Monday, October 24, 2016

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr Seuss

(Graded Reader)

In one sense, this book is not a graded reader because it's not designed for ESL students.
It is however, a graded reader for native speaker children who are first learning to read.

It makes the transition over to ESL relatively well.  In fact, the only complaint I had from my students was that it was "too easy".  And in my opinion, being "too easy" is never a problem.
The only drawback to this book from an ESL standpoint is that Dr Seuss occasionally used some low frequency vocabulary or expressions in order to satisfy his rhythm and rhyme scheme .
For example, the sentence: "I do not like this bed at all.  A lot of things have come to call" --This sentence confused my students, so I had to explain that "call" means "visit" in this case.  But we got through everything.

The biggest difficulty I found in using this book was the lack of a coherent narrative.  There wasn't really one story in this book, there were 24 separate short stories inside.

I decided it was best to break this book into small parts, so we did each story separately.  It did mean, however, that this book just went on forever and forever.
Since I only met my students twice a week, it took us 4 months to work through this whole book.  By the end of it, they were sick of the book, and were ready to move onto a new story.
In that respect, maybe this book wasn't an ideal book to read through.  Or at least not to read through exhaustively like I did.

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I only vaguely remembered this book from childhood.  I don't know if anyone else out there has had the experience of reading this book recently but...Wow, is this book weird.
And I mean that in a good way.  It's wonderfully, delightfully, bizarrely weird.  What a strange wonderful imagination Dr Seuss had.

And to think that this book came out in 1960!
The whole thing reads like it's some drug-fueled hippy fever dream, but it came out back when Eisenhower was still president.
And not only that, but it became an instant classic back in its day.
It's yet another reminder that the 1950s and early 60s weren't quite as boring as we picture them.   There was some really creative stuff going on, and Dr Seuss is one great example.

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So, while I was in the process of teaching this book to my students, Cracked.com published an article about this book.

Since this book was on my mind, the article immediately attracted my attention.

The Most Racist Thing You Read As A Kid (Was By Dr. Seuss)

If you go over and read the article, the author is arguing that the stories in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish are really allegories about keeping the colored people in their place.

The article is really terrible, but I regret to say that my initial reaction was to fall for the bait.  I not only read it, I thought it was interesting enough to tweet it.




(Actually if you follow my twitter account, you know I tweet a lot of junk, so this isn't so unusual.  If something is even mildly interesting to me, I re-tweet it.)

After re-reading the article again, I decided to throw in a caveat.




But after having thought about the whole thing for a while, I've decided that this whole article is awful, and I'm ashamed to have tweeted it.

The whole article is shamelessly trying to force a racist interpretation into a book where none exist.  All for the sake of creating a cheap click-bait article.

Well...fine.  I hope everyone got paid well for their time.  I was an idiot for falling for it.  But I guess it's otherwise a victimless crime.

EXCEPT...that it needlessly drags Dr Seuss's reputation through the mud.  And the poor guy isn't around to defend himself.
And worse yet, Dr Seuss was a huge supporter of the civil rights movement back in his day--See here and here.  (Yes, some of Dr Seuss's anti-Japanese cartoons during World War 2 were unfortunate, but he had atoned for that by the time 1960 came along.)

And yet, for the sake of some clicks, the folks at cracked.com decided to invent that the myth this man was a racist.  Shame.

For a long time now, cracked.com has been one of my favorite websites.  But their desperation for new content is beginning to show.

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One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish is available on amazon.com here.

In my class, when we had finally finished the whole book, I played this video for them to review the whole thing.



Here are some supplementary teaching materials I made when teaching this book in my classes.  These materials don't really work too well independently of the actual book, so you'll need to get a copy of the book to use these.

PowerPoint: 1. (slides, pub) 2. (slides, pub) 3. (slides, pub) 4. (slides, pub) 5. (slides, pub) 6. (slides, pub) 7. (slides, pub) 8. (slides, pub) 9. (slides, pub)  10. (slides, pub)  11. (slides, pub)  12. (slides, pub)  13. (slides, pub)  14. (slides, pub)  15. (slides, pub)  16. (slides, pub)  17. (slides, pub)  18. (slides, pub)  19. (slides, pub)  20. (slides, pub)  21. (slides, pub)  22. (slides, pub)  23. (slides, pub)  24. (slides, pub)

Worksheet: 1. (drive, docs, pub) 2. (drive, docs, pub) 3. (drivedocspub) 4. (drivedocspub) 5. (drivedocspub) 6. (drivedocspub)  7. (drivedocspub) 8. (drivedocspub) 9. (drivedocspub) 10. (drivedocspub) 11. (docs, pub) 12. (docs, pub) 13. (docs, pub) 14. (docs, pub) 15. (docs, pub) 16. (docs, pub) 17. (docs, pub) 18. (docs, pub) 19. (docs, pub) 20. (docs, pub) 21. (docs, pub) 22. (docs, pub) 23. (docs, pub) 24. (docs, pub)

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky: The Essentials

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