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.
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.
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?"
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.
Samuel Pepys was born in London on February 23, 1633. Though he was an important government official, Pepys is primarily known for the detailed diary that he maintained for 10 years. Much of what we know today about day-to-day life in 17th century London comes from his diary. In it, Pepys describes with great detail and compassion the Great Fire of London, the plague that beset Europe, and the coronation of Charles II.
One of the most interesting aspects of Pepys' diary is that we can read about the details of this person's life and then make assumptions about life in general for the people of that time period.
Ask students to write diary entries that recap everything they did the day before. They should write about what they ate, the clothes they wore, activities they did, and so on, making their diary entries as detailed and descriptive as possible. Then, have each student switch diary entries with another student, who will read the entry as if he or she were living a hundred years from now. Direct students to underline words and phrases that describe what life must have been like for teenagers in the year 2013.
As a class, brainstorm a list of defining characteristics of life in the early 21st century, and ask students to write paragraphs that summarize these details.
Older students can read a section of Pepys' diary and write paragraphs to summarize life in the 17th century.
This site contains a biography of Pepys, numerous pictures of him, and excerpts from his diary.
This site from National Public Radio offers a series of "radio diaries," in which people of various backgrounds document events of their lives. Students can listen to several of the broadcasts and access information about how to create their own radio diaries.
This site contains hundreds of excellent resources associated with Anne Frank, one of the most famous and widely taught diarists.
In 1938, as Hitler began to dominate the lives of the Jewish population of Germany, Nazi soldiers were ordered to destroy Jewish stores and homes on what became known as Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass.
Many of the lessons associated with a study of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust focus on the incredibly vicious treatment of the Jews at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. It is difficult to get students to understand how it was possible for the leaders of Germany at the time to wreak havoc on a segment of the German citizenry without others coming to their aid or rescue. To facilitate students' understanding, a journal prompt asking them to recall a time when they failed to come to the assistance of someone who needed help could be used at the beginning of the class period. An alternative would be to read "The Good Samaritan" from Rene Saldana's story collection Finding Our Way, in which a young man wrestles with just this situation.
This resource discusses the events leading up to Kristallnacht. Links to books used as sources are included.
Photographs and other historical documents about Kristallnacht detail the horror and destruction of that night.
This map, from the Florida Center for Educational Technology's A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust, provides information about the more than 200 synagogues destroyed during Kristallnacht. Links to timelines and other pieces of information are also at this site.
Dr. Jonas Salk was born in New York City on October 28, 1914. In 1953, Salk announced that he had successfully developed a polio vaccine, reducing the number of deaths from the disease in the U.S. by 95%. During the last 10 years of his life, Salk focused on AIDS research. Salk died in 1995.
After learning about Dr. Jonas Salk, ask your students to interview a family member or somebody they know who remembers when polio was endemic. There are many stories related to the history of the disease in the United States-from the first people to be vaccinated to those who had the disease themselves. Students can share their stories and interviews in class. If students are unable to locate enough people who can share memories of the disease, visit the Share Your Story section of the March of Dimes website. Take advantage of the stories to talk about the difference between fact and opinion, making note of the information from the stories on the board. Compare the facts from the stories to the facts available in reference materials. If desired, students can submit their family stories to the appropriate area of the March of Dimes website.
This page from the Academy of Achievement provides an excellent biography on Salk, including video of his interviews and photographs.
Have your students read the comic-book style story of how Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio.
This website aims to increase awareness of polio and to raise the funds needed to eradicate the disease. The site offers an excellent history of the disease from 1580 BC to the present.
From the Eisenhower Library, this website provides online access to many of the primary documents related to the polio vaccine, including presidential statements and official government documents.
Elizabeth Blackwell was not only the first woman in the United States to graduate from medical school, earning an MD degree, she also graduated first in her class. Blackwell served as a doctor for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, she founded the Women's Medical College in New York with her sister Emily Blackwell, who had also become a doctor. Elizabeth Blackwell died May 31, 1910.
Elizabeth Blackwell applied to 16 colleges before she was admitted to the Medical Institution of Geneva College, in New York. When she died in 1910, more than 7,000 women had earned medical degrees, and all of them had Dr. Blackwell to thank for going first and working as an advocate for women in the medical profession.
With your class, explore other famous firsts. Begin by brainstorming a list of people who have done something "first" (i.e., the first person on the moon, the first woman to run for national elected office, the first Latino to win the Nobel Prize). To start your list, check out this month's entries on Amelia Earhart and Jackie Robinson. Once you've collected a list of firsts, divide your class into small groups to conduct some research into the lives of one of these people. Have each group design a multimedia presentation to report their research results to the rest of the class.
This site, from Social Studies for Kids, includes a biography of Blackwell and information on her family's work to end slavery and to support women's suffrage.
This National Library of Medicine online exhibit focuses on Blackwell's achievements and includes links to related historical documents, maps, and photographs.
Explore the contributions of the physicians who have followed in Dr. Blackwell's footsteps on this National Institutes of Health site, which includes interactives, book lists, and lesson plans.
The Library of Congress provides the text of a letter Blackwell wrote in 1851 discussing the importance of women's rights.
On August 6, 1926, 19-year-old Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the 21 miles across the English Channel in 14 hours and 31 minutes—nearly 2 hours less than any man had at that point. Ederle passed away in November 2003.
Take the anniversary of Ederle's famous swim as an opportunity to talk about today's famous athletes. Have students brainstorm a list of famous athletic competitors for both individual and team sports. There were, of course, thousands of athletes who competed in national and international events like those that Ederle competed in; however, only a few are still remembered today. Encourage students to establish criteria as a class that help make an athlete particularly memorable. Then ask your students to forecast which of today's athletes will still be remembered for their accomplishments in 75 to 100 years, as Ederle is remembered long after her famous swim across the English Channel. Students can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to create flyers that campaign for their choices.
Your students may know how to swim, but do they know the techniques used by the best swimmers? This video explains how Missy Franklin used fluid dynamics in her quest for Olympic gold in the 2012 Summer Games.
In this NPR-archived broadcast, Bob Dunkel, executive director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, reviews Ederle's lifetime of accomplishments.
Students can learn more about the early history of swimming the English Channel by exploring the online exhibition of the Dover Museum in Kent.
The Women's Sports Foundation, a charitable educational organization dedicated to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports and physical activity, offers new fitness tips and much more at their website.
Invited to speak at the consecration of a memorial honoring the dead at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most well-known speeches in American history. While the speech is extremely short-just 267 words-Lincoln used the opportunity both to honor the sacrifice of the soldiers and to remind American citizens of the necessity of continuing to fight the Civil War. The Gettysburg Address stands as a masterpiece of persuasive rhetoric.
Middle and high school students should be able to do a close reading of the Gettysburg Address by using the Pre-AP strategy called SOAPSTone. Print a copy of the Address. Then, ask students to identify and discuss the following:
While younger students may find the text of this speech too advanced, they can certainly begin the process of identifying the purpose, structure, and means of persuasive speech and writing.
This site contains the full text of the Gettysburg Address as well as rough drafts and the only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg.
The Library of Congress offers this collection of over 30,000 items by and about Abraham Lincoln. The collection includes letters and other items from Lincoln's presidency, as well as sheet music, pamphlets, and other items that reflect Lincoln's life and times.
This site ranks the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century as determined in a nationwide survey. The speeches were rated on two criteria: rhetorical artistry and historical impact.