October 08
5 - 12
Author & Text

Faith Ringgold began her career as a painter, and is best known for her painted story quilts, which combine painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling. Her first book Tar Beach earned a Caldecott Honor Award, as well as the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. Ringgold has written and illustrated 11 children's books, addressing issues of race, African American history, and civil rights.


Use Ringgold's books as a springboard for a discussion of race, gender, and civil rights-both current and historical. Then invite your students to write and illustrate original picture books based on these issues.

  • First, have students brainstorm, select, and research a specific event or topic, such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speech or the Underground Railroad.

  • Then have students plan and write an illustrated story using the interactive Flip Book. The Flip Book allows students to create up to 10 pages and provides text, drawing, and background editing tools. See the Flip Book page for more information about this tool.

When their books are complete, students can be invited to take turns reading them to the class.


Faith Ringgold was born on October 8, 1930.

Faith Ringgold's homepage provides an author biography, a questionnaire about race, an author interview, and other related resources.


This resource from Scholastic provides a biography of Ringgold, as well as a link to a booklist.


This resource focuses on Ringgold's work as it relates to racism and gender inequality.


Random House provides this teacher's guide for Tar Beach, which includes book and author information as well as teaching ideas.


PBS offers information about Ringgold's painted story quilts.


November 30
9 - 12
Author & Text

Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift was born on November 30, 1667. Swift is famous for works including Gulliver's Travels, A Modest Proposal, and A Tale of a Tub. Known for his satirical writings, as well as his poetry and essays, Swift also wrote under several pseudonyms, including the name Isaac Bickerstaff.

A Modest Proposal is considered to be one of the best examples of satire ever written. Have students explore the elements of satire and parody using the lessons below. Then, have them extend that exploration by surveying instances of satire and parody in television and film, advertising, and journalism. Begin by dividing students into three groups and assigning each to either television and film, journalism, or advertising.

  • Have each group explore their assigned topic, looking for examples of satire or parody. As they find examples, encourage students to locate concrete examples they can bring in for a class display. Examples might include a DVD case or movie review, a magazine advertisement, a newspaper editorial, a book or book jacket, etc.
  • Working as a group, have students create an exhibit that highlights their findings. As part of the display, students should describe how each item is an example of satire or parody, what satirical technique is being used, and other related information.
Jonathan Swift was born on this day in 1667.

This site, part of the Victorian Web, includes a biography of Swift, information about the political and social context of his time, his views on religion, and more.

Read a brief biography of Swift at the HyperHistory Online page. Also included is a link to related information.

This website offers the full text of Swift's Gulliver's Travels, available online or in PDF, Kindle, and several other formats.

August 29
7 - 12
Author & Text

From an early age, Karen Hesse had an interest in and enjoyed writing. She aspired to become a professional author, in part because of the encouragement of a supportive teacher. She has authored a number of works of historical fiction which bring history alive for young readers. Hesse's writing offers a view of historical topics varying from the depression-era dustbowl to World War II, the Holocaust, and early 20th century issues of racism and bigotry.

Have your students write original short works of historical fiction in verse format, modeling the style Hesse used to write Out of the Dust. Have students read the book and discuss the ways that Hesse incorporates historical detail into her work. Then brainstorm some of the historical topics they have studied in class during the school year. Tell students they will be writing original works using the history they have studied. Have pairs of students do the following:

  • Select a history topic from the brainstorm list for their story.

  • Research the topic, looking for factual details to include in their stories (names, places, and events).

  • Create a Story Map to develop the details of their story.

  • Work as a team to write the story in verse.

When all pairs have finished their stories, display them in your classroom by having students place them in order along an historical timeline.


Karen Hesse, author of the Newbery-winning verse novel Out of the Dust, was born in 1952.

This Scholastic resource offers an author biography and interview. There is also a link to an annotated booklist.


This page from Librarypoint provides information about Hesse and her work, including brief biographical information and a link to her 1998 Newbery acceptance speech.


Baltimore Public Schools offers this research project based on Out of the Dust. The project is designed to enhance students' reading of the novel by building their understanding of the historical time period in which it is set.


March 17
1 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

The Irish have observed St. Patrick's Day as a religious holiday since the island's conversion to Christianity in the early Middle Ages. The first St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City took place on March 17, 1762, giving the Irish soldiers serving in the English military the opportunity to reconnect to their roots. Today, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by people of varied backgrounds around the globe.

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day by reading Irish folk tales. It is the perfect opportunity to learn about Irish heritage. Have a selection of books available in class or bring students into the school media center to select an Irish folk tale. Tales are also available online from the Open Directory Project. Then have students read independently, in small groups, or as a class.

After reading the story, have your students use the ReadWriteThink Story Cube tool to create a graphic organizer. Older students can use the ReadWriteThink Literary Elements Map to map story elements. Have students print out their graphic organizers and share them with the class. After finishing this activity, treat your students to some Irish soda bread while they listen to Irish folk music.

Extend the activity by having students read additional Irish tales and compare them to other traditional folk tales with which they are familiar. What characteristics are unique to the Irish tales? Brainstorm common characters, settings, or themes found in the Irish tales. Students can then write their own tales in the Irish style.

Today is St. Patrick's Day.

Part of America's Story from America's Library, this site invites elementary students to read about the history of St. Patrick's Day from primary sources. Students can explore Irish folk songs and view historical photographs.

This History Channel website explores the culture and background of St. Patrick and St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The site's interactive map offers information on different parts of Ireland and beautiful photographs.

Resources offered on this official website of the Irish government include an extensive photograph collection of well-known locations in Ireland as well as information on culture, sports, the land, the people, and the economy.

This National Geographic News article focuses on some of the St. Patrick's Day traditions that are not actually Irish.

May 01
K - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Get Caught Reading is a nationwide public service campaign launched by the Association of American Publishers to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read. May is officially Get Caught Reading month, but the celebration lasts throughout the year. Get Caught Reading is supported by hundreds of celebrities, including LL Cool J, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, and the newest addition, Olivia the Pig.

Celebrate Get Caught Reading Month with a reading-related service project. Try one of these activities with your students:

  • Plan an intergenerational reading day. Invite seniors to visit your school, or arrange a trip for your students to a local senior center. Have students select books to read to adults, and invite adults to share a favorite story with students. Extend an ongoing invitation to guest readers, perhaps on a monthly basis.

  • Organize a book drive to collect new or nearly new books to supplement your classroom or school library, or to donate to families or a local children's hospital.

Be sure to have a camera on hand to "catch your students reading" on film throughout the month. You can also have students organize a community "Get Caught Reading" campaign by taking photos of members of their families and community figures (firefighters, grocers, local police officers, etc.) caught reading, and creating a school display.

May is Get Caught Reading Month!

The Get Caught Reading website offers resources for teachers, librarians, and kids. Look for literacy fact sheets, artwork, and information on getting involved.

The Northwest Territories Literacy Council offers this reproducible guide to Get Caught Reading. Included are ideas for promoting this and other literacy programs, as well as reproducible bookmarks and posters.

Reading Connects offers this page, filled with suggestions for promoting reading at school.

KidsReads.com helps kids select books that appeal to them by offering kid-friendly reviews and information about children's books and authors. The information is searchable by author, series, and special features. The companion site Teenreads.com focuses on young adult literature.

December 28
3 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

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.

Poor Richard's Almanack was first published in 1733.

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.


December 21
K - 6
Holiday & School Celebration

The onset of winter weather varies from year to year and from place to place, but December 21, the winter solstice, is considered the first official day of winter. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year. The days get longer as winter progresses. In the Northern Hemisphere, it also marks the day when the sun is furthest to the south.

Winter has long been immortalized in art, poetry, and song. For many of us, winter makes us think of frolicking on snowy days and reading by the fire on cold nights-even if we live in a warm place where it never snows! Brainstorm with your students about the words and images that come to mind when they think of winter. How do these words and images compare to their own experiences with winter weather? Have students select and read a picture book about winter. How do the words and images in the book compare to the list they brainstormed and to their own experiences? Students can use the interactive Venn Diagram to make the comparison.

As students read, ask them to look for examples of winter activities that the characters do with their families or friends. Were there any winter traditions on the list students brainstormed? Challenge your students to celebrate what winter means to them by starting their own tradition on the first day of winter. Students can use the interactive Postcard Creator to write to family and friends, inviting them to participate in the new tradition.

It's Winter in the Northern Hemisphere!

This page from American Memory at the Library of Congress celebrates the winter solstice through images and anecdotes of winters past, drawn from American literature and folk history.


This National Geographic News article discusses the winter solstice and ancient celebrations associated with it.


Reading Rockets provides this annotated list of books about winter for children.


While snowy weather can be fun, severe winter storms can be dangerous. Scholastic offers this resource featuring information about winter storms, eyewitness accounts of winter storms, and associated vocabulary.


August 09
3 - 8
Author & Text

Seymour Simon has written 200 books for children, on a wide range of topics such as anatomy, astronomy, geology, animal life, and weather. More than half of his titles have earned praise from the National Science Teachers Association. Simon's books have made science fun for children, through a combination of clear, easy-to-read factual information and beautiful photographic images.


Have your students select and explore a scientific topic in detail using Seymour Simon's nonfiction science books. Students then use what they learn to write original poetry on the topic.

  • Begin by reading a selection of Simon's books with the class and then having each student select one. Students can also explore Simon's books independently before making their choices.

  • After students have selected a book and read it, have them create a list of important ideas, details, facts, and vocabulary from the text.

  • Ask students to conduct additional research into the main topic of the book they selected. Students can use the Internet, if available, or the library. Have students use their research to add to their lists.

  • Finally, have students visit the Acrostic Poems tool. Have students create an original acrostic poem using the list of words and topics they created earlier. Alternately, students can use the Acrostic Poems mobile app.


Science writer Seymour Simon was born in 1931.

Simon's official website offers information about upcoming books as well as science links and stories.


This Houghton Mifflin page features brief biographical information that is written for students. It offers a discussion activity using a Simon quotation.


This page from Reading Rockets includes film clips in which Simon talks about his books and his writing. The page includes links to biographical information and other resources.


August 23
K - 11
Historical Figure & Event

Katrina was one of the costliest and most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history and was the third strongest hurricane to touch down on U.S. soil to date. Katrina devastated New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas and is estimated to have killed over 1,800 people.


The anniversary of Katrina is a good time to plan for local weather emergencies, especially since it occurs at the beginning of the school year. Explore the weather-related and other natural disasters that your geographical area is prone to; then review your school's emergency procedures with students.

Extend the lesson to students' homes and other places they may visit (religious buildings, for instance), asking students to explore a location outside of the school for its emergency preparedness and then report their findings back to the class.


The tropical storm that became Katrina formed over the Bahamas in 2005.

This NASA page includes details on hurricanes in general, with graphics that explain how hurricanes are structured.


NOAA offers this resource on hurricanes, including information about hurricane strength, hurricane safety, and how storms are named, as well as hurricane photos and satellite imagery.


Visit the homepage of the Air Force squadrons who fly into the eye of hurricanes that threaten the United States' coast.


The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the stories and digital record of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.


August 04
K - 12
Historical Figure & Event

John Venn the notable English logician, philosopher, mathematician and most notably the creator of the Venn Diagram was born on this day in 1834.  In the diagram, circles are used to visually and logically sort groups to illustrate their relationships to each other.  The creation is used in the fields of mathematics, psychology, literature, logistics, statistics, probability, but most significantly it used in school classrooms around the world.

Build a community within your classroom using Venn Diagrams.

Group Activity – Print out copies of the 3 Circle Venn Diagram graphic organizer.  Arrange students into groups of three and supply them with the graphic organizer.  Have students talk in their groups about themselves and the things they like to do.  After a brief discussion, students document ways in which they are alike, ways in which they are like others in their small group, and ways in which they are totally unique.  Have students display their diagrams and share them with the entire class.

Partner Activity – Print out copies of the 2 Circle Venn Diagram graphic organizer, or if students have access to a mobile device, download the Venn Diagram Mobile App.  Arrange students into pairs within the classroom.  Using the graphic organizer or mobile app have the students share information about themselves and their likes and dislikes.

Celebrate John Venn's Birthday!

This website provides a short biography, honors, pictures, and the obituary of John Venn.


This website provides a short biography about John Venn.