March 19
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

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:

  1. Use the World Time Engine to find the best time to schedule this meeting.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

On this day in 1918, the United States passed the U.S. Standard Time Act.

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.

November 26
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

According to the Wampanoag and the ancestors of the Plimoth settlers, no oral or written account confirms that the first Thanksgiving took place between them in 1621. The Wampanoag, and other Native Americans, did participate in daily and seasonal thanksgivings for thousands of years prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival. This process of thanksgiving continues today.

Provide students with a selection of texts about Thanksgiving. Invite students to partner-read their selected books, considering these questions:

  • From whose perspective is the story told?

  • Whose voices are active and passive?

  • What words are used to describe the groups?

  • Whose story has the most detail?

  • What details were offered or implied in the text or illustrations about Thanksgiving and each group’s lifestyle (e.g., food, clothing, beliefs, and traditions)?

  • Are the illustrations accurate? How do you know?

Next, share with students texts that are #OwnVoices. Oyate and American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) both provide critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books.

Select one of the #OwnVoice texts to read, like Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, a children's picture book, by Chief Jake Swamp. This version of the Iroquois Thanksgiving Address, or Ganohonyohk, is written especially for children who want to know more about Six Nations Iroquois spirituality. The Thanksgiving Address is one of the key speeches of the Six Nations Iroquois.

End the session by allowing students to share "What are some things you are thankful for and where do they come from?"

The United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day today.

Oyate is a Native organization working to see that our lives and histories are portrayed with honesty and integrity, and that all people know that our stories belong to us.

American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) provides critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books.

The words in this book are based on the Thanksgiving Address, an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants, that are still spoken at ceremonial and governmental gatherings held by the Six Nations.

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 07
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

One of jazz's most influential singers, Billie Holiday was born in 1915 in Philadelphia. "Lady Day," as she was later to be known, sang with such intensity and emotion that she made every song her own, whether she wrote it or not. Unfortunately, the blues she sang of were also her reality–she was a terribly unhappy and insecure person and died prematurely in 1959 due to a life of drug and alcohol abuse.

Holiday's most popular and influential song is probably her 1939 recording of Strange Fruit, a haunting depiction of the lynchings of African Americans that were occurring throughout the Jim Crow American South. The link allows you to read the lyrics and also listen to part of Holiday's rendition of the song. Because of the subject matter and the vividness of the song's images, this activity should be reserved for high school or mature middle school students.

The song is a perfect text to use to teach tone. Before explaining the context of the song, have students read the lyrics or listen to the song and identify the most powerful or descriptive images.

Next, share some facts about the lynchings in the South during this period, such as, "Between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 lynchings of African Americans occurred in the U.S." Ask students to try to determine Holiday's attitude toward this issue, which you can then define as the tone of the song. Have students compare the tone of Holiday's song to that of Langston Hughes' poem on the same topic, Song for a Dark Girl. Then apply the concept of tone to another piece you are currently reading.

Jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday was born in 1915.

This comprehensive site on Billie Holiday includes a biography, photos, quotes, and more.

 

This page provides links to a variety of artist showcases. Audio and video files are provided along with biographical and historical information.

 

These pages from the Library of Congress' America's Story site offer information and images. See also the Library's additional Billie Holiday information, on its American Memory pages.

 

As part of its Independent Lens series, PBS presents the role that protest music has played in American history. The site contains protest music from the days of slavery to the present protests against the war in Iraq.

 

July 17
9 - 12
Author & Text

Jack Kerouac published his most famous novel, On the Road, in 1957, but his depiction of the iconic road trip was actually inspired by two real-life trips Kerouac took ten years before, in 1947 and 1949. This influential novel, with its spontaneous and unconventional writing style and its focus on drugs and disillusionment, helped to define the Beat Generation, a social and literary movement of the 1950s that also included William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.

For high school students, begin a discussion by asking:

  • If you could travel anywhere in the United States by car, where would you want to go and why?
  • Who would be the one person that you would most want to take with you on the trip and why?
  • What difficulties would you expect to have on your trip?

Afterward, read a section from On the Road that deals with the aspects of cross-country travel and that reflects Kerouac's unique writing style. An appropriate excerpt from the novel can be found at this Literary Kicks site.

Lead students in a discussion with the aim of characterizing Kerouac's style. Then ask students to attempt to emulate his stream-of-consciousness style with their own written narrative in which they blend their road trip from the opening discussion with details from vacations and trips they have taken in the past.

On the Road author Jack Kerouac embarked on his first cross-country road trip in 1947.

Stories, anecdotes, interviews and audio about Jack Kerouac and his writing.

This American Museum of Beat Art site dedicated to Kerouac incoludes a biography, bibliography, and links, including one to Dharma Beat, a Kerouac newszine. This site is part of a larger archive and collection of works pertaining to the Beat Generation.

Time Magazine's original review of On the Road will give students a sense of how the book was received when it was first published in 1957. Time chose Kerouac's book as one of the 100 most important modern novels written in English.

When students try to model their own narratives using Kerouac's style, this University of Pennsylvania site will help identify the components of his style, form, and process.

September 18
9 - 12
Author & Text

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was published in 1937. The novel tells of the life and loves of Janie Crawford in a story that is highlighted by its use of storytelling, black folklore, and dialects.

Their Eyes Were Watching God explores stories and storytelling. To introduce the novel in your class, ask students to brainstorm the kinds of stories they know. If students offer specific stories, list the stories and then go back through the list and divide the stories into categories such as family stories, mythology, folklore, urban legends, and so forth.

Next, ask students where these stories come from. Students should identify such sources as experience, books, parents, ancestors, history, friends, nature, fears, dreams, childhood, and home. As students begin reading the novel, return to these questions-identifying the kinds of stories that are being told, where the stories come from, and why they are being told.

Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937.

This Today in History entry from the Library of Congress celebrates Hurston's birthday. Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated black town in the United States.

This site offers biographical information about Hurston, lists of her books, related news, links to additional resources, and guides for educators and reading groups. Included is an Instructor's Guide for Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The Library of Congress offers a collection of plays written by Hurston but unpublished until 1997, well after her death. The plays reflect Hurston's life, as well as her studies of African American folklore.

April 18
4 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

The son of a French immigrant, Paul Revere worked as a gold- and silversmith for more than 40 years in Boston, Massachusetts. In the years before the revolution, Revere gathered intelligence information by "watching the Movements of British soldiers," as he wrote in a personal account of his ride. Although he was joined by William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, it is Paul Revere who is generally remembered for making this historic midnight ride.

As you study Paul Revere, have students learn about primary source documents while researching their family histories.

Paul Revere's ancestry can be traced back to his great-great grandfather, Jean Rivoire, born in France in about 1610. Challenge your students to examine their own roots by investigating likely sources of information about their ancestors. First, discuss the differences between primary and secondary sources. Brainstorm some possible primary sources, and then have students research their family histories. Some possible sources include a family Bible, interviews with family members, a grandparent's diary or journal (with permission, of course), letters and other correspondence, or photographs.

Next, have students create a family tree from the information they have gathered. Have students compare their family trees and discuss some of these questions: How far back were students able to trace their ancestry? How many different countries of origin are represented in your students' family trees? Why might it be difficult to trace some family trees? How can students make a contribution to preserving their own family histories?

Paul Revere began his famous midnight ride in 1775.

This site features the real story of Revere's historic ride. Links to other resources, including Revere's biography, are also found here.

 

This Archiving Early America page features a Flash movie on Revere's ride.

 

This page from AmericanRevolution.org offers an account of Revere's famous ride in his own words.

 

Read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, which immortalized Revere's famous ride. Compare Longfellow's account with Revere's own version at the Revere Speaks website above.

 

May 02
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Since 1984, the National PTA has designated time each May for communities nationwide to honor teachers for their work with children. Parents, students, and schools across America celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week to show appreciation for the work and dedication of teachers and reaffirm the commitment to parent-teacher partnerships.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, read a book about a teacher such as Thank You, Mr. Falker, Miss Nelson is Missing, or a Magic School Bus story with Ms. Frizzle. Why are the teachers in these stories special? Have a class discussion about some of your students' favorite teachers. Then have students try these follow-up activities:

  • Compare a favorite teacher to a teacher from a book with the Interactive Venn Diagram.
  • Write a letter to a favorite teacher using the Letter Generator.
  • Create a character map of either Miss Nelson or another storybook teacher with the Story Mapping tool.
  • Use the Essay Map to plan and write an essay on why they would or would not like to be a student in one of the storybook teachers' classrooms.
  • Read and present another book about a special teacher. Older students may choose books like The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, or A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.
Teacher Appreciation Week honors our teachers.

This National PTA resource offers ideas to help parents, students, and schools honor teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

The National Education Association offers these activities, appropriate for a Teacher Appreciation Week celebration.

This page from Reading Rockets celebrates teachers through notes of appreciation from parents, videos of authors and illustrators talking about their favorite teachers, and a link for users to send their own e-cards to teachers they appreciate.

Students enjoy interactive activities as they learn about different topics of science with a truly unusual teacher: Ms. Frizzle. Be sure to check out the interview with Magic School Bus author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen.

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 16
9 - 12
Author & Text

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter tells the tale of Hester Prynne, her daughter Pearl, and the city that condemns them because Hester will not name her child's father. The novel remains one of the classics of early American literature more than 150 years since its first publication in 1850.

Before beginning a reading of this novel, brainstorm with the class the possible meaning of the title. What does the word scarlet connote? What is the letter? Can letter have more than one meaning? Are there synonyms for scarlet that could convey the same significance and meaning? Be sure to record the responses of the class and return to them once the reading has begun, to explore how students' definitions have changed.

An alternative activity might be to show students the opening minutes of the movie adaptations of the novel first, and then ask them to read the opening chapter of the novel. Students could then write a short comparison of the book and the movie. An adaptation of the lesson Cover to Cover: Comparing Books to Movies (see Lesson Plans below) can also provide a foundation for this activity.

The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850.

This comprehensive Washington State University site contains links to various resources on the author. Included are some online works, biographical information, activities, and reviews.

Biographical information on Hawthorne along with details about imagery and symbolism in the novel are found at this University of Wisconsin site.

This page, from The Life and Works of Herman Melville site, describes the friendship between these two authors, who were contemporaries though fifteen years apart in age.

This interactive exhibit features the family newspaper, The Spectator, conceived by Hawthorne as a youth. Included are historical images, portraits, and artifacts related to Hawthorne's life and writing career.