In the United States, Halloween is celebrated on October 31. The holiday has its roots in the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain. It was Christianized in the 9th century as "All Hallows' Eve," which precedes the Roman Catholic celebration of All Saints' Day on November 1.
- If you have Internet access in your class or school, assign one common aspect of Halloween (e.g., costumes, pumpkins, witches) to a group of students and ask them to search for information about how that aspect came to be a part of Halloween tradition.
- Have students make a list of the characters from a text that they are currently reading (or from texts read earlier in the year). Ask students to create masks or costumes that represent one of the characters from the text. Each student could then be asked to deliver a short monologue as that character to a small group.
- Ask students to write a narrative describing their best Halloween ever, an expository essay that tells how to plan a Halloween celebration, or a spooky Halloween mystery story. They can plan the last one using the interactive Mystery Cube tool. Helpful information can be found on the Mystery Cube page.
This page from KidsReads.com provides an annotated list of books about Halloween.
This page from the Library of Congress American Memory website features primary documents related to Halloween, including interviews, folk tales, and audio files. Some highlights include images of magician Harry Houdini, first-hand accounts of Halloween tricks of the past, and spooky songs.
Election Day is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The first uniform Election Day was observed on November 4, 1845.
Have your students get involved with Election Day by creating posters to advertise Election Day and encourage registered voters to exercise their right to vote. Have small groups of students brainstorm lists of reasons why people should vote. Then, have them work in their groups to create posters using poster paper and paint or felt-tipped markers. Alternatively, they can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to create flyers. Students can also write persuasive essays that underscore the importance of getting out to vote or create a public service announcement or other multimedia persuasive piece. The ReadWriteThink lessons MyTube: Changing the World with Video Public Service Announcements and Students as Creators: Exploring Multimedia can be adapted for use with this activity.
This website, from the National Museum of American History, looks at the history of voting methods in the United States. The resource explores how ballots and voting systems have evolved over the years as a response to political, social, and technological change, transforming the ways in which Americans vote.
This resource, from PBS, introduces elementary-aged children to the importance of voting in a fun, interactive way.
This website, from the Library of Congress, focuses on some of the memorable elections since the first uniform Election Day on November 4, 1845.
This site includes a timeline of media coverage of important presidential races and presidencies.
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.
In 1733, Benjamin Franklin, using the pseudonym Richard Saunders, began publishing Poor Richard's Almanack, which included agricultural predictions, charts of the moon's phases, and a series of proverbs, such as "haste makes waste." Franklin, acknowledged as one of America's Founding Fathers, especially for his role as a statesman, continued to publish his Almanack until 1758.
Share some of the following proverbs taken from Poor Richard's Almanack with your students:
- There are no gains without pains.
- At the working man's house, hunger looks in but dares not enter.
- Industry pays debts while despair increases them.
- Plough deep while sluggards sleep and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.
- One today is worth two tomorrows.
- Have you something to do tomorrow? Do it today.
- Trouble springs from idleness and grievous toil from needless ease.
- The noblest question in the world is: What good may I do in it?
- Hear no ill of a friend, nor speak any of an enemy.
- Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure when he is really selling himself a slave to it.
Ask students to give their impressions of the person who would write these statements. Then, have students choose one saying, paraphrase it, and explain why they agree or disagree with its message. As a final activity, ask students to write their own mottos for life. These mottos can be illustrated and displayed in the classroom or made into bumper stickers or t-shirts.
This site pairs Franklin's quotes with a "translation" into verse. The quotes are arranged by topic and can also be searched through an index.
Gettysburg College offers electronic access to pages from the original Almanack. Additional pages are also available.
This webpage developed by PBS is part of their Benjamin Franklin resource. It offers information about Franklin's satirical writing style and the humor found in Poor Richard's Almanack.
While devoted to science and technology rather than reading per se, this institution promotes discovery and ongoing inquiry-the cornerstones of an inquiry-based classroom. Included is a list of resources for studying Franklin.
Teachers and students come to school bringing a wide range of backgrounds, languages, abilities, and temperaments. Get things off to the best start by asking them to respect their differences and make the most of their similarities. By sharing information on their lives and dreams, students and teachers can build community in the classroom that will support literacy instruction throughout the school year.
The first weeks of school can set the tone for the rest of the year, so community-building is a priority. Ask students to share details about their lives with one another using the interactive Graphic Map.
- Ask students to identify key moments in their lives. Younger students can brainstorm a list of events from the summer, while older students might focus more specifically on significant events from previous years at school.
- Have students assign a positive or negative value to each event based on their feelings about it. Happy events like "meeting a new friend" would have a high number, and sad events like "having to leave a sibling at home" would have a lower number.
- Once students have gathered their ideas, ask them to publish the entries using the interactive Graphic Map. Have students record a brief description and include an image for each memory. If computers are not available, have students draw graphics and add captions for their memories on construction paper.
- When everyone has completed their graphic maps, invite students to share their memories in small groups or with the whole class. Encourage students to look for feelings that they have all experienced and to identify details that they want to know more about.
See the Graphic Map page for more information and activities for this interactive tool.
This booklist, compiled by ReadWriteThink, names texts that can be shared with Grades K–2 and Grades 3–5 students during the first few days of school.
This NCTE resource provides additional lesson plans, teaching strategies, journal articles, and more to help the first weeks in the classroom flow more smoothly.
This article from KidsHealth includes tips for dealing with first-day jitters, the first day at middle school, and getting a good start.
Older students can find resources on this KidsHealth site to help make the first days of school more successful. The site includes topics such as choosing extracurricular activities and dealing with bullying.
Compiled by ReadWriteThink, this booklist suggests titles that can be shared with students in Grades 6-9 during the beginning weeks of school.
As he was writing the script for the original Star Wars films in the 1970s, George Lucas spent a great deal of time reading and interviewing mythologist Joseph Campbell, whose ideas included a concept called "The Hero's Journey," the archetypal hero story that is found in cultures around the world. Lucas based much of his plot for the films on the stages of this journey, which, along with a relentlessly successful advertising campaign, might help explain the films' amazing popularity.
Use The Hero's Journey Interactive tool to describe how Luke Skywalker meets each stage of the journey:
- Call to Adventure
- Refusal of the Call
- Mentor Figure(s)/Supernatural Aid
- First Threshold
- Belly of the Whale
- Road of Trials
- Meeting with the Goddess/Temptress
- Atonement/Death of Mentor
- Ultimate Boon
- Rescue from Without
- Crossing Back/Return
Then, brainstorm other works that use the formula, such as The Lord of the Rings.
This National Air and Space Museum exhibit highlights elements of myth and the Hero's Journey in the Star Wars films. Also included are image galleries and audio clips.
This post connects Star Wars and Campbell's Hero's Journey. References to the original films are included.
This page provides resources related to the series of books based on the Star Wars films.
Students can use this online tool to learn about the elements of the hero's journey, analyze a text that follows the hero's journey pattern, or start creating a hero story of their own.
Roald Dahl was born in Wales on September 13th, 1916. His first book for children, The Gremlins, was written in 1943. Following this, Dahl went on to write several of the most popular children's stories of the 20th century, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and James and the Giant Peach. Several of Dahl's stories, including these, have been made into motion pictures. He died in 1990.
Have students adapt a Roald Dahl story to picture book format. Read a Roald Dahl story that has been adapted to film (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda) Then show students the film. Have students use the Interactive Venn Diagram or Mobile App to compare and contrast the two versions, focusing on the images in the movie:
- How were the two experiences different? Similar?
- How did the images in the movie affect the story? Your enjoyment of the story?
- What are the benefits of reading a story? Of watching a film?
- How is the story in the movie different? Why do you think this is so?
Then have students create original picture book versions of the story. Afterwards, have students share their books and then add them to the classroom library.
This site offers news, contests, quizzes, activity ideas, and more to help readers around the world celebrate Roald Dahl Day on his birthday.
Roald Dahl's official site features a biography, photo gallery, author interview, online activities, and more.
The BBC Wales provides this audio interview with Roald Dahl’s relatives and related biographical information.
This site offers activites, suggestions, and ideas for celebrating Roald Dahl Month all September long!
After spending many years writing for The New Yorker, E.B. White turned his hand to fiction when his first children's book, Stuart Little, was published in 1945. White's most famous children's book, Charlotte's Web, followed in 1952. Both went on to receive high acclaim and in 1970 jointly won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, a major prize in the field of children's literature. That same year, White published his third children's novel, The Trumpet of the Swan. In 1973, that book received the William Allen White Award from Kansas and the Sequoyah Award from Oklahoma, both of which were awarded by students voting for their favorite book of the year.
In honor of White’s love for children’s books about animals, have a class discussion about the ways that animals are portrayed in different fictional novels (both those by White and others). Have students do one or more of the following activities to further examine farms and farm animals, such as those in Charlotte’s Web:
- Take a class field trip to a local farm. Have students take pictures and write down the sights and sounds of the farm. After returning to the classroom, have students compile a class scrapbook that highlights the different animals at the farms and the most important things learned on the field trip.
- Students can create Acrostic Poems about a farm animal of their choice, share their poems with the class, and then create a classroom bulletin board showcasing all of the students’ favorite farm animals and information about each one.
- Have students create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the farm with the city, farm life with city life, or two different farm animals. This activity can also be followed up by writing a Compare and Contrast Essay as a part of a longer activity.
- Compare the book version of Charlotte’s Web to the movie version. Then, use the Compare and Contrast Map or Venn Diagram to discuss the similarities and differences between the two.
This site includes stories about E.B. White's life and Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, The Elements of Style, and Trumpet of the Swan.
Read about E.B. White, author of the cherished children's classic Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan.
Find out information about E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web, and take part in some “fun and games” related to the book and movie.
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.
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.
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.
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.