December 19
3 - 10
Author & Text

Now a resident of the United States, Eve Bunting is an acclaimed author of picture books and novels. Bunting's picture books have tackled sensitive issues such as homelessness, death, aging, and war. Her books have won numerous awards, including the Golden Kite Award and a Caldecott Medal in 1995 for Smoky Night.

One trademark of Bunting's picture books is her ability to see events through the eyes of a child. Smoky Night deals with the Los Angeles race riots as seen from the perspective of a young boy watching the fires and the looters. His reactions to this event are, understandably, different from those of his mother and neighbors. Before reading this picture book aloud to students, read them a news article that relates the details of the events in Los Angeles. Ask students how a younger observer might be affected by these events and might see the events differently than an adult. After reading Smoky Night, assess the accuracy of students' perceptions.

As an alternative or follow-up activity, have students locate and read two different accounts of the events of September 11, 2001, one written by an adult and one written by a child. Ask them to compare the two accounts.

Author Eve Bunting was born in Ireland in 1928.

This page from the Reading Rockets website includes the text of an interview with author Eve Bunting, several audio clips of the interview, and an annotated list of some of her most popular books.

 

Kidsreads.com offers a brief biography of Bunting and links to information about a few of her books. The biography is written simply, so it is an excellent resource for younger students to obtain biographical information on Bunting.

 

This feature from Scholastic includes a brief biography of Bunting, the transcript of an interview with her, and a bibliography of her books.

 

Houghton Mifflin offers this collection of classroom activities for use with several of Bunting's books, including Train to Somewhere, The Wednesday Surprise, and The Memory String.

 

March 05
3 - 12
Author & Text

Leslie Marmon Silko, born in 1948 and raised in the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, proudly proclaims her mixed Native American, Mexican, and White heritage. As a writer, Silko draws on the stories she heard from her great-grandmother at Laguna. The oral tradition of storytelling, she insists, is alive and well for anyone who takes the time to listen to others. Silko's most widely taught novel, Ceremony, deals with a young World War II veteran's return to his Indian reservation.

To celebrate Silko's birthday, your students can revive elements of the oral tradition.

Have students write a brief anecdote about something funny that happened to them recently. Have students limit their writing to no more than a paragraph. Then ask students to read what they have written several times to themselves. Next, in pairs, have students tell each other their stories without looking at what they wrote. Each pair should then join with another pair and tell each other their stories, again without looking at what they wrote. Stop the class at this point and ask students to look back at what they have written to see if their stories have changed in the telling. Why do these changes happen? Finally, have students move into a larger group and retell someone else's story as well as they can. Before wrapping up, students should discuss some of the elements of oral storytelling: what makes a good story? What changes in the retelling and why?

Have students interview older family members to learn about family stories that may have been passed down through generations. Students may wish to share these stories in class or write them down and illustrate them.

Today is Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko's birthday.

This resource from American Passages offers a brief biography of Silko, as well as teaching tips and questions for her novel Ceremony.

This is a collection of notes by a Georgetown professor on the major themes and complex style of Silko's work.

The Smithsonian Institution offers this collection of Native American-related resources. There are links to Smithsonian resources, online exhibitions, and recommended reading lists.

This PBS site provides a collection of resources on Native American storytelling.

June 10
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

On a series of three artificial islands and in the surrounding ponds, visitors to the 1854 World's Fair at the Crystal Palace in London saw the first life-size replicas of dinosaurs such as the Iguanodon, the Megalosaurus, and Pterodactyls, all created by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

Waterhouse Hawkins' dinosaur replicas offer a great opportunity for an inquiry-based project. Some of Hawkins' models are known for their minor errors or incomplete detail. Consider the horn on the Iguanodon or the submerged Mosasaur (with body obscured since only fossils of the head had been discovered). The replicas are in fact more of a historical artifact than an accurate scientific model.

After learning about Hawkins' replicas, do a study of what we know about these same dinosaurs today-what did Hawkins get right and where did he draw the wrong conclusions? Students could work individually or in small groups to investigate a dinosaur of their choice, comparing Hawkins' versions to current knowledge about the prehistoric animals. The ReadWriteThink Venn Diagram is a nice tool to help students organize and present their findings.

The Crystal Palace hosted the first display of life-size dinosaur replicas in 1854.

This page from Smithsonian.com lists some dinosaur books appropriate for kids, along with brief descriptions.

 

Nyder's site includes photos of all the remaining dinosaurs in their original location on artificial islands outside the site of the original Crystal Palace building at Sydenham.

 

This Brooklyn College page details not only Hawkins' work on the Crystal Palace dinosaur replicas but also the ill-fated plans to build similar replicas in New York City.

 

Scientists out on a dig have found parts from six different dinosaurs. Put the parts together to create a dinosaur that really existed, OR create an imaginary dinosaur of your own!

December 15
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

The Bill of Rights was ratified by three-fourths of the newly formed United States in 1791 to ensure individual rights that were not addressed in the United States Constitution. These first 10 amendments to the Constitution enumerate and protect many of our rights, including freedom of speech, worship, the press, and assembly.

Bill of Rights Day is a good opportunity for students to explore a variety of students' rights issues. Ask students to identify an issue that has come up in your school, such as dress codes, drug testing, zero tolerance, privacy, religion, or freedom of expression. Have them explore the ways in which the Bill of Rights protects and does not protect students, as well as some of the past and recent challenges to students' rights. Have students write position papers or debate individuals or teams of students with opposing points of view. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Student Rights page has information and articles about recent court cases focused on students' rights.

Students can continue to explore the Bill of Rights by examining the ways in which it applies to current events and issues such as homeland security, prisoners' rights, the death penalty, and more. Provide access to a daily newspaper. Then ask students to construct a scrapbook or bulletin board display of articles that address Bill of Rights issues.

Bill of Rights Day is observed.

This website from the United States National Archives offers a look at the actual Bill of Rights, with links to high-resolution images and related information.

 

This ACLU resource provides a brief history of the Bill of Rights and the rationale for the creation of these 10 amendments to the United States Constitution.

 

This resource featured on Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids provides information about citizenship and the Bill of Rights.

 

This online exhibit includes images of many original documents and describes how the Bill of Rights was passed.

 

June 27
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

When she was born in Alabama on this day in 1880, Helen Keller was a normal baby; but when she was nineteen months old, she lost both her hearing and sight after an illness. As an adult, Keller was a writer, an educator, and a social activist.

In 1887, Keller learned to talk using a finger alphabet after her well-known breakthrough with Annie Sullivan at the family's well pump. The finger alphabet that Keller learned to communicate with Sullivan, her family, and eventually, many others was a basic version of the system that is now known as American Sign Language. Have your students explore the American Sign Language browser from Michigan State University and try using a few signs. Discuss how ASL differs from spoken English and how the two are similar. During the discussion, introduce the misconceptions about ASL addressed in the article Common Myths about Sign Language.

Helen Keller was born in 1880.

Ivy Green, Helen Keller's birthplace, sponsors this website on Keller's life and accomplishments as well as pictures and details on the birthplace, its grounds, and events that take place at Ivy Green.

 

The focus of this blog will be to synthesize research regarding the use of technology in the literacy development of deaf and hard of hearing students.

The Helen Keller Archival Collection at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is the world’s largest repository of letters, speeches, press clippings, scrapbooks, photographs, architectural drawings, artifacts and audio-video materials relating to Helen Keller.

October 09
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

John Lennon, a member of the Beatles, was born on October 9, 1940, in Liverpool, England. With the Beatles and as a solo artist, Lennon was hugely influential musically, culturally, and politically throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Lennon wrote and recorded many songs over the course of his career, including the antiwar song "Give Peace a Chance." He was murdered by a crazed fan on December 8, 1980, in New York City.

 

John Lennon is well known for many songs; however, his most famous song is probably "Imagine," in which he asks his listeners to consider a world without war and violence. After listening to the song or reading the lyrics, ask students to discuss the following questions, depending upon their grade and skill level:

  • The speaker refers to himself as a "dreamer." What other words would you use to describe the speaker?

  • Is the world that the speaker imagines possible? What prevents peace from happening? What can be done to try to make it happen? How has September 11 changed your feelings about world peace?

  • Write a stanza of your own for the song that begins with the phrase "Imagine..." Draw a picture below your stanza to illustrate the world you have imagined.

 

In 1940, musician and peace activist John Lennon was born.

This media-rich site offers a history and biography of Lennon, as well as videos, drawings, and a discography. Photographs and videos of Lennon are found throughout the site.

 

This museum site includes a biography and timeline of Lennon, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

 

A site created by Yoko Ono in rembrance and celebration of John Lennon.

 

May 25
7 - 12
Author & Text

Ralph Waldo Emerson- essayist, poet, and lecturer-was born in Boston in 1803. A founding figure of transcendentalism, Emerson believed that we need to trust ourselves and to live in harmony with nature. His influence on the major figures in American literature, such as Thoreau, Whitman, and Hawthorne, cannot be overstated. At Emerson's funeral in 1882, Whitman called him "a just man, poised on himself, all-loving, all-inclosing, and sane and clear as the sun."

Before sharing the quotation below, ask students to suggest definitions of success. Next, share this quotation which is often attributed to Emerson: "To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child or a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Then, identify and list the definitions of success that the author puts forward. Next, ask students to name people they know (not celebrities or politicians) who seem to fit these definitions of a successful person. Last, using the Postcard Creator, have students write a note to a person on the list, explaining why they believe he or she is a success.

Note: There is some question as to whether the above quote in fact can be attributed to Emerson. This might make an interesting research question for students to explore and debate.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803.

American Transcendentalism Web from Virginia Commonwealth University offers this page on Emerson. The Web contains hundreds of articles on Emerson and other transcendentalists.

Poets.org offers this page on Ralph Waldo Emerson. It includes biographical information, a selected bibliography, and links to selected writings and related Internet resources.

This resources from PBS includes a biography of Emerson, information about his role in the transcendentalist movement, and excerpts of his work.

May 31
7 - 12
Author & Text

American poet Walt Whitman was born on Long Island, New York, in 1819. In 1855, Whitman self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Several editions of the book, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2005, were later published. Whitman wrote other important works, including "O Captain! My Captain!," which was a response to the death of Abraham Lincoln. Walt Whitman died on March 26, 1892.

Invite your students to write and illustrate their own children's stories, using the text from a Walt Whitman poem. First, have students read Whitman's poem "Miracles," from Leaves of Grass. Next, share the picture book Nothing But Miracles, which features the text of the poem. Have a volunteer read the story to the class, and then as a group, discuss the book's illustrations.

  • How do the illustrations enhance the telling of this story?
  • How did the experience of reading this poem with illustrations differ from reading it without illustration?

After discussing the book, have students select Whitman poems that would make good children's picture books. Have students create illustrations for the poems they select and then publish their books. Share the books with a primary classroom in your school or district. You might also have your students create digital storybooks to share on the Web.

Today is Walt Whitman's birthday.

The Academy of American Poets presents this profile of Whitman, with a bibliography of his works and links to selected poems.

The Walt Whitman Archive offers manuscripts, correspondence, biographical information, images, and other resources related to Walt Whitman and his work.

This Learner.org feature provides brief biographical information about Walt Whitman. Also included is a video clip of Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, along with links to related resources.

The Library of Congress offers this online exhibit exploring Whitman's life and work through primary source materials, such as journals, letters, photographs, and etchings.

November 21
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

World Hello Day began in 1973 to promote peace between Egypt and Israel. There are now 180 countries involved in the attempt to foster peace throughout the world, and letters supporting the effort have been written by people such as John Glenn, Colin Powell, Kofi Annan, and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Throughout history, important leaders and institutions have used letters to make their beliefs known and to convince others of the importance of peace and unity. Invite your students to study one of the letters below for its message promoting peace in some way:

Have students examine one of the letters to determine the author's purpose in writing, and to identify words and phrases that were used to make the letters more meaningful to the reader. Then, have them use the ReadWriteThink Letter Generator to write a letter of their own promoting peace. More tips are available about using the Letter Generator. Students may choose to write about world conflict, or they may choose to write about issues closer to home, such as bullying or peer conflicts.

 

Today is World Hello Day!

This site provides a wide range of materials for students at all grade levels. Resources include information about the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, a timeline, and a series of informational articles.

The Jane Addams Peace Association furthers the cause of peace by selecting and awarding children's literature that promotes the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and equality.

The material in this website will enhance social studies and literature lessons in all primary grades. Your students will want to revisit this site throughout the school year.

This site lists eight easy activities designed to celebrate world language. The activities are perfect for ESL and bilingual classes and are beneficial to all primary school students.

March 21
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Believed to have its origin in the 1930s, World Poetry Day is now celebrated in hundreds of countries around the world. This day provides a perfect opportunity to examine poets and their craft in the classroom. In 1999, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) also designated March 21 as World Poetry Day.

"Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins provides a wonderful place to begin a discussion on how readers approach a poem. Ask students to skim quickly through the poem and write their initial responses in their journals or on paper. What words and images stand out for them? What is their emotional reaction to the poem (e.g., surprise, dismay, anger)? Ask students to share their responses with the class. Then have students read the poem a second time, this time more slowly and carefully, taking note of any figurative language (e.g., simile, metaphor, hyperbole) they encounter. What do they think Collins is saying about the study of poetry? According to Collins, what is the real goal of reading poetry?

Ask students to think about a favorite poem and imagine the perfect way to read it. Where would they be when they read it? Would they read it fast or slow? Out loud or to themselves? Have them compose their own poem about reading poetry. Students can use tools provided by ReadWriteThink to create Acrostic Poems, Diamante Poems, Letter Poems, or Theme Poems.

Today is World Poetry Day.

This website includes the work of hundreds of poets and more than 1400 poems. Included are poet biographies, selected works, and a collection of poems in audio format.

From the Library of Congress, this site features a year's worth of poetry for high school students. Beginning with Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry," the poems are meant to be read aloud, and enjoyed by the entire school community.

Though not all poems are appropriate for younger readers, you can search the archives to find a full year of poems.