From “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” to Dr. Seuss

This week began with National Fairy Tale Day and ended with Dr. Seuss’s birthday.  I was in my glory.  So were the children.

We voted on our favorite fairy tale.  The Three Billy Goats Gruff won, hands-down.  This was a bit of a surprise to me, as Jack and the Beanstalk usually wins.  Never a dull moment with children.  Always a delightful surprise.

This is my version of the book, well worn from decades of reading aloud.  After two days of reading, the children were not ready to let it go.  That speaks volumes for fairy tales, in general.  By the second reading, children had memorized key phrases like “I’m going to gobble you up.”  They delighted in reciting the words of the troll, “Be off with you”, in unison.  This was accompanied by fifteen dramatic, sweeping arms pointing to the billy goats.  So much fun!

By the next day, I sensed the children both wanted and needed more.  What better than an impromptu play performance!  Thirty minutes of picking parts, arranging the classroom, and practicing was all we needed.  After all, they practically knew the story by heart.  I rushed down to the Pre-K class and invited them to be our audience.  Many of those children were in my class last year.  Here is a video clip of the play performance:

Fairy Tales – I can’t recall other children’s books that have withstood the test of time and remained at the top of their ‘favorites’ list.

The end of the week brought the birthday of Dr. Seuss.  His books are beloved classics.  I often read them to the children.  My favorite is Green Eggs and Ham.

It was the breakthrough book when my own children learned to read.  All those wonderful rhyming words, blending sounds and syllables, along with a fun, quirky story and characters, was perfect.  My children loved this book.  It taught them how to read.

I have another strong memory of Green Eggs and Ham.  An old television show I watched way back then was Saint Elsewhere.  It was a hospital show, a drama with well developed plots and characters.  The head doctor, or head of the hospital, was a wiry, mean, self-centered man.  He was a workaholic and was hated by the staff and doctors.  The end of one episode is the finale of this man’s son dying.  The son, Sam, committed suicide and left his father a note.  As the father reads the note aloud, Sam is recalling his fondest memory, the times they would read Green Eggs and Ham together, and laugh at Sam-I-am, which became Sam’s nickname.  Sam signed the note, “I loved that, Dad.  Love, Sam-I-am.”  Well, the doctor melted in tears (so did I) and of course realized all he had missed and what he had become.  A powerful message.

Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for all you have given to children and their families.  Happy Birthday!


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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69 Responses to From “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” to Dr. Seuss

  1. beetleypete says:

    “Happy ever after”. Three words that every child loves to hear.
    Delightful to see you and the children enjoying yourselves, Jennie.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Darlene says:

    I love the video of the play. You are as excited as the children! What fun. My kids loved Three Billy Goats Gruff as well as Dr. Suess.

  3. The video was so sweet. I loved your stage directions. The story about St. Elsewhere points out how suicide takes away the opportunity for healing.

  4. reocochran says:

    I loved the video and how cute your room is set up, Jennie! ❤️
    Those little ones are amazing and inspired by a mighty fine teacher! 😉
    I love reading along and handing out parts! This is a very good example for those who may not have it clear in their heads how to simply take the children right into the book’s pages. Wonderful folk tales are less scary than those Grimm fairy tales!

  5. willedare says:

    Wow. Another terrific, heart-warming post! I loved the video, I loved how you took a story and turned it into a theatrical experience/ritual, I loved how you used the play structures in your classroom as the set, and I loved the poignant St. Elswehere/Dr. Suess anecdote. It immediately reminded me of one father who occasionally brings his lovely three-year-old daughter to MT class (while the mom is home with a newborn sister…) Rarely does he seem fully present in class, and he even takes out his cell phone once or twice to read and respond to messages! On Friday I wanted to find a respectful way to take him aside and say something like, “Dude! You are missing the opportunity for sweet, musical, magical, playful moments with your daughter again and again!” Blessedly most parents and grandparents and caregivers who choose to sign up for MT classes are VERY present and engaged and playful with their children. I also love Dr. Suess. I think about the Lorax a lot and also the tiny Whos in Whoville whom Horton so valiantly protects. In fact I name check “Jojo” in one of my songs… Thank you for all you do in your classroom… and then for taking the time to share some of it with us!

    • Jennie says:

      Will, thank you so much. When children are really into something, I have to keep that interest going. I have to water the flower as it blooms. I’m so glad you enjoyed this. You are right about the father who isn’t “present”. And, did you pull him aside and say something? That is so awkward, yet you want him to “get it” and not miss out on his daughter. I think I remember that TV episode so vividly because I was the parent reading that book with my son. Dr. Seuss was one of the best!

  6. davidprosser says:

    Great performance. Thank you Jennie for continuing to educate children by bringing on their interest in things rather than just throwing words at them and expecting them to understand. When children enjoy school they tend to do much better.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, David. You said it well. Educating children should be all about the child and their interests. Once you “get” that, you can teach most anything. And as you say, children enjoy school when that happens. Win-win. Best to you! 🙂

  7. John Fioravanti says:

    I loved seeing you and the children interact on the video, Jennie! Great post!

  8. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another wonderful post from Jennie!

  9. Peter Klopp says:

    There is so much fun in your classroom that I’d wish I was a kid again and join your story and drama club in your school.

  10. Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss?? Words for all ages. Everyone needs to take a break and add a little whimsy with some morals thrown in for good measure!

  11. That took me right back to a day long ago when I did the same thing with my class. Well done, Jennie.

  12. SunnyInge says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Jennie.
    Fairy Tales are fascinating not only for children. We all seem to have a strong connection. I explore this connection in my blog @fairytales. Who would have thought that the fairy tales have a whole dimension? I invite you to visit the magic library with its talking books. One of my favourite places:

  13. Norah says:

    Jennie this is a delightful post. Thank you for sharing the video of the children’s involvement in the story. Their enjoyment is obvious, as is the learning.
    What a sad story from Saint Elsewhere. I hope it had an impact on some parents out there and helped them realise they need to capture those moments of togetherness and keep the bonds alive for life.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you Norah. I’m glad you enjoyed the video and could see how involved the children were. It was fun! I rarely post something truly sad, yet the Sam-I-Am story needed to be told for exactly the reasons you mention. Best to you.

  14. Pingback: From “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” to Dr. Seuss – Jennie Fitzkee | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  15. Ritu says:

    This is lovely Jennie! I’ve missed reading to my classes!

  16. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
    HT Charles French

  17. ksbeth says:

    wonderful post, and i have this same version that i use with my class. they kids love it!

  18. I love Dr Seuss, Jennie. My absolute favourite is When the Grinch stole Christmas followed by The Lorax.

  19. Such great books and another wonderful performance, Jenny. Those kids are having such fun at school. The grandson and I often act out TheThree Billy Goats Gruff on the play-structure at the park. I’m the troll, of course. Ha ha.

  20. I surely love them goats – all sorts of kids included. (punny aren’t I?)

  21. Annika Perry says:

    Jennie, what fun to produce the book impromptu as a play and lovely to see the children so concentrated and excited! Oh, I only discovered Dr. Seuss with my son and it was one of our favourites!

  22. “This week began with National Fairy Tale Day and ended with Dr. Seuss’s birthday. I was in my glory. So were the children.” I had no doubt, but after the adorable video, I know you (and they) positively soared! Jennie you are amazing with those kids. I’ve never seen anything like it.
    Hugs on the wing!

    • Jennie says:

      Aww… thanks so much, Teagan. You are too kind. So glad you liked the video. It was such fun, and a natural extension of the book. Hugs to you!!

  23. I’m always learning something new here. I knew about Dr. Seuss’s birthday, but I missed National Fairy Tale Day entirely! Interesting how the children chose Three Billy Goats Gruff as their favorite and good for you for taking it further–great fun!

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