe it is influential, and when they have seen it be used successfully in history.

Optional follow up activities

Explore how popular movements battled entrenched regimes and military forces with weapons very different from guns and bullets. Strikes, boycotts, and other actions were used as aggressive measures to battle opponents and win concessions. Petitions, parades, walkouts and demonstrations roused public support for the resisters. Forms of non-cooperation including civil disobedience helped subvert the operations of government, and direct intervention in the form of sit-ins, nonviolent sabotage, and blockades have frustrated many rulers' efforts to suppress people. The historical results were massive: tyrants toppled, governments overthrown, occupying armies impeded, and political systems that withheld human rights shattered. Entire societies were transformed, suddenly or gradually, by nonviolent resistance that destroyed opponents' ability to control events. In 1907, a young Mohandas Gandhi, the most influential leader in the history of nonviolent resistance, roused his fellow Indians living in South Africa to pursue a nonviolent struggle against racial oppression. The movie “A Force More Powerful” recounts Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign against the British in India; the sit-ins and boycotts that desegregated downtown Nashville, Tennessee; the nonviolent campaign against apartheid in South Africa; Danish resistance to the Nazis in World War II; the rise of Solidarity in Poland; and the momentous victory for democracy in Chile. It also introduces several extraordinary, but largely unknown individuals who drove these great events forward.

Message: The greatest misconception about conflict is that violence is the ultimate form of power, surpassing other methods of advancing a just cause or defeating injustice. But in conflict after conflict throughout the 20th century, people have proven otherwise. At a time when violence is too often used by those who seek power, it is essential that children develop nonviolent weapons and learn that they too can prevail without physical conflict.

In addition to the class activity, students can choose a scene from Yertle the Turtle that they thought illustrated the significant themes. They then illustrate the scene and write blurbs discussing the themes being represented and what they believe Dr. Seuss is implying.

Parent adaptation

Background/ History:

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories is a picture book collection by Theodor Geisel, published under his more commonly known pseudonym of Dr. Seuss. It was first released by Random House Books on April 12, 1958, and is written in Seuss's trademark style, using a type of meter called anapestic tetrameter. Though it contains three short stories, it is mostly known for its first story, “Yertle the Turtle”, in which the titular Yertle, king of the pond, stands on his subjects in an attempt to reach higher than the moon—until the bottom turtle burps and he falls into the mud, ending his rule. The story, among Seuss's most notable, is widely recognized as condemning fascism and absolute power; the despotic ruler Yertle was intended to parallel the dictator Adolf Hitler.

Objectives:

  • Children will explore the themes of dictatorial governments, and ways people can affect change in regards to human rights
  • Children will analyze the significance of these messages in today’s world
  • Children will learn about fascism, absolute power, and Adolf Hitler
  • Children will discuss present issues they see in their own societies

Instructions:

1. Hand out copies of the book and have the children read it in a read aloud so all the children get a chance to read.  If there is only one child, take turns reading it with them.

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

  1. Why do you think Yertle the Turtle thought he was superior to the other turtles?
  2. Why did the other turtles obey his commands?
  3. What do you think the other turtles could have done to prevent such a dictatorship?
  4. Can anyone think of a similar situation in our world today?

3. Direct the conversation by explaining:

Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime that places nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Dictatorship is a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique.

Prejudice - preconceived judgment or opinion formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge resulting in an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.

Racism- a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

4. Transition into an activity by putting the students in groups of 3-4. Hand out a blank sheet of paper to each group. White on the board several different methods of nonviolent protest (Petitions, parades, walkouts, demonstrations, sit-ins, nonviolent protests, strikes and blockades).

5. Then using a computer, assign each child one method.  Have them look up 3-5 historical examples of their assigned methods of protest and ask the students to explain the outcome. 

After about 20-30 minutes have the groups present their nonviolent methods and their purpose.

Evaluation

Next lead a discussion about nonviolent protest in today’s world. Ask the children if they think it is still used often, if they believe it is influential, and when they have seen it be used successfully in history.

Optional follow up activities

Explore how popular movements battled entrenched regimes and military forces with weapons very different from guns and bullets. Strikes, boycotts, and other actions were used as aggressive measures to battle opponents and win concessions. Petitions, parades, walkouts and demonstrations roused public support for the resisters. Forms of non-cooperation including civil disobedience helped subvert the operations of government, and direct intervention in the form of sit-ins, nonviolent sabotage, and blockades have frustrated many rulers' efforts to suppress people. The historical results were massive: tyrants toppled, governments overthrown, occupying armies impeded, and political systems that withheld human rights shattered. Entire societies were transformed, suddenly or gradually, by nonviolent resistance that destroyed opponents' ability to control events. In 1907, a young Mohandas Gandhi, the most influential leader in the history of nonviolent resistance, roused his fellow Indians living in South Africa to pursue a nonviolent struggle against racial oppression. The movie “A Force More Powerful” recounts Gandhi's civil disobedience campaign against the British in India; the sit-ins and boycotts that desegregated downtown Nashville, Tennessee; the nonviolent campaign against apartheid in South Africa; Danish resistance to the Nazis in World War II; the rise of Solidarity in Poland; and the momentous victory for democracy in Chile. It also introduces several extraordinary, but largely unknown individuals who drove these great events forward.

Message: The greatest misconception about conflict is that violence is the ultimate form of power, surpassing other methods of advancing a just cause or defeating injustice. But in conflict after conflict throughout the 20th century, people have proven otherwise. At a time when violence is too often used by those who seek power, it is essential that children develop nonviolent weapons and learn that they too can prevail without physical conflict.

In addition to the activity, children can choose a scene from Yertle the Turtle that they thought illustrated the significant themes. They then illustrate the scene and write blurbs discussing the themes being represented and what they believe Dr. Seuss is implying.

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