Children's favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein was published on this day in 1974. While Silverstein's rhymes may have been simple and catchy, his complex and thoughtful themes stick with his readers long after childhood. Silverstein was also a songwriter of such hits as "A Boy Named Sue" and "The Cover of The Rolling Stone."
Everyone remembers Shel Silverstein. Ask seniors in high school who their favorite poet is and half will give his name. This activity can begin for middle and high school students by asking them what they remember about Silverstein. For lower grade levels, introduce them to a short verse of his poetry like the one below, and ask them for their general impressions: If you had a giraffe . . . and he stretched another half . . . you would have a giraffe and a half . . . One quality of Silverstein's work is that even though it is often fantastical, it tends to be quite visual. Ask students to draw what they imagine when they read such lines as "If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire" or "Some whatifs crawled inside my ear."
After students have presented their drawings, ask them to write a line or two of their own that continues the passage and matches the flow and style of Silverstein's work. Then have students paraphrase the author's purpose in writing the poem. This is where they will find that though the words of a Silverstein poem are easy enough, the ideas are often difficult to communicate.
This entry from the Academy of American Poets includes a biography, bibliography, and samples of Silverstein's poetry.
This site includes resources related to Silverstein's poetry for parents and teachers, as well as an area "For Kids Only!"
This site includes an easy-to-read biography of the author and analysis of his work.
HarperCollins, publisher of Silverstein's books, offers a guide to using Silverstein's poetry in the classroom. The guide includes printable sheets for students.
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!
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.
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.
Children's Authors and Illustrators Week (the first week in February) features a variety of activities that are intended to promote literacy in an engaging and interactive way. Encourage a lifelong love of reading with your students by participating in events such as author and illustrator visits to your school, storytelling, literary presentations, writing workshops, and more.
Invite your students to "step into the shoes" of their favorite author or illustrator. Have students first read several of the author's books and then conduct research on his or her background and career. Next, have students become their favorite authors and prepare presentations for the class. Presentations can include displays representing the authors' work, question and answer sessions, interviews, press releases on the authors' latest books, and so on. Students' presentations can also include creative costumes or props representing their authors' and illustrators' backgrounds and works (e.g., a Winn-Dixie shopping bag for Kate DiCamillo, or a teddy bear for Don Freeman).
Hold an "Authors Open House" and invite other classes in to meet the authors!
This website includes a description of this literacy event, in addition to contact information for the Children's Authors Network! Also featured are tips for parents, caregivers, teachers, and librarians.
This indispensible guide from the Children's Authors Network! can help you plan for Children's Authors and Illustrators Week. The reproducible resource includes planning and follow-up checklists, helpful hints, suggested questions, and funding ideas.
This site offers an alphabetical list of links to sites of children's authors and illustrators.
ReadWriteThink podcast host Emily Manning chats with kids, parents, and teachers about the best in children's literature for ages 4 through 11. Discussions include reading tips and fun activities to do with children before, during, and after reading.
Join NEA’s Read Across America to celebrate a nation of diverse readers with these recommended books, authors, and teaching resources that represent an array of experiences and cultures.
Read Across America has celebrated books and reading since 1998. This year, there are even more opportunities:
• Encourage adults to spend more time reading to children
• Share stories that raise up the many voices that need to be amplified and heard
• Use books to help students discover their own voices and learn from the voices of others
• Encourage readers to believe in themselves and use their voices and stories for positive change
Join NEA to celebrate a nation of diverse readers with these recommended books, authors, and teaching resources that represent an array of experiences and cultures.
NEA is excited to bring Read Across America year-round to help motivate kids to read, bring the joys of reading to students of all ages, and make all children feel valued and welcome.
Review the recommended titles in this calendar and the Read Across America poster.
This NCTE initiative is focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries.
Challenges to books and other materials are on the increase in school and public libraries (see ALA's Frequently Challenged Books page for details). Check out the list of titles that NCTE has worked to protect! Banned Books Week, celebrated September 22-28, 2019, draws attention to the issue of censorship and how it can best be combated.
Begin by polling students. Ask how many of them are familiar with the following titles:
- Captain Underpants series
- A Wrinkle in Time
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- The Harry Potter series
- The Higher Power of Lucky
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
- In the Night Kitchen
- Bridge to Terabithia
- The Stupids series
- The Bluest Eye
After the poll is completed, ask students what they think those titles have in common. Answer: They are all censored or challenged books.
With the class, brainstorm reasons these books might have come under attack. (Be certain to have the answers for them, too. They are available from various sources, including the American Library Association's Frequently Challenged Books page.) Why do people object to books and try to have them banned? Are there books from which students should be sheltered? Identify the common reasons why books are challenged (language, sexual content, political incorrectness, religious content, and so forth).
This site offers resources for celebrating Banned Books Week. Included are Banned Books Week news, events and materials.
The Online Books Page presents a brief look at book banning with links to online texts of books banned by legal authorities and schools.
The National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of fifty-two participating organizations, is dedicated to protecting free expression and access to information.
NCTE offers advice, helpful documents, and other support at no cost to teachers faced with challenges to literary works, films and videos, drama productions, or teaching methods.
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.
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.
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.
On her bus ride home from work on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks sat in the first row of the "colored section." The bus was crowded, and when asked to give up her seat for a white person, she refused and was arrested.
Parks died on October 24, 2005 at her home in Detroit.
Rosa Parks clearly broke the law when she refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. As educators, we teach citizenship to students. Laws are made to benefit society and should be followed by all. In the case of Parks, your students will likely agree that the law was unjust and her actions were justified.
Ask your students to make believe that the year is 1955 and they just heard about the arrest of Parks. Invite them to write newspaper editorials explaining their points of view about the current segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama.
Students can visit the Scholastic website to find interesting and easy-to-read information about Rosa Parks, including an interview with her.
Read an interview with Rosa Parks courtesy of the Academy of Achievement.
Tolerance.org offers educators a free curriculum kit for the classroom that revisits this familiar historical event. The kit includes a teaching guide, with classroom activities tied to the story of Rosa Parks.
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.
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.