The Sneetches and Other Stories was published in 1961. It includes “The Sneetches” and three other stories. The story is simple, but the ideas are complex and far-reaching enough to make this a good Dr. Seuss choice for older readers.
Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars are the mark of the “best kind of Sneetch on the beach,” and Star-Belly Sneetches shun those without stars. A traveling salesman arrives with a machine that can put stars on bellies for a price, and soon every Sneetch has a star. The original Star-Bellies, to maintain their exclusivity, pay to have their stars removed, beginning a mad cycle of stars-on stars-off activity till all the Sneetches’ money is gone, at which point the salesman takes off.
“The Sneetches” is clearly a story about discrimination, and there are several online lesson plans approaching it from this angle:
- Anti-racism Activity from Teaching Tolerance
- TeachPeaceNow has a simple Sneetches activity to go with the video A Class Divided.
- A similar lesson plan serves as an introduction to a study of the Holocaust.
“The Sneetches” also makes a great starting point for a lesson on fads and being cool:
- Have students create collages of cool things using pictures from magazines, or digitally with MSPaint, Picasa, or another graphics program.
- Discuss whether, or in what way, owning cool things makes a person cool. Students may be ready to jump immediately to the conclusion that owning cool things doesn’t make them cool, but encourage them to give serious thought to how badges of coolness really work at your school. Is it the case that people with a cool haircut, car, cell phone, or wardrobe are treated exactly the same as people with less cool stuff? If so, how does the school community achieve that? If not, is it a problem?
- If your school has uniforms, discuss whether uniforms eliminate the use of badges of coolness. Sometimes very small marks of coolness in the way people choose to wear their uniforms are still recognized.
- Discuss how visible marks of group membership beyond coolness are used at your school. Are there anti-cool groups and cooler-than-cool groups? Do students scope out new members of the community to identify the group they might best fit? Can students join groups easily if their look doesn’t match that of the group? If not, is that a problem?
- Ask students to add another layer to their collages after the discussion. Suggest that they choose things that they would like to see considered badges of cool. Have students write their conclusions or present them to the class.
- Post the collages with their paragraphs, on a bulletin board if they’re paper and on your class website if they’re digital.