Louise Erdrich was born today in 1954. Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and is the author over a dozen novels as well as poetry, short stories, and books for children. Her work depicts Native American characters and settings and has won a number of awards, including the National Book Award for The Round House and the O. Henry Award for “Fleur.” She is also the owner of an independent bookstore in Minnesota.
Project for students the short video Louise Erdrich, author of LaRose, talks about her love of books. Briefly discuss Erdrich’s attitudes toward and associations with books before inviting students to write their own short memory piece about a pleasurable experience with a book, at a bookstore, or in a library.
Encourage students to include sensory details about the book, such as how it looked, felt, smelled, and so on. Then ask students to share their memories to join in Erdrich’s love of books.
Erdrich's Poetry Foundation page includes biographical information and links to several of her poems, including "Turtle Mountain Reservation" from Jacklight (1984).
This HarperCollins page offers a biographical sketch as well as information about all of her major works.
Louise Erdrich's blog is frequently updated and offers a glimpse into her work as an independent bookseller and reader.
This compendium of NPR resources includes booklists featuring Erdrich's works as well as links to archived audio content.
From the documentary series by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this page includes videos of Erdrich discussing her genealogy and the importance of ancestral history.
Lane Smith has collaborated with Jon Scieszka on titles including the Caldecott Honor book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Stories and the best-selling The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. In addition to his collaboration with Scieszka and other authors, he has written and illustrated several of his own children's stories. His illustrations have appeared in several publications other than books, including The Atlantic Monthly and Newsweek.
Discuss with your students some of the ways in which illustrations can enhance a story. Begin by reading just the text of a picture book. Then share the actual book, pointing out the illustrations. Ask students how the pictures help them understand the story better. Then, have your students become illustrators, using a variety of media. Offer choices including paint, pencil or colored pencil, pen and ink, felt-tipped markers, or collage. Offer students a variety of choices such as:
- Illustrate a favorite story they have written.
- Collaborate with a partner and become an author—illustrator team. Alternatively, each student writes a story and then illustrates each other's works.
- Select a favorite children's book and mimic the illustrator's style, or create illustrations for the story in their own style.
When students have completed their illustrations and stories, be sure to display them in the classroom or school library!
This site offers information on the adventures of the Time Warp Trio, as well as links for games and the TV show. There is also a section of links for teachers and parents.
Penguin Publishers offers this biography of Smith. Also included are links to an author interview and a booklist.
This resource from Scholastic provides suggested activities for teaching Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. There is a link on the page to similar resources for The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
Lane Smith's website offers a brief biography and bibliography, as well as sketches, videos, and games related to his work.
Walter Dean Myers authored dozens of young adult novels, short stories, and other works. He began writing at an early age, after discovering that he could easily read his own words, despite a speech disability. Myers' novels about adolescents in real-life situations have earned a number of awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award for several titles, such as Fallen Angels, and a Newbery Honor Award for Scorpions.
Monster is presented in the form of a film script, written by the main character. Discuss how this format affects the story and why the author may have selected this writing style. Have students write a story using a similar format. Some options include:
- Have students rewrite a story as a screenplay from a character's point of view. Younger students could select a favorite children's story or picture book for this activity, while older students may choose their favorite novel.
- Ask students to write an autobiographical story. Have students first list interesting events from their lives, and then write a true or fictional account based on the facts.
Have students share their stories by creating a class book or reading them aloud.
This Houghton Mifflin page offers a biography of Myers and a booklist of his works.
HarperChildren's provides this reading group guide for Monster. There are discussion questions and information related to Myers and the book.
This page from Reading Rockets features an interview with Myers. Also included on the page are links to an annotated booklist and a brief biography of Meyers.
Scholastic offers this brief autobiography of Myers with links to additional information about his poem Harlem and a page focusing on the work of Myers and his son, illustrator Christopher Myers.
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.
"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.
Fred Rogers, better known as "Mister Rogers," began developing his ideas for children's programming in the 1950s. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood began in 1967; a year later, PBS began broadcasting the show. The last original Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired in 2001, making it the longest-running PBS program at the time.
Ask students to think of movies, TV shows, and books they remember from their childhood. Encourage them to identify those from when they were very young. Ask students to choose an item from the list that they have not seen or read in a long time and to describe everything they remember-the plot, characters, and other elements as well as their associated feelings.
Next, ask students to revisit the item or to ask an adult about it. Students can respond by writing what they think about the text now that they are older: Do they still like it? What details did they remember? What did they NOT remember about it? Finally, ask students to explain whether they would share it with a child of their own or a younger sibling.
This is the official PBS website for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. It includes many activities designed to stimulate the imagination.
NPR maintains this collection of articles about and interviews with Fred Rogers. It includes a special broadcast of his 30th anniversary show.
The Fred Rogers Company provides this page devoted to Rogers. Featured on the site are a biography, images, and a timeline of Rogers' life.
This site features lyrics and samples of the songs from the Grammy-winning Songs from the Neighborhood, a compilation of songs written by Fred Rogers and performed by 12 popular vocalists.
The beloved TV host on love, peace, and why you're special.
On July 7, 1983, Samantha Smith, a U.S. schoolgirl, flew to the Soviet Union at the invitation of Premier Yuri Andropov, all because of a letter that she wrote. Smith wrote a letter to Andropov asking, "Why do you want to conquer the whole world, or at least our country?" The Soviet leader replied to her letter, and Samantha ultimately visited the nation, becoming a good-will ambassador.
Have your students write their own letters that make things happen. Students can write individual letters, or work in small groups or as a full group. Letter writing can be a culminating project after you've completed a unit of study on a particular topic. For instance, if you've just completed a unit on animals, students might write letters to the local zoo, praising them for the ways that they care for animals or making suggestions for changes. After exploring freedom of speech in a censorship unit, students might write letters to the editor of the local newspaper explaining their feelings about specific books that are (or aren't) included in the library.
In addition to the resources available in the Letter Generator and on the Letter Generator page, there are resources available from Gallaudet University that demonstrate how to write advocacy letters. The American Civil Liberties Union provides tips on writing letters to the editor and letters to elected officials, which can be useful for projects where students are looking at issues of civil rights, freedom of speech, and student rights.
This site includes information about Samantha Smith, her famous letter to Andropov, her subsequent work as a goodwill ambassador, and the continuing work of the foundation devoted to her memory.
Students can find tips from Arthur on letter and e-mail writing, which can serve as a resource for independent letter writing.
The FIRE Student Network recognizes the importance of advancing civil liberties in schools. Visit the site for resources on the topic.
View the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting site for resources that help identify and respond to inaccurate or unfair news coverage.
Before the invention of the railroad, people used local "sun time" as they traveled across the country. With the coming of the railroad, travel became faster, exacerbating the problems caused by the hundreds of different "sun times." At the instigation of the railroads, for whom scheduling was difficult, the U.S. Standard Time Act was passed, establishing four standard time zones for the continental U.S. On November 18, 1883, the U.S. Naval Observatory began signaling the new time standard.
After learning about different time zones, ask your students to plan a video conference with a class from a different country or from a different time zone in the United States. As they plan, ask students to:
- Use the World Time Engine to find the best time to schedule this meeting.
- Research the country or state of the students with whom they will video conference and brainstorm a list of questions and topics for discussion. The place selected can be coordinated with topics they are currently studying.
- Brainstorm a list of topics about their own town or country that they would like to discuss. Alternatively, they could brainstorm a list of questions they think students from the other time zone might ask them.
- Use a time zone map to figure out how many time zones they would have to travel through to have this conference if video conferencing hadn't been developed.
If you decide not to carry out an actual video conference, alternatively, divide your class into two groups and allow them to conference with one group playing the role of the class from another time zone.
This page from the Library of Congress' American Memory site offers excellent information and primary documents about the history of standardized time.
Students take a journey from ancient calendars and clocks to modern times, at this NIST Physics Laboratory website.
This site provides a clickable map that gives the official time for each time zone in the U.S.
BBC News looks at time zones--how they are worked out, why they cause so many arguments, and how they affect us all.
In 1990, NCTE established an annual award for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children in grades K-8. The name Orbis Pictus commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, whose Orbis Pictus-The World in Pictures (1657) is considered to be the first children's picture book. One title is selected for the award each November at the Annual NCTE Convention, and as many as five Honor Books are also recognized.
Have your students conduct research and write original works of nonfiction on topics of their choice. Students may wish to work collaboratively on this project as coauthors or author-illustrator teams.
- First, have students brainstorm possible topics individually or in small groups.
- After each student or team has selected a topic, have them conduct research using appropriate Orbis Pictus Award-winners, Internet resources, and other reference sources.
- Have students plan and write informational picture books, biographies, or other works of nonfiction. You may wish to have students use the ReadWriteThink Flip Book to help them organize their information. More tips are available for use with the Flip Book.
Explore the Three Ways to Bind a Handmade Book printout, and consider laminating book pages for durability. Then add your students' finished works to your classroom library for all to learn from and enjoy.
The National Council of Teachers of English provides information on the annual Orbis Pictus Award, including its history, selection criteria, and nomination procedures.
This sample chapter from the NCTE text The Best in Children's Nonfiction explores the elements that come into play as the committee chooses the winner.
This page, from the State Library of South Australia, offers information about Johannes Amos Comenius and his illustrated Latin primer for which the Orbis Pictus award is named. Additional links and an image from the book are also included.
National Family Literacy Day®, celebrated across the U.S., focuses on special activities and events that showcase the importance of family literacy programs. First held in 1994, the annual event is officially celebrated on November 1st, but many events are held throughout the month of November. Schools, libraries, and other literacy organizations participate through read-a-thons, celebrity appearances, book drives, and more
Kick off National Family Literacy Day by inviting parents, grandparents, and other family members to your classroom for a family-school reading day.
- Invite students' family members to read a favorite story from their childhood, or their child's favorite bedtime story. (Grandparents can share both their child's and their grandchild's favorites!)
- Provide a collection of books for families to share during a group reading session. Invite families to get comfortable by bringing a cushion, beanbag chair, or pillow.
- Introduce families to some of the games & tools provided by ReadWriteThink. Encourage them to use these engaging tools at home to enhance their reading and writing experiences.
- Provide each family with a certificate of participation or a bookmark at the end of the event. Ask a local bookstore for a donation, or print certificates and bookmarks from your computer.
- At the close of your event, be sure to remind parents about other National Family Literacy Day events in your community.
Remember that family literacy is something that should be encouraged all year round. Invite students and their families to brainstorm ways they can keep their family engaged in reading on a regular basis!
NCFL provides support and strategies to a network of entities involved in advancing education and families learning together, including educators, schools, community based organizations, and libraries. Our efforts support learners of all ages in these environments in concert with our advocates and partners.
Reading Rockets offers resources for family literacy bags that students can take home to share with their families.
The International Literacy Association offers a series of brochures with literacy tips intended for parents. Some of the topics covered include reading with young children, watching television together, surfing the Web, the importance of nutrition, and more. Brochures are available for download in both English and Spanish.
Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.