November 26
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

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?"

The United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day today.

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.

January 23
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

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.

Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman in the US to earn a MD degree in 1849.

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.

September 17
5 - 8
Author & Text

American writer William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. As a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, Williams met and became friends with Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle (who used the pseudonym H.D.), and these friendships affected his work as a writer. Over the course of his life, Williams wrote poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and plays.

Williams' poems are often used in the classroom as models for poetry writing. In addition to the resources in the lesson plans below, explore the student poems at Plum Good Poetry, from Barry Lane's Discover Writing website.

Celebrate Williams' birthday by asking your students to write imitation poems of their own. Choose a poem and make copies for students or write the poem on the board. With students, take the opportunity to review grammatical structures as you work through the way that the poem is written. Pay attention to sentences, phrases, and parts of speech. With the structure of the poem identified, ask students to write original imitations, using the same sort of sentences, phrases, and parts of speech that Williams did. Publish your finished work with the ReadWriteThink Printing Press or Stapleless Book.

For more on imitation poems, you may wish to use the ReadWriteThink lesson Literary Parodies: Exploring a Writer's Style through Imitation.

William Carlos Williams was born in 1883.

The Academy of American Poets page for Williams includes biographical information and the text of many of Williams' poems. The site includes an audio recording of the poet reading his poem "To Elsie."

This collection of resources from the Modern American Poetry website includes biographical information, photos, critical information, and poems.

In this Prairie Home Companion episode, private eye Guy Noir investigates a poetic catastrophe with the help of the Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins, who shares parodies of Williams' "This Is Just to Say." Both transcript and audio versions of the show are available.

The University of Pennsylvania offers this collection of sound recordings of Williams reading his poetry at several events between 1942 and 1962.

July 11
K - 5
Author & Text

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.

 

Author E.B. White was born on this day in 1899.

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.

 

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.

May 31
5 - 12
Author & Text

"Tom Swifties" are a special kind of pun associated with Victor Appleton's Tom Swift book series, in which the author avoided the use of simple "said" as a dialogue tag. The Tom Swifty evolved into a pun in which the dialogue tag relates humorously to what the character said. The figures of speech gained prominence when Time magazine sponsored a contest for the best Tom Swifties in 1963.

  • Share some examples of Tom Swifties and ask students to notice what they have in common. Literary examples include Charles Dickens' "'You find it Very Large?' said Mr. Podsnap, spaciously," work well, but everyday examples such as "'I need to milk the cows now,' Tom uddered" or "'I dropped my toothpaste,' Tom said, crest-fallen" might give students more to work with.
  • Together, generate a list of principles about what makes Tom Swifties work. Importantly, the way in which a speaker says something comments on or relates to what was said in a humorous way. Often the dialogue tag has multiple meanings; single-word or phrase-length dialogue tags work equally well; and product names (such as Cheer or Clue) offer potential for punning as well.
  • Let students meet in small groups to generate some Tom Swifties of their own. After the have had time to develop and polish a few, have a contest of your own to celebrate the best examples.
Time Magazine launches its "Tom Swifty" contest today in 1963.

Mark Israel's thorougly sourced collection offers some background on the Tom Swifty and an alphabetically categorized list.

 

This site is a catalog of many of the Tom Swift books, focusing on the scientific nature of their plots.

 

Though this site requires a subscription to view all its content, students can get a sense of the popularity of the Tom Swifty through the link to the contest in the Society: Games section.

February 09
8 - 12
Author & Text

Matt de la Peña is known for his young adult novels such as Ball Don't Lie and We Were Here that depict teens whose lives are shaped by the stresses of poverty and neglect.  He also collaborated on A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, a book for younger readers illustrated by Kadir Nelson. "Last Stop on Market Street," written by Matt de la Peña, is the 2016 Newbery Medal winner.

Share with students de la Peña’s essay Sometimes The 'Tough Teen' Is Quietly Writing Stories.  Have students read and discuss the essay in groups, focusing on questions such as

  • What attitudes toward literacy (reading and writing) does de la Peña convey?
  • What stories does he tell to get these points across?
  • How does he craft or structure the stories to make them both interesting and effective in communicating the points?

Then invite students to write a literacy narrative of their own, selecting a few key stories to shape into an essay that conveys a point they wish to make about reading and/or writing in their own lives.

Author Matt de la Peña was born today.

Matt de la Peña’s official site offers biographical information and news about his books and upcoming projects.

In this video interview hosted by the Library of Congress, de la Peña discusses his efforts to represent aspects of the Mexican-American experience to readers.

This article from The New York Times reports on the removal of de la Peña’s books from classrooms in Tucson schools.

Covering some of the same material as the essay in the classroom activity, this interview also addresses his then-newest title, The Living.

March 30
3 - 12
Author & Text

Anna Sewell's novel about a horse named Black Beauty touched a responsive chord in readers of many ages when it was first published in 1877. It remains a classic novel, one that speaks to contemporary readers as well.

In Black Beauty, Anna Sewell tackled one of the contemporary issues of her time, the cruel treatment of horses, many of them abused by their owners. Her work made readers aware of the need for laws to protect animals from harsh and abusive treatment.

After exploring the cruelty to animals in Sewell's novel, extend the discussion to current events. Divide students into pairs or small groups and ask them to conduct some research into the use of animals in testing drugs, cosmetics, and other products. Be sure to have online as well as traditional print resources available. Student groups should compile and present the information for and against using animals to test various substances.

Black Beauty author Anna Sewell was born in 1820.

Penguin Group publishing offers this biography of Sewell. Students can read about her childhood, her love of horses, and her gift for writing.

This site provides a biography of both Anna Sewell and her mother. They were both writers of juvenile fiction.

Project Gutenberg makes available downloadable versions of Sewell's classic text.

The ASPSCA offers this informational website for children. Students can access information about adopted pets, alternatives to dissection, animal-safe science projects, and more.

February 20
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Sidney Poitier was one of the first African Americans to win critical acclaim and awards for his acting performances, most notably in films such as In the Heat of the Night, Lilies of the Field, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. In addition to acting, Poitier has also worked in the film industry as a producer, writer, and director.

In her acceptance speech for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2003, Halle Berry acknowledged the work of other African American actors and actresses, including Sidney Poitier. Discuss with students the importance of Poitier's role in bringing equality to African American actors, especially in the 1950s,1960s, and 1970s.

Through the years, many barriers have been broken-barriers of age, race, and gender, to name a few. Ask students to write in their journals about any barriers that might impede them in the future (e.g., language, class, disability), and about how they can break through those barriers now. Should students desire it, these journal pieces could be made public in the form of letters to the school or local newspaper or some other format.

Actor Sidney Poitier was born in 1924.

This PBS website offers biographical information, an interview, film clips, and other information about Poitier's life and career.

 

In 1995, Poitier was honored by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for his contributions to film. This page offers information about Poitier's life and career.

 

The BBC offers the text of a 1964 report on Poitier's historic Oscar win, along with contextual information. Also included is an audio clip of Poitier discussing acting.

 

This resource from National Public Radio includes an April 2000 audio interview with Sidney Poitier from the Fresh Air radio program. In the interview Poitier discusses his role in In the Heat of the Night, as well as personal life experiences.

 

August 30
3 - 12
Author & Text

Children's book author and illustrator Virginia Lee Burton was born in Newton Centre, Massachusetts in 1909. Burton won the Caldecott Medal for The Little House in 1943, and her illustrations for Song of Robin Hood (1948) placed the book on the Caldecott Honor list.

 

During her life, Burton wrote and illustrated seven books, and she illustrated an additional five books, including The Emperor's New Clothes (Houghton, 1949). Burton's books lend themselves nicely to an author study because of their many connections. Share the books written and illustrated by Burton with students and, in addition to discussing similarities in her illustrations and writing style, focus on her use of personification, a highlight of her books. Burton's animated machines, like Mary Anne the steam shovel, can lead to conversations about how we think about machines and why we compare them to humans (and sometimes animals) when we talk about them.

 

Caldecott Medal-winner Virginia Lee Burton was born on this day in 1909.

This is the official site for Burton's story of the unstoppable Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne. The site offers information about the book and the author, as well as several activities to use with the book.

 

Houghton Mifflin offers this biography of Virginia Lee Burton. Written in part by Burton herself, the biography offers a glimpse at her childhood, the role her own children played in shaping her work, and more. Several images of Burton are also included.

 

University of Oregon Libraries presents a gallery of Burton's illustrations. Images from her books are included, as well as the original preliminary sketches for a number of her illustrations.