April 21
1 - 6
Author & Text

Barbara Park was the author of over two dozen Junie B. Jones books, as well as several stories for older readers including My Mother Got Married and Other Disasters, Skinnybones, and Mick Harte Was Here. Park's books have earned a number of awards, including many children's choice and parents' choice award lists. Titles in the Junie B. Jones series continue to appear on bestseller lists.

Have your students write their own "Junie B." stories after brainstorming issues they've experienced during the school year.

  • First have the group make a list of the Junie B. adventures in the books they've read (e.g., cheating, school play, losing a tooth).

  • Then ask students to brainstorm a second list of ideas that would make interesting stories.

  • Students can work alone or in pairs to write their stories, using one of the ideas from the class list. Have students use the interactive story map to plan their writing.

  • After all stories have been completed, have each student or pair share their story with the class.

Have students turn their stories into books, with illustrations, and then work with your school or community librarian to create a library display of all the new stories.

Barbara Park, author of the Junie B. Jones series, was born on this day.

A website for kids, including a bibliography of Junie B. books, interactive and printable activities, as well as information about Park's books for older children.

 

This Random House resource provides summaries and teacher's guides for all of the Junie B. Jones books. Links are provided to other book series resources as well.

 

This resource contains a brief biography of Park as well as some notes and a list of some of her Junie B. Jones books.

 

This site provides links to resources about Barbara Park, including an interview in which she describes her experiences in writing the books.

 

December 11
4 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

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.

Astronomer Annie Jump Cannon was born today.

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.

 

October 07
3 - 12
Author & Text

Novelist, poet, and screenwriter Sherman Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. Often focusing on the connections between physical places and the stories that occur in them, Alexie wrote a semi-autobiographical young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian with a protagonist who chooses to leave the school on his reservation to attend a nearby high school where he is the only Native American student.

 

In 2003, Sherman Alexie was asked to contribute to the "Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves" exhibition, a project of The Museum of Tolerance. The collection consists of recreations of parts of participants' childhood homes or other significant family locations and showcases the diversity of Americans' personal histories. The scenes explore the meaning and inspiration behind the places and objects where memories and family history were made.

  • Ask your class to imagine that they have been asked to participate in such an exhibit. Have students draw or take photos/video of their home or another significant location and then write or record reflections that explain why this location is important to their family history and their personal identity.

  • Alternately, have students create an exhibit for a character from a short story, book, or play the class has read. They can use information in the text (and their imaginations), to help them create a representation of the rooms of a character's family home and explain how these rooms reflect the personal history and identity of the character.

 

Sherman Alexie was born in 1966.

Featuring information about Alexie's publications, this site also includes his blog, contests for readers, and a calendar of his appearances.

 

The official site for the Musuem of Tolerance exhibit includes images of some of the displays and resources for researching family history including tips for getting started and links to genealogy sites.

 

This collection of resources, a supplement to the NCTE book Sherman Alexie in the Classroom, offers ideas for teaching social justice and an introduction to Native American literatures, as well as critical excerpts about Alexie's work.

 

Alexie's entry on the Academy of American Poets site contains a biography and a link to his poem "Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World."

 

June 25
3 - 6
Author & Text

Eric Carle, born in Syracuse, New York, in 1929, has illustrated more than 60 books. One of his most beloved books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into more than 25 languages and has sold more than 12 million copies.

Eric Carle's illustrations feature paper collages, so after reading some of Carle's books you might create your own torn paper collages. Or if you're ready for more of a challenge, try creating Word Collages. Have students choose a scene, an emotion, an animal, or a person. Then students search out or create words, phrases, and sentences that illustrate what they've chosen. Words can be cut out of newspapers or magazines, created on a computer using a drawing program or the art tool in a word processing program, or drawn with markers or crayons. Assembled on a sheet of paper using glue or tape, the words should remind the reader of the scene, emotion, animal, or person that the student has chosen.

Children's book author Eric Carle was born on this day in 1929.

Eric Carle's own website includes information on all of Carle's books, upcoming events, forthcoming publications, and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

 

Devoted to national and international picture book art, this museum emphasizes ways of combining visual and virtual literacy. The virtual tour provides great visuals, which could be a springboard for language or visual arts projects.

 

Scholastic's Eric Carle Author Study includes information from an interview with Carle, background information, a bibliography, and a variety of classroom activities using several Carle books for art, science, math, social studies, and writing connections.

 

The National Gallery of Art offers this interactive tool for creating collages. Letters, numbers, signs, and shapes comprise the images available for use in the collage.

September 04
7 - 12
Author & Text

Author Richard Wright was born into poverty on Rucker's Plantation, just east of Natchez, Mississippi, in 1908. Wright was a novelist, short-story author, and poet as well as an author of protest literature. His best-known works, Native Son and Black Boy, established him as an important spokesperson for the conditions of African Americans, and through his writings, Wright challenged readers to question and change the treatment of African Americans in the United States.

Wright's Black Boy is an autobiography filled with incidents that are harrowing, funny, tender, and true-to-life. Have students read an excerpt from the novel that you think is appropriate for their grade level. One that might work best for grades 8-12 is available at the publisher's site.

After reading that excerpt, which recounts an incident when four-year-old Richard gets mad and does something for which he gets into trouble, ask students to:

  • describe how they feel about Richard's actions
  • identify words and phrases that are particularly descriptive
  • write a similar narrative about a time when they got mad and/or got in trouble for something they had done wrong.

Alternately, ask students to write found poems after reading the passage, using the lesson plan below.

Richard Wright was born in 1908.

Contributing Editor John M. Reilly provides useful classroom strategies as well as background information on Wright's "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" in this companion to the Heath Anthology of American Literature.

This collection of resources from the Modern American Poetry website includes biographical information, photos, background information, and samples of Wright's writing.

The Mississippi Writers Page includes biographical information, a bibliography, and links to additional resources.

A part of WNYC’s work on the NEH Annotation Project, this page includes an audio recording of Richard Wright describing his arrival in France and his reflections on Paris as well as biographical information that contextualizes the recording.

September 17
6 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Since it became a national observance in 2004, Constitution Day has commemorated the date of the 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution. Constitution Day offers students a chance to learn about this important document, from the Preamble to the seven articles to the twenty-seven amendments.

Help students deepen their understanding of one aspect of The U.S. Constitution by asking them to explore The Interactive Constitution. From the section on the articles, students can choose from among the Preamble, the branches of government, and more. Alternately, they can explore each of the twenty-seven Amendments (currently the first fifteen amendments are fully developed). Each section provides a common interpretation followed by Constitutional scholars’ discussion of a debatable issue.

Let pairs or small groups choose what they will learn about. After they read and discuss the entry, direct them to the Trading Card Creator, where they will select the Abstract Concept template. After they complete their Card, have groups present informally to share what they have learned.

Constitution Day is observed today in the U.S.

The online presence of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, this site offers background about the Constitution as well as lesson plans, activities, and resources.

 

More appropriate for older students, this collection of official government documents and journal articles can enhance inquiry into the nature and function of the Constitution.

 

This site of the National Archives offers activities designed around artifacts from their collection, as well as a link to their document-based workshop on teaching the Constitution.

 

December 09
9 - 12
Author & Text

Joel Chandler Harris is best known for his Uncle Remus stories. Harris collected the Uncle Remus tales from the stories shared by slaves. His use of phonetic dialogue in his stories allowed later authors to use vernacular in their renditions of regional tales. Harris's stories remain a good example of regional folk literature from the American South.

One striking aspect of Harris' stories is that in conveying the regional dialect the dialogue is written phonetically, which lends itself to oral reading of the stories. This vividly evokes the stories' original cultural milieu. Select a short segment of Uncle Remus with prominent dialogue and read it aloud to your students. Then read a segment from another book that features a different type of phonetic dialogue, such as The Witches by Roald Dahl, and listen to a Gullah Tale. After reading the three different examples of phonetic dialogue, have students use the interactive Venn diagram to compare them.

One thing all three examples have in common is that they render dialogue that has a vivid sound and feel. Challenge students to write a brief dialogue that might occur between themselves and a friend or parent. Encourage them to pay attention to phrasing and vocabulary, so that the dialogue sounds realistic. Next, have them exchange papers with a partner and read each other's dialogue aloud. Did the dialogue sound the same aloud as they imagined it when they wrote it? They should then revise any parts of the dialogue that did not sound realistic. They can repeat this process until they have a realistic dialogue.

Author Joel Chandler Harris was born in 1848.

This site provides information about the life of author Joel Chandler Harris, as well as links to the books that made him famous.

 

Links from this site take readers to songs and sayings by Harris.

 

In this Scholastic workshop, students hone their storytelling skills. There are online activities, examples, and practice opportunities included in this resource.

 

This resource offers examples of folk tales in both English and Gullah, a phonetically written language. Students can hear folk tales read aloud in both languages.

 

November 20
1 - 12
Author & Text

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.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein was published in 1974.

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.

December 10
9 - 12
Author & Text

Emily Dickinson wrote nearly 1700 poems, though fewer than 10 were published in her lifetime. Her style, consisting of unorthodox phrasing, imagery, syntax, and capitalization, was considered too radical at the time she wrote. Today, Dickinson's work is considered among the greatest in American literature.

Use one of Dickinson's most famous poems, "This Is My Letter To The World", for a classroom activity on how audience affects voice.

Discuss the poem with your students, focusing on the idea that the speaker was writing to a "world" that did not care about him or her and that he or she wanted to be treated gently. Ask students to imagine themselves stranded on a desert island for 10 years. Have them use the ReadWriteThink Letter Generator to write two letters to send off the island in two separate bottles. One letter should be addressed and written to someone they know and care about. The second letter should be addressed and written to the world at large (i.e., no one person in particular). See the Letter Generator page for more information about this tool.

After this exercise, students should consider how much of their writing depended on the audience. Have them examine word choice, subject, and tone in each letter.

 

Poet Emily Dickinson was born in 1830.

This website offers a remarkable collection of poetry, scholarly articles, and classroom activities dedicated to Dickinson's work. The site also links to similar resources for the poetry of Walt Whitman.

 

Included on the Poets.org website, this page includes a student-friendly biographical entry about Dickinson, a few of her poems, and links to other related websites.

 

The University of Virgina offers the text of numerous Dickinson poems. Brief biographical information about Dickinson is also included.

 

The Emily Dickinson Museum offers a brief look at Dickinson's biography.

 

July 22
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

The legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin has been recounted in a number of literary works by authors including the Brothers Grimm and poet Robert Browning. Though legend says that the Pied Piper led the children out of Hamelin on June 26, 1284, Browning used the date July 22, 1376, for rhyming purposes.

Have you ever wondered what things would look like in Hamelin from the rats' point of view? Read aloud The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, winner of the 2001 Carnegie Medal. The synopsis of the book included in this resource guide shows why librarians in the United Kingdom named this book the "outstanding book for children and young people" published in 2001.

After sharing this book with students, have them compare Pratchett's version with Browning's version. After discussing how perspective changes the story, you can have students look at other fairy tale retellings such as Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

The Pied Piper led the children out of Hamelin in 1376.

The Indiana University Libraries site includes an electronic version of the 1888 edition of Browning's poem with scanned images of the illustrations by Kate Greenaway.

For background information on Browning, visit the Academy of American Poets site. This site also features some of his poems, including "The Pied Piper of Hamelin."

This page from the University of Pittsburgh offers several versions of the Pied Piper tale, including the Brothers Grimm version and Browning's version.