Pre-writing with Dr. Seuss
Children naturally associate Dr. Seuss with a very particular hat — the red and white stovepipe of the Cat in the Hat. Some young readers have made such a strong connection between the chapeaued feline and Seuss that they think they are one in the same.
Pretending to be someone else stimulates imagination and exercises language skills. The man Ted Geisel did this often, whether he was writing as Dr. Seuss or creating art as an imaginary Mexican modern artist!
Talk to your students about Ted Geisel and his use of the pseudonym Dr. Seuss to help them understand that Geisel and Seuss are one in the same. Share facts about his life to help make him a real person to students. Then discuss some of the very unreal and unusual characters he created. Use his biography or read aloud from The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss to help students find links between Geisel's life and his characters (i.e., Geisel's father ran a zoo and Geisel created a lot of interesting animals in If I Ran the Zoo). Finally, ask students to pretend to be authors. Get them thinking about their own backgrounds and experiences and what they might draw from to create their own characters.
Once a young author has an idea he or she wants to expand, it's time to get organized. There are many tools and exercises to help a young author reflect and focus before getting down to the business of writing: introduce the outline, timeline, concept or story map, story skeleton or other graphic organizers as appropriate to the ages and abilities of your students.
Once ideas are organized — remember the definition of "organized" here depends only on the organizer — writing can begin!
If your students need more structure and instruction as they prepare to write, sharing titles introducing young authors to the writing process may be useful: