In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, 74 seconds after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All seven astronauts on board were killed, including teacher Christa MacAuliffe, who was to have been the first U.S. civilian in space. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched the explosion on television.
Students will not have first-hand memories of the explosion, so interviewing an adult about the events of that day is one way for students to obtain information while learning more about how to conduct an interview.
In groups or individually, have students interview a parent or another adult on the subject; then, have them share the information they gather. In particular, ask students to consider whether everyone interviewed had the same memories and recollections. Encourage them to hypothesize about possible reasons for the differences.
Alternatively, ask middle or high school students to write about their own recollections of the Columbia disaster from February 2003. Have students compare accounts of the events, again noting differences and possible reasons for those differences. Have students research another historic event from multiple perspectives.
The New York Times Learning Network provides this article about the Challenger disaster that appeared in the Times on the day of the explosion.
This official NASA website offers archives of the 135 space shuttle missions and the ongoing missions of the international space station. Details on space shuttle missions include original launch details, the history of human space flight, and the construction of the shuttle.
This Kennedy Space Center website provides historical information related to the space shuttle program, including mission facts and a reference manual.
In August 2007, Barbara Morgan, who trained with Christa MacAuliffe as back-up candidate for NASA's Teacher in Space program, finally travelled in space as part of the mission STS-118 crew. Read about the mission and Morgan's experience at this NASA page.
NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education shares a video of astronaut-educator Ricky Arnold performing one of McAuliffe’s experiments aboard the International Space Station.
On May 26, 1951, Sally Kristen Ride was born in Encino, California. In 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space as member of the space shuttle Challenger crew STS-7. She was a member of the panels investigating the Challenger explosion and the space shuttle Columbia disaster.
The StarKids Who's Who collection includes background information about Sally Ride's career.
After exploring the information about Dr. Ride on the site, write a letter to her foundation, Sally Ride Science. Have students brainstorm, as a class, things that they would like to ask about Dr. Ride's life and legacy. Narrow the list down to the questions that they're most curious about, and then have students compose a class letter, asking one or two of these questions, using the Letter Generator.
Send the students' letter to:
Sally Ride Science
9191 Towne Centre Drive
San Diego, CA 92122
Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and have students ask for a reply. More tips are available for the Letter Generator.
NASA offers this biography with details on Ride's educational background and career. It follows her progression from astronaut school to the first American woman in space to her career as a professor at the University of California, San Diego.
Sally Ride was inducted into the Hall in 1988. This page provides information about Ride and her work.
The website for Sally Ride's company includes information on space and science-related topics, resource links with an emphasis on girls in science, and information about Ride's science programs and products.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." With those words, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step on the moon. Armstrong's historic first step on July 20, 1969, was a hallmark mission in the U.S. space program and marked the first time humans stood physically on a celestial object other than Earth. See Armstrong's biography for a movie showing the historic moment.
The words Armstrong spoke (audio from NASA) as he stepped onto the moon were carefully chosen. Even so, Armstrong is reported to have made a mistake. NASA planned for Armstrong to say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" (emphasis mine); however, he left out the word "a" when he stepped onto the moon's surface. Begin your exploration of Armstrong's famous words by discussing the all-important difference that one word can make. Take the opportunity to discuss the gendered language that Armstrong uses as well.
After exploring Armstrong's words in detail, turn to a discussion of why those words were chosen. In a speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, "We choose to go to the moon! We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things-not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our abilities and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."
How do Armstrong's words connect to Kennedy's, how do they connect to the mission at large, and how do they represent the space program?
This webpage developed by NASA Kids celebrates the 45-year anniversary of Armstrong landing on the moon. The site is intended for elementary readers, and includes photos and a tool to calculate your weight on other planets.
This site from Smithsonian includes basic historical facts about Apollo 11, along with photos and actual audio files of Armstrong's first words on the moon.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is host to this collection of pages featuring details on the Apollo missions, including quotations from the people involved, photos with the ability to zoom, and a list of artifacts in the gallery.
Annie Jump Cannon was born today in 1863. Cannon, who was deaf for nearly her entire career, studied astronomy in college and is responsible for developing a system for classifying stars based on decreasing order of surface temperature.
Turn students' attention to the stars by pointing them toward the StarDate Constellation Guide, Enchanted Learning's Constellation page, and Norm McCarter's Constellation Legends. After choosing and constellation and reading about it across multiple sources, students can share their learning by creating a trading card for their constellation using the Trading Card Creator interactive or Trading Cards app.
This website sponsored by the Museum of Flight offers additional information on Cannon’s career and photos of her lab and other related images.
Learn about the American Astronomical Society award honoring Cannon at this website.
Cannon's page on this site is one of many profiles of femals astronmers, both historic and cotemporary.
This website offers students an image of the Google homepage honoring Cannon, as well as a chance to take a Star Quiz.
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol as a "potboiler," or an inferior work done purely for quick profit. Unfortunately, while the book was an instant success and remains one of his best-known works, Dickens made little profit because people purchased pirated editions. There were no copyright laws at that time in England.
Chances are, your students have either seen or will be seeing a production of A Christmas Carol in December. What a perfect time for a collaborative project for middle school and primary students!
Have a middle school English class or the drama club write a script for A Christmas Carol on a level that primary students can read and perform. Involve students in home and career classes to create the costumes and scenery for the production. Invite film students to record the performance and have computer students create a website showcasing photographs from the project.
This online resource from PBS provides information about the life and career of Dickens.
Since 2002, Stanford University has encouraged community reading and discussion of Dickens' novels through the serial release of his major works. Biographical and historical context information is included with each serial publication.
This webpage includes hundreds of links to primary and secondary documents on various aspects of Dickens' life and work.
This page from The Victorian Web provides extensive links to Dickens' biography, chronology, a list of works, an introduction, and other relevant essays.
Since 1984, the National PTA has designated time each May for communities nationwide to honor teachers for their work with children. Parents, students, and schools across America celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week to show appreciation for the work and dedication of teachers and reaffirm the commitment to parent-teacher partnerships.
In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, read a book about a teacher such as Thank You, Mr. Falker, Miss Nelson is Missing, or a Magic School Bus story with Ms. Frizzle. Why are the teachers in these stories special? Have a class discussion about some of your students' favorite teachers. Then have students try these follow-up activities:
- Compare a favorite teacher to a teacher from a book with the Interactive Venn Diagram.
- Write a letter to a favorite teacher using the Letter Generator.
- Create a character map of either Miss Nelson or another storybook teacher with the Story Mapping tool.
- Use the Essay Map to plan and write an essay on why they would or would not like to be a student in one of the storybook teachers' classrooms.
- Read and present another book about a special teacher. Older students may choose books like The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, or A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.
This National PTA resource offers ideas to help parents, students, and schools honor teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.
The National Education Association offers these activities, appropriate for a Teacher Appreciation Week celebration.
This page from Reading Rockets celebrates teachers through notes of appreciation from parents, videos of authors and illustrators talking about their favorite teachers, and a link for users to send their own e-cards to teachers they appreciate.
Students enjoy interactive activities as they learn about different topics of science with a truly unusual teacher: Ms. Frizzle. Be sure to check out the interview with Magic School Bus author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen.
Children's favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein was published on this day in 1974. While Silverstein's rhymes may have been simple and catchy, his complex and thoughtful themes stick with his readers long after childhood. Silverstein was also a songwriter of such hits as "A Boy Named Sue" and "The Cover of The Rolling Stone."
Everyone remembers Shel Silverstein. Ask seniors in high school who their favorite poet is and half will give his name. This activity can begin for middle and high school students by asking them what they remember about Silverstein. For lower grade levels, introduce them to a short verse of his poetry like the one below, and ask them for their general impressions: If you had a giraffe . . . and he stretched another half . . . you would have a giraffe and a half . . . One quality of Silverstein's work is that even though it is often fantastical, it tends to be quite visual. Ask students to draw what they imagine when they read such lines as "If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire" or "Some whatifs crawled inside my ear."
After students have presented their drawings, ask them to write a line or two of their own that continues the passage and matches the flow and style of Silverstein's work. Then have students paraphrase the author's purpose in writing the poem. This is where they will find that though the words of a Silverstein poem are easy enough, the ideas are often difficult to communicate.
This entry from the Academy of American Poets includes a biography, bibliography, and samples of Silverstein's poetry.
This site includes resources related to Silverstein's poetry for parents and teachers, as well as an area "For Kids Only!"
This site includes an easy-to-read biography of the author and analysis of his work.
HarperCollins, publisher of Silverstein's books, offers a guide to using Silverstein's poetry in the classroom. The guide includes printable sheets for students.
John Newbery, an 18th-century English children's book publisher and seller, was born on July 19, 1713. The American Library Association's Newbery Medal, awarded to the most distinguished children's fiction book each year, honors Newbery's work.
Your class can publish books and other documents just like Newbery. Have each student choose a book that is special-it could be a favorite book or a book that reminds him or her of something special-then write a short story about why the book was chosen and why it deserves special mention.
Using the Stapleless Book Planning Sheet, students can plan the pages of their own stories before entering the information in the Stapleless Book tool. For longer projects, students can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.
The American Library Association awards the Newbery Medal annually. This site includes information about the award, the application process, and a complete list of the distinguished books.
This section of author Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord's site includes instructions for such projects as making accordion books, index card books, wish scrolls, and stick and elastic band books.
The Newbery Video, Part I written by Mona Kerby and funded by the International Reading Association highlights favorite Newbery Award books and authors. Authors include: Lloyd Alexander, Sharon Creech, Sid Fleischman, Karen Hesse, Lois Lowry, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Katherine Paterson, and Jerry Spinelli. Part 2 of the video continues the discussions with authors and includes student projects and commentary.
Bradbury authored over 500 works during his literary career. His credits include short stories, novels, plays, and poems. Now classics of science fiction, two of his best-known works are The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. Bradbury earned many awards and honors, including the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America, an Emmy, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Bradbury died on June 5, 2012.
Have your students do a Bradbury author study, and then create flyers to advertise their favorite story. First, have students read several titles from Bradbury's extensive body of work. Provide a classroom library or a booklist from which students can select titles. After students have read a sample of Bradbury's stories, ask them to select their favorite.
- Have students use the ReadWriteThink Literary Elements Mapping tool to record the story's characters, setting, conflict, and resolution. They should also write a brief synopsis of the plot.
- Next, have them use this information to create a flyer advertising their favorite Bradbury story. Direct students to the ReadWriteThink Printing Press tool.
- Finally, have students share their recommendations as a group.
Bradbury's official website offers author information and other resources. There is a booklist, message board, biographical information, video clips of him speaking, and more. Fans can even sign up to receive a Ray Bradbury newsletter.
This Teenreads.com webpage offers a brief Bradbury biography, a timeline of his life, and an article about his writing that lists many of his important works.
This study guide, from Paul Brians of Washington State University, provides detailed background information about each of the individual stories in Bradbury's classic book.
This page from the NEA's The Big Read program offers resources related to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Resources include information about historical context, discussion questions, and an extensive teacher's guide.
Robert Frost is one of the most important American poets of the 20th century. Although he wrote in traditional forms, his language and themes, such as doom or the solitude of humans in nature or society, were very innovative for his time. He was celebrated as an important American poet during his life, winning four Pulitzer Prizes. His poems, many of them focusing on his beloved New England, continue to be studied in classrooms more than 100 years after they were written.
Many people consider Robert Frost a traditional poet, largely because of the New England setting of many of his poems and his tendency toward simple, clear language and images. In his own significant ways, however, Frost was an innovator, known for his desire for finding "old ways of being new." Celebrate Frost's birthday and his poetry by leading students in an exploration of his innovation in the sonnet form.
- If your students are unfamiliar with sonnet form, consult the ReadWriteThink lesson Discovering Traditional Sonnet Forms and adapt activities and resources to provide students a brief introduction.
- Provide students with an array of Frost poems that display varying degrees of adherence to and departure from sonnet form. Suggested poems might include "Design," "Putting in the Seed," "Range Finding," "The Vantage Point," and "Acquainted with the Night" (which is actually a hybrid sonnet/terza rima).
- Have groups present their poem to the class. In addition to discussing their impressions and interpretations of the poem, students should indicate how the poem fits into the tradition and innovation of sonnet form.
- Ask students to discuss reasons why Frost may have altered traditional formal elements and what effect his choices have on their appreciation of the poems.
This site contains an extensive biography, several poems, a selected bibliography of Frost's work, and links to a variety of sites about the author and his writing.
This special collection from the University of Virginia Library provides scanned details from Frost's works, photos of his family, and editions in English and other languages.
This site includes the major themes Frost explored in his writing as well as some questions to use during and after reading Frost's work.