Sunday, May 24, 2015

Learning about Discrimination with the Sneetches

published on: 3/16/2007

Contributing Teacher(s): Marcia Sullivan

Subject Area: Guidance Program/Personal/Social Development

Grade Range: Lower Elementary (K-3)

Materials Needed:

  • paper stars
  • The Star Bellied Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss
  • various books on Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Bridges, and Rosa Parks - (as available to the teacher)


  1. Students will gain an understanding of discrimintation, and how it effects people. They will learn about historical events and important people that helped to make an impact on civil rights in the United States.

Instructional Strategy: Evaluating Student Understanding

Process Standards:

  • Goal 3.1 identify problems and define their scope and elements
  • Goal 4.3 analyze the duties and responsibilities of individuals in societies

Content Standards:

  • Counseling/Guidance 2. Interacting with others in ways that respect individual and group differences

    Time Allowance: One day with follow up readings

    Description: This lesson was developed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. By experiencing discrimination similar to the Sneetches in the famous Dr. Seuss story, students will discover how discrimination hurts and should be relinquished.

    Classroom Component:

    The purpose of this lesson is to help students gain empathy for people who are discriminated against due to physical traits. This lesson is used to lead into the understanding of Dr. Martin Luther King's goals of equality for all people.

    Begin the lesson by distributing stars to about 1/3 of the class, chosen randomly. The selected students will wear the stars throughout the day. These students will receive privileges such as being first to do certain activities, and being able to use various equipment and supplies in the classroom. The temperament of your class will determine the number and type of privileges the star students will receive. In past lessons I have marked the classroom drinking fountain with a sign that states "Stars Only.” I have excused the star people from various activities such as recording spelling words or completing given worksheets. I also make a point to acknowledge the "star people's" work and behavior. I generally proceed with this series of activities for the morning only, as students become quite vocal and often upset about how they are being treated. A word of caution: take care and watch your individual class carefully to monitor the extent of the activities.

    After lunch, I have the students complete the assessment of the activity expressing their feelings about how they were treated. This personal assessment evaluates the students' thoughts and feelings about this lesson. It could be easily adapted for use with younger students or students with special needs by using happy and sad faces to express their feelings and by having the students illustrate rather than write about their feelings. I have used this lesson with students as young as 1st grade and as old as 4th grade with positive results and amazing discussion.

    Upon completion of the assessment, I read The Star Bellied Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss. We then discuss our feelings and thoughts about having a star, or not having a star. We discuss what really makes a person important, and compare the discrimination that we felt to the discrimination that has taken place in our countries" history. Students also recognize through this lesson that discrimination is not only based on race, but can be due to physical features or disabilities.

    During the following days, I introduce the students to Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Ruby Bridges through books and websites, and we talk about events in their lives that helped to change history.

    Suggested Resources:

    What is it like to be a Sneetch? – Personal Assessment

    Circle the answer that tells about your experience.

    1. I had a star.





    1. I thought I was treated fairly.





    1. Everyone was nice to me.





    1. People were mean to me.





    1. Having a star made one person better than another.





    1. Having a star was not important.





    1. I got to do everything that everyone else did.





    1. I felt… (circle all the ways you felt )

    I want to tell you


    For additional information contact :
    Marcia Sullivan
    Espy Elem.
    Nixa R-II
    (417) 725-7440

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