Cinco de Mayo is not an American holiday, although perhaps it should be, since Mexican Americans treat it as a bigger holiday than do residents of Mexico. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, where in 1862 a small number of Mexican soldiers defeated the French 100 miles east of Mexico City. People of Mexican ancestry in the U.S. celebrate this day with parades, folk dancing, mariachi music, and other fun.
Ask students to conduct research in the library and on the Web to find images and artifacts that suitably represent Mexico. Students can choose to research a piece of art, music, dance, literature, or food. Challenge students to think beyond stereotypical images of Mexico and Mexican-American culture (such as tacos, chihuahuas, and sombreros), and look for objects and icons with a deeper and more substantial meaning. Start your students' research with a brainstorming session which can include:
- Artists such as Diego Rivera
- Ancient Mexican peoples, such as the Aztecs
- The history of the Mexican state of Puebla
After students have completed their research, have them create a presentation that highlights something interesting, beautiful, significant, or amazing about their choice-and share the information with the class.
This article from America's Story from America's Library discsusses Cinco de Mayo as a "local legacy."
This site contains basic information about Cinco de Mayo, as well as dozens of links for further exploration an activities.
Xpeditions provides this map of Puebla, central to the story of Cinco de Mayo.
In 1897, Adolph S. Ochs, the owner of The New York Times, created the famous slogan "All the News That's Fit to Print," which still appears on the masthead of the newspaper today. He wrote the slogan as a declaration of the newspaper's intention to report the news impartially.
Make a list of the newspapers your students see their parents read. Discuss how different newspapers offer different points of view that appeal to different audiences.
Choose a current event, and have each student read a different editorial on the topic. The Internet Public Library has online newspapers from around the world and throughout the United States. After everybody has had a chance to read their editorials, have students share them with the class. Students should be able to identify the editor's point of view in each one.
Ask students whether they think the newspapers they examined were impartial, and what, if any challenges exist in reporting the news impartially.
Students can use this interactive tool to create original newspapers. Students select from different layouts, add text and headlines, and then print to add their own images.
This resource provides kid-friendly news articles and other resources that can be used with or without the printed magazine.
The New York Times website offers access to current news and other newspaper features. The Learning Network offers lesson plans and other teaching resources. For full access to the site, free registration is required.
The American Society of Newspaper Editors offers journalism tips for students, teachers, and editors at this site. Included are lesson plans, links to student resources, and interviews with professional writers.
Gutenburg invented the printing press, but William Caxton was the first person to use a printing press to print books in English. Caxton printed over 100 different titles, including every work in English literature available at the time.
Have your students consider how the printing press affects their world by completing a printing inventory. Ask students to spend a day writing down everything they use that has been printed, such as books, pamphlets, even cereal boxes. The next day, compare the lists and develop a "super" list of all the printed materials that you and your students interact with. Once the list is complete, invite students to discuss the impact that printing has on their lives and to project the changes that may occur as computers enable people to share information digitally rather than in print.
This site features a Free Activities page where students can learn about bookmaking in different cultures and find instructions to help them make their own books. The site also provides pages for teachers and families.
The BBC offers a brief biography of Caxton and links to related resources.
One of Caxton's most famous publications is his editions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. This site includes video images of the rare books as well as historical information about Caxton and printing.
The publication of the modern paperback began in 1935, with the publication of the first ten "Penguin" books. Paperback books provided a source of good-quality writing and literature, but at a lesser cost than traditional hard-bound books. In 2003, U.S. sales of trade and mass-market paperbacks exceeded $3 billion. Although in recent years the sale of discounted hard-bound books has had an effect on paperback sales, they continue to provide readers with an inexpensive alternative.
Promote independent reading among your students by organizing a paperback book swap in your classroom. Alternatively, you may want to invite another class or all the classes at your grade level to participate.
- Send a letter home to families asking for donations of students' favorite paperback books, including novels and nonfiction titles, for students to trade.
- Explain to students that they will swap their books with one another. (You may want to have a selection of used books available for students who cannot donate a book.)
- Have students use the interactive Book Cover Creator to create an illustrated book jacket for their book that provides information about the book's author, subject, plot, characters, and other important details. Ask them to include a synopsis or review of the book to add to the jacket. See these tips for more uses of this interactive.
- After the jackets have been finished, display the books in your classroom and invite students to make their swaps.
This website offers a variety of resources related to paperback books. Included are links to author information, book publishers, thematic book lists, and Web resources.
This Smithsonian Magazine article explains how the inexpensive availabilty of paperback books changed the reach of classic writers, widening their readership and the public's interest in their work.
This printable resource features a list of activities students can complete after reading a paperback novel. These are great alternatives to a traditional book report.
The Penguin Group publishers offer this often colorful company history in a timeline format.
The legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin has been recounted in a number of literary works by authors including the Brothers Grimm and poet Robert Browning. Though legend says that the Pied Piper led the children out of Hamelin on June 26, 1284, Browning used the date July 22, 1376, for rhyming purposes.
Have you ever wondered what things would look like in Hamelin from the rats' point of view? Read aloud The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, winner of the 2001 Carnegie Medal. The synopsis of the book included in this resource guide shows why librarians in the United Kingdom named this book the "outstanding book for children and young people" published in 2001.
After sharing this book with students, have them compare Pratchett's version with Browning's version. After discussing how perspective changes the story, you can have students look at other fairy tale retellings such as Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
The Indiana University Libraries site includes an electronic version of the 1888 edition of Browning's poem with scanned images of the illustrations by Kate Greenaway.
For background information on Browning, visit the Academy of American Poets site. This site also features some of his poems, including "The Pied Piper of Hamelin."
This page from the University of Pittsburgh offers several versions of the Pied Piper tale, including the Brothers Grimm version and Browning's version.
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.
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.
Since 1985, March has been filled with sound as music in our schools is celebrated around the nation. Sponsored by the National Association for Music Education, the event focuses the nation's attention on the need for and benefits of quality music education programs. Schools and community groups celebrate with creative activities and events, based on a designated theme. This year's theme is "Music Inspires"
American film and theater have many examples of musical works that have been adapted from a novel or other non-musical version. Explore the effects of music on a story by examining one example with your class.
- First, brainstorm a list of such works, which could include examples such as A Christmas Carol, Les Misérables, and numerous Disney films.
- Next, after reading a story, novel, or play (or viewing a non-musical version on film), have students view the musical version.
- Then, have students discuss the differences they observed between the two versions of the story. Were the characters, setting, and main events the same? In the musical version, what role did song lyrics play in telling the story? Do both versions seem equally dramatic (or funny, or sad, etc.)? Which version do students prefer? Why?
- Finally, have students select a text that you've read in class. They should imagine that they are a songwriter working on a musical adaptation of the story. They can work alone or in groups to write lyrics to one song. They can use the tune to a song they know or compose their own music. Students should be able to explain how this song would help tell the story and which character or characters sing the song. Students can perform their songs for the class or use the interactive CD/DVD Cover Creator to design a cover for the soundtrack. More tips are available for use with this tool.
This site, from NAfME, offers information about the history of Music in Our Schools Month, as well as suggested activities, and advocacy information.
The Kennedy Center's ARTSEDGE provides tools to develop interdisciplinary curricula that integrate the arts with other subjects. Their site offers free standards-based lessons and other student and professional development materials, including Perfect Pitch, an exploration of the orchestra.
This site from the National Arts Centre offers media-rich resources for kids and their teachers and parents related to music and orchestra, including an instrument lab and music library.
Share a poem with everyone you meet on Poem in Your Pocket Day. As part of New York City's celebration of National Poetry Month, residents have participated in Poem in Your Pocket Day since 2002. Now the movement has gone national! Select a poem or compose an original work and carry it with you in your pocket all day, sharing the poem and the fun of National Poetry Month wherever you go.
- Print, copy, and distribute copies of the Stapleless Book Planning Sheet. Ask students to brainstorm what they would like to include in their books of poetry.
- Have younger students select a poem, and space the poem a line or two at a time across the pages. They can add illustrations after they have printed. Older students can select a collection of poems they enjoy to include in the book.
- Give students time to type their poem(s) into the Stapleless Book tool.
- Have students print and create their books. They will need scissors to complete this step.
- Encourage students to take their books of poetry with them throughout the day, sharing them with people they meet.
- If time permits, print and prepare multiple copies of their books and have students put them in unexpected places throughout the building!
Part of Poets.org (online home of the Academy of American Poets), the Poem in Your Pocket Day page features the history of the event and ideas for celebrating-including a list of poems about pockets!
Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate, encourages students to take daily pleasure and inspiration from the collection of poems on this Library of Congress site. In addition to the 180 poems, Collins offers advice on reading poems aloud.
The Favorite Poem Project, cosponsored by Boston University and the Library of Congress, is dedicated to celebrating, documenting, and encouraging poetry's role in Americans' lives. Watch or listen to citizens read poems they love.
The Poetry Archive uses digital recordings of a diverse range of poems to help make poetry accessible, relevant, and enjoyable to a wide audience. The site features historic and contemporary recordings and offers resources for students, teachers, and librarians.
A time for celebrating the culture, art, and achievements of Latinx people, September 15-October 15 has been designated as Latinx Heritage Month. September 15 also marks the independence days of five Latin countries-Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico achieved independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18.
Begin by brainstorming with students all the various aspects of culture, in this case, Latinx culture. Remind students that culture is not just race and ethnicity but extends to dance, music, art, architecture, education, family dynamics, film, religion, politics, literature, food, holidays, and much more.
Once students have compiled a list of potential topics to research, organize the list into some general categories and have students identify resources they could use to learn more about Latinx culture in their category. Encourage students to think about people in their communities or families who might have personal knowledge of the topics they're researching.
Have students work in groups to research their topics and present the information they find to the class through PowerPoint, a webpage, a display, or an interactive tool such as the Flip Book or Stapleless Book. More tips are available for the Flip Book and to learn more about making a Stapleless Book, watch the video on how to fold a Stapleless Book.
This is the webpage for current winners of the American Library Association's Pura Belpré Award. Established in 1996, it is presented to a Latinx writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latinx cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. Links to past winners and additional information are available as well.
Choose among links to information on Hispanic history, famous Latinos, and Latinos in history on this Scholastic website. The site features a Flash interactive, the Piñata Concentration game, which is entirely in Spanish.
This collection of resources from the National Register of Historic Places includes links to publications, featured properties, and history in the parks, including a series of lesson plans that use places listed in the Register.
This Library of Congress page is the go-to source for art, literature, political and historical documents and more. The collections includes resources from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
On this date in 1845, American author Edgar Allan Poe's famously eerie poem "The Raven" was published in New York Evening Mirror. Equally praised and panned by critics of the day, the poem made Poe famous throughout America and England. "The Raven" was parodied soon after its publication, and continues to be an important cultural and literary text even today.
Read aloud the opening stanzas of Poe's "The Raven." Ask students to note their reactions to the language of the poem as they listen. The following questions can guide their written or verbal responses:
- What are their impressions of the poem's speaker and atmosphere?
- What emotions/feelings might the speaker be experiencing?
- How can a reader tell the mood and tone of the poem, after hearing only the opening stanzas?
- What words, images, and details does Poe provide to create this effect?
After students have finished, glean from their responses the words and phrases Poe uses to create the voice of the speaker, a figure who is obviously not "normal." Continue reading the poem, or distribute copies to students for their own reading. Discuss the changes or development of students' first impressions as "The Raven" continues.
This interactive study resource offers students a chance to explore the devices of alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme, as well as learn challenging vocabulary and allusions within "The Raven."
Gathered by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, this site includes the text of Poe's stories and poems. The homepage offers biographical information, details on geographic locations important to Poe, and other articles.
This PBS website offers biographical information about Edgar Allan Poe and links to related Internet resources.
Written by Edgar Allan Poe, this essay discusses his views on writing and explains the logic and reasoning behind the choices he made in "The Raven," citing specific references and examples from the poem.
Hear classic readings of Poe’s "The Raven" by Vincent Price, James Earl Jones, Christopher Walken, Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee and more!