October 23
9 - 12
Author & Text

Laurie Halse Anderson, the New York Times-bestselling author who is known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, was born on this day in 1961.  Her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”.

In the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, the main character lists "the first ten lies they tell you in high school":

1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have time to get to your class before the bell rings.
3. The dress code will be enforced.
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.
5. Our football team will win the championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with you in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly.

Discuss with the students if some of these "lies" were similar to the ones they have heard, as well as how they are different.  Then, ask students to brainstorm their own personal list of "ten lies they tell you in high school," complete with the truth, or their views on the truth.

Have students share, as a class, the "lies" they have been told in high school and how they've learned differently.  Consider publishing a handmade classroom book with the lists of ten lies created by each student, and using it as a "guide to high school" for future students.

Author Laurie Halse Anderson was born today.

Laurie Halse Anderson's  site has information on her life, books, and censorship, among other resources.


This site contains biographical information and an interview with the author.


Anderson's playful side emerges when she looks at real history and women who played a role in it.

April 21
1 - 6
Author & Text

Barbara Park was the author of over two dozen Junie B. Jones books, as well as several stories for older readers including My Mother Got Married and Other Disasters, Skinnybones, and Mick Harte Was Here. Park's books have earned a number of awards, including many children's choice and parents' choice award lists. Titles in the Junie B. Jones series continue to appear on bestseller lists.

Have your students write their own "Junie B." stories after brainstorming issues they've experienced during the school year.

  • First have the group make a list of the Junie B. adventures in the books they've read (e.g., cheating, school play, losing a tooth).

  • Then ask students to brainstorm a second list of ideas that would make interesting stories.

  • Students can work alone or in pairs to write their stories, using one of the ideas from the class list. Have students use the interactive story map to plan their writing.

  • After all stories have been completed, have each student or pair share their story with the class.

Have students turn their stories into books, with illustrations, and then work with your school or community librarian to create a library display of all the new stories.

Barbara Park, author of the Junie B. Jones series, was born on this day.

A website for kids, including a bibliography of Junie B. books, interactive and printable activities, as well as information about Park's books for older children.


This Random House resource provides summaries and teacher's guides for all of the Junie B. Jones books. Links are provided to other book series resources as well.


This resource contains a brief biography of Park as well as some notes and a list of some of her Junie B. Jones books.


This site provides links to resources about Barbara Park, including an interview in which she describes her experiences in writing the books.


December 02
9 - 12
Author & Text

Born in England, Macaulay came to the U.S. as a child. He received his B.A. in architecture in 1969 and has since worked as an illustrator, graphic designer, and author. Macaulay is well known for his books on architectural structures, which feature a unique genre blend of fact and fiction. He has earned a number of awards for his work, including the Caldecott Medal (for Black and White) and Honor Awards (for Castle and Cathedral).


Invite your students to explore Macaulay's use of multiple genres by composing original multigenre texts using the interactive Multigenre Mapper. This tool invites students to create original works that include one drawing and three texts.

  • First, select a topic for students' multigenre texts. You might choose a subject you are currently studying in science or social studies or let students choose their own topics.

  • Next, ask students to brainstorm a set of subtopics and possible writing genres (for example, poetry, recipes, fables, journal entries, or news articles) that could be used to share the subtopics with readers in an engaging way.

  • Have students use the Multigenre Mapper Planning Sheet to write rough drafts of their texts.

  • Finally, have students visit the interactive Multigenre Mapper to compose their texts online.

Have students print and share their final texts, explaining how they blended different genres to create their final products. Create a display or index of the texts so that other students in the school can enjoy them. Include some of Macaulay's texts to tie the project together.


David Macaulay was born in 1946.

David Macaulay's site at Houghton Mifflin offers information about Macaulay and his books. Highlights include a video of Macaulay at work, animated demonstrations and slide shows of parts of his books, and the text of some of his speeches and interviews.


This workshop from the "Write in the Middle" program focuses on multigenre writing and includes a related reading from the NCTE journal Language Arts.


PBS offers this companion site to their series Building Big, hosted by David Macaulay. The site offers an Educator's Guide to the series, as well as several interactive features.



February 18
3 - 12
Author & Text

Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, was born in 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. Best known for her novels such as The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, she also published children's books based on Aesop's fables with her son Slade. Recurring motifs in her works for both young and adult readers included the reworking of myths, fables, and folk tales and the importance of personal and collective memory. She passed away in 2019.

Although most of Morrison's works are appropriate at the secondary level, students at any grade can be introduced to her style and language through her book Who's Got Game? Poppy or the Snake?, based on Aesop's fable "The Farmer and the Snake."

  • Remind students of (or retell) "The Farmer and the Snake." Ask students to consider how the moral of the story relates to who is portrayed as the victim and who is the portrayed as the aggressor.

  • Share with students Morrison's retelling of the fable. Ask students to pay attention to ways in which the retelling changes and expands on the original story (such as setting, character, dialogue, etc.). Use the ReadWriteThink interactive Story Map tool to facilitate this process.

  • After reading the retelling, discuss students' observations. Ask students to compare the moral of the new story-now a tale about memory and paying attention-to the old one. How have the authors altered the resolution of the conflict-the snake is now a pair of boots that Poppy uses to remind him of the lesson-to shape that new moral?

  • Consider sharing other such reworkings such as Christopher Myers' book Wings (which thoughtfully plays off the Icarus myth) before asking groups of students to adapt a myth, folk tale, or fable of their choosing to share with the class. Invite students to use the Story Map tool in their writing process.
In 1931, Toni Morrison was born.

The society, an official member of the Coalition of American Author Societies that make up the American Literature Association, has as its goal to "initiate, sponsor, and encourage critical dialogue, scholarly publications, conferences and projects devoted to the study of the life and works of Toni Morrison."


In 1993, the Nobel Foundation awarded its prize in Literature to Morrison, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality." The site contains a biography, the text and sound recording of her Nobel lecture, and excerpts from her prose.


In this special edition of the Book Tour program on National Public Radio, Toni Morrison reads from her 2008 novel, A Mercy. The page also includes an interview with Morrison.


A collection of essays offering new and experienced teacher-scholars alternative ways to approach Toni Morrison's fiction and prose in the classroom, focusing on the history of racism and identity and cultural politics.

February 16
1 - 4
Author & Text

LeVar Burton was born in 1957 in West Germany, while his father was in the military. He hosted 155 episodes of Reading Rainbow since its premiere in 1983 until 2006. Burton's first television appearance, though, was as Kunta Kinte, in the miniseries Roots (1977), based on the novel by Alex Haley.

Burton also appeared as a member of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation television series; portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr., in the film Ali; and produced and hosted the documentary The Science of Peace.

Choose complementary Reading Rainbow selections to explore a topic using fiction and nonfiction.

For example, Ruth Heller's Chickens Aren't the Only Ones and Patricia Polacco's Rechenka's Eggs both explore the subject of animals that lay eggs. On the topic of dinosaurs, you'll find William Joyce's Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo and Aliki's Digging up Dinosaurs. After reading both books, your students can compare the selections using the interactive Venn Diagram.

Have students work individually or in small groups to write a poem, song, article, journal entry, or comic strip about the same topic. When all the pieces are completed, compile them in a book or create a bulletin board display.

LeVar Burton, longtime host of Reading Rainbow, was born in 1957.

The home of Reading Rainbow, with the mission to instill the love of reading & learning in children.


PBS offers a variety of resources for parents to promote literacy in young children. Resources are offered in both Spanish and English.


LeVar Burton to Educators: ‘I See You’


An interview on literacy with LeVar Burton

April 22
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970. In the same year, Denis Hayes coordinated the first Earth Day in the United States. As a result of Earth Day, many environmental laws were passed and the Environmental Protection Agency was created.

In celebration of Earth Day, have your students research some environmentalists who have made major contributions to our planet. A good starting point would be to view the people listed on the Ecology Hall of Fame. Have each student choose one person.

After researching the person's achievements, students can then write letters to the environmentalists asking for their opinions on a current environmental issue or to share ideas on how to protect the earth. Students can write a friendly or business letter using the Letter Generator. After printing the letters, have students turn their letters into letter poems using the Letter Poem Creator, which will help them change their letters into poetic form.

Once the poems are finished, host an Earth Day poetry reading-outdoors if possible.

Celebrate Earth Day!

Find tips for green living.


The EEK! website is filled with environment-related information and activities for students in grades 4–8. Teachers can find lesson plans and related links.


The Earth Foundation offers this collection of resources. Of interest is the Teacher/Student resources section, which has sample lesson plans, links to information on the history of Earth Day and the rainforest, and letter-writing campaigns for students.


This site, from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, provides information about a variety of environmental topics-from air and water to garbage and recycling.


September 07
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882. It became an official federal holiday in 1894 and is now celebrated on the first Monday of September. Born out of the rise of unions as part of the American labor movement, the day is marked by parades, picnics, and other celebrations—and it marks the unofficial end of summer.

Students tend to know little more about Labor Day than it's a day off of work and school. Encourage them to learn more about the American labor movement by giving them time to research one of the figures from the list below. In paris or small groups, they can locate print and Web based resources about their lives and contributions to labor reform. Groups can use the Biocube Interactive to organize and share what they learn.

  • Jane Addams
  • Sarah Bagley
  • César Chávez
  • Samuel Gompers
  • Dolores Huerta
  • Mary Harris Jones
  • John L. Lewis
  • Lucy Randolph Mason
  • Luisa Moreno
  • Leonora O’Reilly
  • Albert and Lucy Parsons
  • Franics Perkins
  • Esther Peterson
  • A. Philip Randolph
  • Walter Reuther
  • Rosina Tucker
Labor Day honors the labor movement in the United States.

This page from the US Department of Labor explores the legislation behind Labor Day and the controversy over the identity of its originator.


The History Channel's section on Labor Day offers articles, videos, and speeches related to the holiday.


This Time Magazine article offers an accessible introduction to the history and significance of Labor Day.


The History Channel's section on the Labor Movement offers an overview of key figures in labor reform.

January 08
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Elvis is known throughout the world as the "King of Rock 'n' Roll." Over one billion of his records have been sold. Elvis starred in 31 feature films as an actor, gave over 1,100 concert performances, and received numerous awards. Graceland, Elvis Presley's home, is the most famous home in America after the White House, attracting over 600,000 visitors every year. In 1970, Elvis went to the White House to offer his assistance to then-President Nixon in the nation's war on drugs.

Invite your students to tour the National Archives exhibit When Elvis Met Nixon, where they can read the five-page letter that Presley personally delivered to the White House, the story of the famous meeting (with accompanying photos), the agenda for the meeting, and the thank-you letter Elvis wrote to the President after the visit. 

After reading these primary documents, younger students can discuss the reasons Elvis wanted to meet the President; then, they can explore what would happen if a contemporary recording artist were to meet with the President today. Referring to the agenda for Elvis's meeting, have students work collaboratively to create an agenda for a contemporary artist. Have them use the interactive ReadWriteThink Letter Generator to write a letter to the artist suggesting a meeting with the President to discuss the problem of drugs, racism, violence, or another contemporary issue. More tips are available for use with the Letter Generator. 

Older students might explore the various ironies of the meeting in a discussion of Nixon's political motivations for agreeing to the meeting and Elvis's interest in being made a "Federal Agent at Large" who would fight drug abuse and the Communist threat.

On this day in 1935, Elvis Presley was born.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, you and your students can browse over 600 pages of information that the federal government collected in relation to Elvis Presley. Pair this site with exploration of the Fensch book in the Texts section to introduce students to the process by which primary documents become fodder for research!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's online Elvis exhibit describes his career and the artifacts included in the original exhibit. Be sure to see the biographical page on this 1986 inductee.

This PBS Culture Shock resource offers information about the controversy over Elvis's early television appearances on the Milton Berle Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Tonight Show.

July 10
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1925, from July 10 to July 21, John Scopes was on trial for teaching the idea of evolution in his public school classroom in Dayton, Tennessee. The court case, dubbed the "Trial of the Century," featured two of the most famous attorneys in the United States-Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.

The Scopes Trial focused on the evolution of mammals, but the word evolution can refer to other objects and processes, such as tools, computers, and automobiles. Have your students brainstorm a list of objects and processes that have changed over time. Then, individually or in small groups, invite students to choose and focus on one item from the list. Allow them to use the interactive Timeline tool to sketch out the changes, or evolution, of the items that they have chosen. View more tips to learn more about the tool. After considering the changes that have occurred for the items, have students examine the significance of the changes. In their opinions, have the changes affected the world for the better or for worse? Students can then share their information and opinions with the whole class.

Conclude the project by posting all of the timelines on your classroom wall, creating a giant timeline of the evolution of the items your students have investigated. Invite students to look for patterns as well as to connect the timelines to historical events that occurred during the same time period. For a more structured activity, try the resources in the ReadWriteThink lesson Timelines and Texts: Motivating Students to Read Nonfiction.

The Scopes Trial began today in 1925.

This website, developed by PBS, features detailed information about the Scopes, or “Monkey” Trial, including images from the famous courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee.

Part of the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law collection Famous Trials in American History, this site highlights documents related to the Scopes Trial.

This article, featured in the National Geographic Magazine, tells about life in Dayton, Tennessee 75 years after the Scopes Trial took place there.

This NPR resource offers a timeline of events surrounding the Scopes trial, as well as audio of an All Things Considered feature on the subject.

June 23
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

If someone placed an original 1868 typewriter in front of you, you might not be able to figure out what it was. With keys that look more like they belong on a piano keyboard, the original typewriters looked very little like even the manual typewriters you're likely to happen upon today.

The invention of the typewriter led to the keyboards on the computers of today. Show your class a computer and a typewriter or two if you can find significantly different typewriters, such as a manual one and an electric one. Begin an inquiry-based study that compares typewriters to computers. Students can talk about everything from the appearance of the two tools to the way that one gets the final, finished product (a piece of paper with alphanumeric figures on it) to the different ways that they might use the two machines if they were composing a paper. As a conclusion to the project, ask students to hypothesize about how the shift from typewriters to computers changes the way that work is done.

Note: If you do not have access to typewriters and computers for the class to explore first-hand, pictures of the objects could be a reasonable substitute.

The first typewriter patent was awarded in 1868.

This site includes games, puzzles, links, contest information, and a calendar of trivia related to patents and trademarks. Divided into materials for grades K–6 and 7–12, the site also features information for parents and coaches.


Many inventions come about as a result of people playing with the things in the environment around them. Explore the pages of this Smithsonian National Museum of American History site to see play turn into invention-and then perhaps you can invent something as you play in the classroom.


This Smithsonian Institution resource explores the similarities between the office of today and the past. Related lesson plans, a timeline, and information about office equipment-including the typewriter-are included.


This site focuses on the history and evolution of typewriters.