What’s Happening This Week
There is much more to explore in our calendar. Find other important events in literary history, authors' birthdays, and a variety of holidays, each with related lessons and resources.
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Two famous Smiths share this birthday.
|Grades||3 – 12|
|Calendar Activity Type||Historical Figure & Event|
Both these famous men were known for their exploration of different parts of North America. John Smith, famous for his presidency of Jamestown and interactions with the Algonquin, explored and mapped the Chesapeake Bay. Jedediah Smith, an explorer in the west, used the "South Pass" through the Rocky Mountains to lead some of the first white settlers to new lands. Born over 200 years apart, both shared a love of exploration, experience with Native American relations, and a common last name.
Have students learn more about these two famous Smiths by visiting these brief biography pages: Jedediah Smith and Captain John Smith. Have students look for comparisons between the two men, and ask what their experiences have in common related to U.S. history. Then draw their attention to the shared last name. Explain to students that each man has something in common with nearly three million people in the United States-the last name. Smith, which means "a worker at the smith-a metal-worker, blacksmith or farrier,"ť is the most common English surname. According to census data, 1% of the U.S. population-nearly 3 million people-have the last name Smith.
Have your students investigate the meaning of their last names using this Dictionary of Surname Origins. Students can also determine their last names' rank among the most common names and surnames, by searching data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
As an extension, have students survey other classrooms to see how the top 10 surnames in your school compare with the national statistics.
- Dictionary of Surname Origins
This resource offers a searchable database of the meanings and origins of last names. General information about surname derivations is also included. Note that there are links to a fee site, so students should use this database with supervision.
- U.S. Surname Distribution
Use this resource to enter a surname and see the historical distribution of that name across the U.S.
- Captain John Smith
The Colonial Williamsburg site offers this brief biography of Captain John Smith, including excerpts from his personal journal.
- Jedediah Strong Smith
This biography, from the Jedediah Smith Society, includes information on Smith's travels and their significance in American history.
Grades K – 2 | Lesson Plan | Recurring Lesson
Name games make learning letters fun and interactive in this lesson where students get to know more about each other as they spell out their classmates’ names.
Grades 6 – 8 | Lesson Plan | Standard Lesson
Students investigate the meanings and origins of their names in order to establish their own personal histories and to explore the cultural significance of naming traditions.
Lesson Plan | Standard Lesson
Struggling to survive is one of the many themes explored in A Girl Named Disaster. As students read, they look for connections between themselves and the main character, Nhamo.
Grades 9 – 12 | Lesson Plan | Standard Lesson
Students explore naming conventions in digital and non-digital settings then choose and explain specific names and profiles to represent themselves online.