July 28
9 - 12
Author & Text

Natalie Babbitt was born and raised in Ohio. As a child, she spent a great deal of time reading and drawing. She always wanted to become an illustrator, and eventually studied art in college. In 1966 Babbitt illustrated a children's book written by her husband, called The Forty-ninth Magician. With the encouragement of her editor, Babbitt went on to write and illustrate over a dozen children's novels, picture books, and collections on her own.

Many of Natalie Babbitt's books address the concept of immortality, an issue that has intrigued humanity for centuries. From the ancient Egyptians' determination to reach the afterlife, to the more recent quests to locate the mythical "Fountain of Youth," history offers numerous examples of humankind's attempts to achieve immortality.

  • Have students research these and additional beliefs from around the world, and then compare them to Babbitt's vision in Tuck Everlasting.
  • Have students consider questions such as:

    • What are some similarities and differences among these different views?
    • Why do people find the prospect of eternal life so intriguing?
    • What would be the positive and negative aspects of immortality?
  • After considering the issues, have students compose a short story, myth, or poem that addresses immortality.
  • Finally, have students illustrate their works in a style similar to Babbitt's black-and-white line drawings.
Author of Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt, was born in 1932.

This Scholastic biography for the author includes a link to an interview transcript and a list of her works.

Glencoe offers this reproducible teaching guide. It includes an author biography, vocabulary list, graphic organizers, and additional resources.

The site provides information about the book Tuck Everlasting and its author, Natalie Babbitt. In addition, there are links to activity ideas, online quizzes, discussion questions, and lesson plans. There is even a comparison to the Disney movie of this book.

June 08
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Ice cream has been around since long before 1786. Emperor Nero of Rome had his slaves get snow from mountains then had it mixed with nectar, fruit pulp, and honey. Marco Polo brought recipes for water ices to Europe from the Far East. Ice cream first appeared in Italy when it was discovered that ice and salt could cause freezing.

During the warm month of June in the northern hemisphere, the topic of ice cream can be quite refreshing. The weather was probably hot in 1786 when Mr. Hall of 76 Chatham Street advertised the first commercially made ice cream. How has advertising changed over the years? Find some advertisements in newspapers, magazines, or on the Internet, or share these vintage ice cream advertisements. Evaluate the ads you have chosen with the ReadWriteThink Advertisement Dissection and Analysis printable activity sheet.

Invite students to think of a new flavor of ice cream and create an advertisement for their product. They can create an advertisement for television, radio, magazine, newspaper or the Internet. Students can add music to their ads or create a short video. After all the advertisements are completed, students can present them to a neighboring class who will vote on the most convincing ad. The winner can choose the flavor for a class ice cream party.

Commercial ice cream is first sold in the U.S. in 1786.

Extend students' learning by sharing this activity with their families or afterschool providers. The activity reinforces procedural writing by having students write a recipe for an ice cream sundae.

 

This site from PBS Kids Go! encourages young people to think critically about media and become smart consumers. Activities on the site are designed to provide users with some of the skills and knowledge needed to question, analyze, interpret, and evaluate media messages.

March 09
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

When Barbie was released in 1959, she immediately stepped into controversy. The idea of a doll with an adult woman's features was brand-new. The market, though, was eager for a doll with lots of clothes, including bridal gowns and swimsuits. But by the 1970s, people began wondering why she did not have a business suit or a doctor's scrubs, and in more recent years, whether the body image she presents is healthy to young girls' self-esteem. Sales continue to grow, and so does the debate.

While Barbie's collection of accessories has changed over the years, her figure has remained relatively unchanged-despite questions about its effect on the self-esteem of the children who play with the doll. Take this opportunity to explore body image and advertising:

  • Have students bring in pictures from the magazines that they typically read. Students should bring pictures of both male and female subjects.
  • Post these pictures around the room and have students walk around with a two-columned chart with headings Male and Female which they will use to record words and phrases that describe what they see in the pictures. Students should then share their lists with the class.
  • Ask students to write about how gender is represented in the advertisements they see. Is this typical of how men or women appear in movies, on TV, etc.? Which celebrities most exemplify these characteristics?
  • After sharing responses in a think-pair-share arrangement, have students explain whether these gender representations are accurate in real life. Ask students to consider the effect that these representations can have on people's self-esteem.
  • Conclude by discussing why advertisers portray males and females in this way. What is the goal and purpose of advertising?
The Barbie doll was unveiled in 1959.

This History Channel article provides information about the origin and evolution of this famous doll.

PBS offers information about the inventor of Barbie.

BBC News shares Barbie's measurements and shows how a woman would look with Barbie's proportions.

Poets.org offers this poem by Denise Duhamel that compares Barbie to Buddha. Students will enjoy the sarcastic tone of this piece.

July 21
9 - 12
Author & Text

At 17, Ernest Hemingway began his literary career as a newspaper writer. In 1926, his first major work, The Sun Also Rises, was published. This novel, as well as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, were based on his experiences in World War I and the Spanish Civil War. Considered to be one of his best works, The Old Man and the Sea was published in 1952, two years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Have your students examine the ways different authors treat the subject of war in their writing.

  • Have your students read For Whom the Bell Tolls or A Farewell to Arms, as well as a war novel by another author. Some choices include Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, or Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels.
  • Then ask individual or small groups of students to compare and contrast the way the two authors have depicted war in their novels, using the Interactive Venn Diagram. Students should examine ways the authors use figurative language, characterization, point of view, and other plot elements to tell the story.
  • Finally, have students share their Venn diagrams as a whole group.

You may wish to use this activity as a term project and have students use their research to write comparative essays on the two chosen novels. Have them use the Compare & Contrast Map to plan their work.

Novelist Ernest Hemingway was born on this day in 1899.

PBS offers this collection of Hemingway resources. There are virtual tours, images, and information about key locations in his life, including Spain, Africa, Key West, Cuba, and more.

This page features information about Hemingway's Nobel Prize. Included are links to a biography, his presentation speech with an audio clip, a critical article, and other information.

The website of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation includes a variety of resources on the author.

The National Portrait Gallery offers this exhibition of images and information from Hemingway's life. The site includes sections on Hemingway's beginnings in Paris, as well as the middle and final years of his literary career.

January 11
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Amelia Earhart was born in 1897. Once she began flying in 1921, she quickly set numerous women's altitude, speed, and distance records. On this day in 1935, Earhart became the first person-male OR female-to fly solo from Hawaii to California. On June 1, 1937, Earhart began her last journey: to fly around the world. After successfully flying 22,000 miles, she failed to arrive at a scheduled stop on Howland Island in the Pacific. No trace of her or her plane has ever been found.

Heroes come in many shapes, sizes, situations, and packages. A hero to one person is not necessarily a hero to another. This day in history provides a chance for students to explore the definition of a hero. Have students ask at least three people (one who is their age, one who is younger, and one who is older) these questions:

  • Who is someone you identify as a hero?
  • Why do you think that person is a hero?

Once they've gathered their interview answers, ask students to share them with the class. Have them explore, as a class, the characteristics that are repeated and the reasons for any commonalities found in the results. Additionally, ask students to note anything particularly unusual in the responses. Then, use the interactive Venn diagram to create a classroom Venn diagram with three circles, each identifying one of the most common characteristics of a hero. Finally, have students place each of the heroes' names on the appropriate place in the Venn diagram.

When everyone has had a chance to share their findings, students can create posters that include pictures of their own heroes and words that describe the qualities that make each one heroic.

Amelia Earhart completed her solo flight from Honolulu to Oakland in 1935.

This Library of Congress page includes photographs, a brief biographical sketch, and links to additional stories abut Amelia Earhart.

This page, part of the Women Who Changed History section of the Scholastic website, provides a teacher's guide and student activities related to Amelia Earhart.

This site invites people around the world to publicly celebrate their heroes through images, video, and text.

November 15
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1804, at the request of Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out from St. Louis with their 33-member team to explore the American West. By mid-November of 1805, guided and aided much of the way by a young Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, they arrived at the Pacific Ocean. Their accounts, describing the American Indians they met, the wildlife they saw, and the physical environment they withstood, paved the way for the great western expansion.

Think for a moment about how descriptive Lewis and Clark needed to be in their writings for an audience back East who had never seen, or imagined, what they were seeing. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice descriptive writing with your students.

Depending upon your school's technology, you can have students look at Kenneth Holder's paintings of various scenes from the Lewis and Clark trail, available here. If this is not possible, print out landscape scenes-or slides from your own vacation-that are vivid in their details. Then, ask students to write words and phrases that describe what they see, what they imagine they might hear, etc. Remind them that they are writing for an audience that has never seen these pictures before. Ask students to transform their notes into a descriptive paragraph as if they were a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Last, ask students to return to a piece that they have already written this year and revise it by adding more sensory words and phrases.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805.

This portion of the PBS website dedicated to the Lewis and Clark expedition is an interactive story where portions of the journey are recounted and students are expected to make a choice about what Lewis and Clark should do next.

This is a short, easy-to-read article on York, William Clark's slave, who played a vital, but underappreciated, role on the expedition.

This National Geographic site tries to uncover some of the mystery surrounding this teenage Shoshone woman who acted as an interpreter and guide for the expedition.

This site, dedicated to Lewis and Clark, includes an interactive journey log, timeline, games, and information about supplies used and discoveries made by the Corps of Discovery.

April 15
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

The RMS Titanic, a British luxury passenger liner, sank en route to New York City, and some 1,500 of its passengers perished. The ship had been designed and built by William Pirrie's firm of Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. A credulous public had believed that design innovations such as its 15 "watertight" bulkheads would make it "unsinkable."

Your students probably had some background knowledge about the Titanic even before the release of James Cameron's movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett. A nice way to begin your study is with the Internet Workshop model. You might use the recommended Websites from this calendar entry as part of the Internet Workshop.

Some questions you might ask students to explore are:

  • Could this disaster happen today?
  • What could have been done to prevent the disaster at that time?
  • What really sank the Titanic?
  • Did anything good happen as a result of this disaster?
The RMS Titanic sank on this day in 1912.

Visitors to this website learn about Halifax, Nova Scotia's role during the tragedy's aftermath. Included is a transcript of Robert Hunston's wireless document The Titanic Disaster as Viewed from Cape Race.

 

This exhibit includes hyperlinks to facts about the Titanic and a large collection of historical photographs.

 

The Anderson Kill & Olick law firm offers this interactive mock trial of the Titanic's operators, the White Star Line.

 

The BBC's site contains 13 audio recordings of survivors relaying their experiences. The collection also includes six primary source documents.

 

This site has a collection of fifteen short videos about the Titanic. Included in that collection is an interactive infographic from History.com called "Titanic by the Numbers". The timeline starts with the construction of the Titanic and ends in 1913 with stories from survivors.

June 06
K - 8
Author & Text

Cynthia Rylant has authored dozens of books for children of all ages. Writing in multiple genres, she has earned the Newbery Medal for her book Missing May, the Newbery Honor award for A Fine White Dust, and Caldecott Honors for The Relatives Came and When I Was Young in the Mountains.

Explore the element of plot using the work of Cynthia Rylant. First, select a title appropriate to the grade level of your class. Ask your school librarian for a list of Rylant's titles from which you or your students may choose.

Have students work as a class on one book, or in small groups or individually on selected titles. Students can then use the ReadWriteThink Plot Diagram to map the plot of the selected story. Finally, invite students to create original literary works using the plot diagrams.

  • Younger students can adapt the story into a picture book by creating illustrations depicting the elements of plot.

  • Older students can rewrite the story by changing a plot element, such as the climax or resolution.
Celebrate Cynthia Rylant's birthday!

This biography of Cynthia Rylant includes quotes from her about her writing and her childhood.

 

This page offers a summary and classroom activities for teaching Missing May, Rylant's 1993 Newbery Medal winner.

 

This article, found on Houghton-Mifflin's Education Place website, introduces author Rylant and lists selected books she has written.

 

West Virginia Wesleyan College offers this page on Rylant, which includes brief biographical information, critical responses to Rylant's literature, a works published list, and a selected bibliography of articles about Rylant.

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.

April 13
7 - 12
Author & Text

Seamus Heaney was born in Ireland on April 14, 1939. He published his first volume of poetry in 1965 and has gone on to publish nearly a dozen collections as well as a critically acclaimed translation of the epic Beowulf. Heaney has also written important prose about writing poetry, including The Government of the Tongue and The Redress of Poetry. An active promoter of the art of writing poetry, Heaney won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. He died in 2013.

Share with students one of Seamus Heaney's most famous poems, "Digging." Ask students to focus on the figurative language the speaker uses to characterize himself as a writer, especially as he compares himself to his father and grandfather. Challenge students to discern the speaker's attitude toward himself as a writer, and how metaphor, simile, and image contribute to their understanding and appreciation of the poem.

Using Heaney's poem as an inspiration, invite students to write a poem that uses an extended metaphor (or a series of metaphors or other comparisons) to express their own attitudes toward themselves as writers. Point out that the speaker of "Digging" expresses his attitudes by comparing his pen positively to a gun, and then later, his pen both positively and negatively to a shovel or spade. Encourage students to use, as Heaney does, specific, vivid images to support the comparison they make.

Seamus Heaney was born on this day in 1939.

The Internet Poetry Archive offers a collection of Heaney's poetry, along with a biography, bibliography, and more.

 

The Nobel Foundation provides biographical information, Heaney's 1995 acceptance speech, and related resources.

 

The BBC offers this interview with Heaney, in which he discusses his writing. For a lengthier lecture and a reading by Heaney, visit MITWorld's A Reading by Seamus Heaney, a video recording of a lecture given by Heaney at MIT.

 

This online guide provides an overview of the poem, details on its language and poetics, and an exploration of the translations of the work. Both the original version and a modern translation of the poem are available online in an interactive format.