Gutenburg invented the printing press, but William Caxton was the first person to use a printing press to print books in English. Caxton printed over 100 different titles, including every work in English literature available at the time.
Have your students consider how the printing press affects their world by completing a printing inventory. Ask students to spend a day writing down everything they use that has been printed, such as books, pamphlets, even cereal boxes. The next day, compare the lists and develop a "super" list of all the printed materials that you and your students interact with. Once the list is complete, invite students to discuss the impact that printing has on their lives and to project the changes that may occur as computers enable people to share information digitally rather than in print.
This site features a Free Activities page where students can learn about bookmaking in different cultures and find instructions to help them make their own books. The site also provides pages for teachers and families.
The BBC offers a brief biography of Caxton and links to related resources.
One of Caxton's most famous publications is his editions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. This site includes video images of the rare books as well as historical information about Caxton and printing.
Connecting the United States from east to west, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in Strasburg (formerly Comanche), Colorado on August 15, 1870. In spite of this fact, the Golden Spike Ceremony celebrating the railroad's completion took place months earlier in a different location: May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah.
There are many misconceptions surrounding the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Golden Spike Ceremony that took place on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah was actually arranged at the last minute. Because there were so many people in the area, photographers were unable to get a picture of the event and journalists had difficulty seeing what was happening.
Access the National Park Service website and take a look at the webpage Golden Spike. With your students, explore all the differing accounts of what happened as the railroad neared completion. Discuss the reasons people need and want ceremonies, and why ceremonies, such as the driving of the Golden Spike, may not always match the events that they are intended to celebrate.
Companion to the PBS series The West, this website includes details on the Transcontinental Railroad in the context of other important events related to America's expansion to the west.
A Brief History of Building the Transcontinental Railroad
Part of the PBS American Experience site, this collection offers numerous resources related to the railroad, including interactive maps, a timeline, a teacher's guide, and much more.
One of the "Treasures of Congress," this collection of primary documents tracks the various stages of completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
In a world full of junk mail and an endless array of catalogs, students may not think much about where it all started—in Chicago, Illinois in 1872, when entrepreneur Montgomery Ward mailed a one-page catalog to rural shoppers.
Explore how mail-order catalogs have changed over the years. Most libraries will have reproductions of a Ward or a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Alternately, access the linked images from the entry on Ward from the Engines of Our Ingenuity website or the online images from an 1875 Montgomery Ward catalog available on Flickr (with login). Ask students to consider how and why catalogs have changed over the years. After discussing the obvious differences, such as the use of color in modern catalogs and the differences in paper quality, focus students' attentions on the layout and style of the catalogs. As an extension, ask students to compare their findings about printed catalogs with online catalogs.
Read an article published in Fortune magazine in 1935 on Ward's mail-order catalog business during the Depression. The article includes photos of the office workers who processed the orders for the company.
This article from the American National Business Hall of Fame puts Montgomery Ward's accomplishments in historical context.
This page, part of the PBS site Chicago: City of the Century, offers a brief look at Montgomery Ward's efforts to preserve Chicago's lakefront area. The site also offers information about Ward's early mail-order business in the context of Chicago's history.
Every fall, monarch butterflies in North America travel south for the winter. Unable to survive in cold temperatures, monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains travel to forests in Calfornia and those east of the Rockies travel to Mexico.
After exploring the way that monarch butterflies react to the change of seasons, have students complete an inquiry study to examine other ways that animals (and humans) change because of the seasons. Remember that changes are not limited to moving from one geographic area to another. Some animals stay in the same area, but change physically.
Using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press, invite students to develop and publish a class anthology of animal changes or a "survival guide" to show how animals face the change of seasons.
This website developed by the University of Kansas Entomology Program tracks the migration of monarch butterflies and includes links to a variety of related educational resources.
This Science Museum of Minnesota site invites students and families to join in on an investigation of the migration of the butterflies.
This page from the University of Kentucky Entomology Department offers images and information about the monarch butterfly.
Part of the Journey North project, this page follows the spring migration of monarchs each year and allows students to report monarch sightings. Also offered are lessons, questions and answers, and additional information about monarchs.
Proposed on June 4, 1919, it took more than a year for the 48 states to ratify the 19th Amendment, which became law when the Secretary of State announced the completion of the ratification process on August 26, 1920, officially giving women in the U.S. the right to vote.
Six months before the 19th Amendment established women's right to vote in the United States, the League of Women Voters was founded to help women become responsible voters. Today, the League of Women Voters works toward helping American citizens be active, involved participants in the political system—from voting to campaigning to taking a position on current issues.
Invite a representative from the local chapter of the League to talk to your students about voting rights and what they can do to be active in politics, even if they are not old enough to vote yet. Use the ReadWriteThink lessons Vote For Me! Developing, Writing, and Evaluating Persuasive Speeches and Voting! What's It All About? to explore voting with younger students.
Compare voting rights in the United States to voting rights around the world. Students may be shocked to find that in some countries women are still not permitted to vote!
In addition to historical documents related to the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment, this Library of Congress site includes texts, photos, political cartoons, and lesson plans.
This website offers information about Women's Rights National Historical Park, which is located in Seneca Falls, the home of many important sites in the history of women's rights in the U.S.
A crowd of more than 200,000 people assembled at Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, for the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom"—though most of us think of it as the date that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. The speech was the culminating event of a day of singing, talking, and political activism.
One of the projects that Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech has inspired is the "I Have a Dream" Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides tutoring and mentoring to children from low-income areas.
Have your students explore the Foundation's website, and brainstorm ways that they can help others at your school-or even themselves-achieve their educational dreams. Have students create a list of three to five goals to work toward and keep track of their progress during the year. Goals might range from establishing school reading projects to organizing homework help for younger students. Students can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to create flyers or brochures that promote their projects and encourage others to meet their educational goals.
One of the "historical places of the Civil Rights movement," the Lincoln Memorial was the site of many civil rights demonstrations. This webpage includes details on Dr. King's speech and the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington, this NPR Morning Edition series provides numerous audio files and photographs that document the event.
No matter what you're looking for regarding Dr. King's life, you're bound to find it on this Stanford University site, which includes an interactive chronology of his life, an encyclopedia of related resources, lesson plans, and much more!
The New York Times Learning Network offers this historical article about the March on Washington in which King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.
Founded in the United States in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is considered the "nation's museum." Today, the Smithsonian is comprised of 19 museums and 129 affiliate museums—including the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum.
In addition to the exhibits at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the Institution has an extensive website, with information on exhibits and special events. Many online resources are available right in your classroom. Visit the Students Page and explore a variety of interactives. You and your students can build a sod house, play a Viking board game, and learn about the American presidents.
After exploring an exhibit online, have students use the information that they learned, along with some imagination, to write "A Day in the Life" narratives that tell about a person, animal, or object that they saw in the exhibit. Urge students to make connections to the specific details and facts they learned.
This website has standards-based online resources for teaching and learning American history, designed and developed by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Find lesson plans or sign up for the artifact RSS feed.
Online resources are available for educators, families, and students. In the Educators section, you will find lesson plans, information about planning a field trip to the Smithsonian, and professional development resources.
This page has an interactive image of a coin featuring James Smithson's portrait, as well as information about Smithson, whose bequest of money founded the Smithsonian. Also of interest is a coin from 1838 created from Smithson's original bequest.
Katrina was one of the costliest and most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history and was the third strongest hurricane to touch down on U.S. soil to date. Katrina devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas and is estimated to have killed over 1,800 people.
The anniversary of Katrina is a good time to plan for local weather emergencies, especially since it occurs at the beginning of the school year. Explore the weather-related and other natural disasters that your geographical area is prone to; then review your school's emergency procedures with students.
Extend the lesson to students' homes and other places they may visit (religious buildings, for instance), asking students to explore a location outside of the school for its emergency preparedness and then report their findings back to the class.
This NASA page includes details on hurricanes in general, with graphics that explain how hurricanes are structured.
NOAA offers this resource on hurricanes, including information about hurricane strength, hurricane safety, and how storms are named, as well as hurricane photos and satellite imagery.
Visit the homepage of the Air Force squadrons who fly into the eye of hurricanes that threaten the United States' coast.
The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the stories and digital record of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
Children's book author and illustrator Virginia Lee Burton was born in Newton Centre, Massachusetts in 1909. Burton won the Caldecott Medal for The Little House in 1943, and her illustrations for Song of Robin Hood (1948) placed the book on the Caldecott Honor list.
During her life, Burton wrote and illustrated seven books, and she illustrated an additional five books, including The Emperor's New Clothes (Houghton, 1949). Burton's books lend themselves nicely to an author study because of their many connections. Share the books written and illustrated by Burton with students and, in addition to discussing similarities in her illustrations and writing style, focus on her use of personification, a highlight of her books. Burton's animated machines, like Mary Anne the steam shovel, can lead to conversations about how we think about machines and why we compare them to humans (and sometimes animals) when we talk about them.
This is the official site for Burton's story of the unstoppable Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne. The site offers information about the book and the author, as well as several activities to use with the book.
Houghton Mifflin offers this biography of Virginia Lee Burton. Written in part by Burton herself, the biography offers a glimpse at her childhood, the role her own children played in shaping her work, and more. Several images of Burton are also included.
University of Oregon Libraries presents a gallery of Burton's illustrations. Images from her books are included, as well as the original preliminary sketches for a number of her illustrations.
A library card is a passport. It permits its owner to travel to other places and times through the pages of a book. Membership in the community of the public library places thousands of resources at students' fingertips. Celebrate National Library Card Month with a trip to the library to explore all the many resources available!
Invite a librarian from your school or a nearby public library to visit your classroom to bring applications and talk to the students about the advantages of having a library card. In completing the applications, students will learn not only how to fill out forms but also how to go through the process of directions.
Once the applications are completed and students have their library cards, it's time to explore the library itself. Schedule a library tour to acquaint students with the general features and resources available; then, invite your students to reflect on what they've found and how they might use the resources in the future. Return to these notes later in the year, expanding on ongoing experiences in the library.
Explore the public library that is home to lion cubs Lionel and Leona and their parents, Cleo and Theo, at this PBS Kids companion site.
This website, from the Library of Congress, offers a wealth of information about life, history, government, and culture in the United States. The online resources are searchable, or visitors can use the site map and index tools to locate information.
From the National Archives, this site links to ten Presidential libraries and two Presidential materials projects. The site includes Presidents George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.
This site promotes quality reading through book reviews, related games, author biographies and interviews, and more. Students can also learn how to set up a successful book club and find discussion guides for select books.
The American Library Association site for Library Card Sign-up Month has free promotional tools, including links to download slideshows, posters, bookmarks, and more.