March 19
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Before the invention of the railroad, people used local "sun time" as they traveled across the country. With the coming of the railroad, travel became faster, exacerbating the problems caused by the hundreds of different "sun times." At the instigation of the railroads, for whom scheduling was difficult, the U.S. Standard Time Act was passed, establishing four standard time zones for the continental U.S. On November 18, 1883, the U.S. Naval Observatory began signaling the new time standard.

After learning about different time zones, ask your students to plan a video conference with a class from a different country or from a different time zone in the United States. As they plan, ask students to:

  1. Use the World Time Engine to find the best time to schedule this meeting.
  2. Research the country or state of the students with whom they will video conference and brainstorm a list of questions and topics for discussion. The place selected can be coordinated with topics they are currently studying.
  3. Brainstorm a list of topics about their own town or country that they would like to discuss. Alternatively, they could brainstorm a list of questions they think students from the other time zone might ask them.
  4. Use a time zone map to figure out how many time zones they would have to travel through to have this conference if video conferencing hadn't been developed.

If you decide not to carry out an actual video conference, alternatively, divide your class into two groups and allow them to conference with one group playing the role of the class from another time zone.

On this day in 1918, the United States passed the U.S. Standard Time Act.

This page from the Library of Congress' American Memory site offers excellent information and primary documents about the history of standardized time.

Students take a journey from ancient calendars and clocks to modern times, at this NIST Physics Laboratory website.

This site provides a clickable map that gives the official time for each time zone in the U.S.

BBC News looks at time zones--how they are worked out, why they cause so many arguments, and how they affect us all.

March 15
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In Julius Caesar, a soothsayer warns Caesar to "Beware the Ides of March." Caesar ignores the warning and is, in fact, murdered on March 15, called "the Ides" on the Roman calendar. Over time, the date has become associated with doom and momentous events-particularly ones with disastrous effects.

In addition to teaching your students a famous Shakespearean play, you could use the Ides of March to explore the role of superstitions in our lives and culture.

  • Begin by asking students to list the superstitions they know: the number 13, spilling salt, breaking a mirror, finding a penny, etc.
  • Next, have them try to categorize these superstitions. For example, which ones relate to good luck, bad luck, death, happiness, etc.?
  • After they have categorized them, ask students to define a superstition. What is their purpose or role? What do they tend to relate to?
  • Finally, have students think about superstitions and proverbs. Share a list of proverbs from around the world. Which ones on the list also sound like superstitions? What are the similarities and differences between proverbs and superstitions? You can use the ReadWriteThink Venn Diagram interactive for this activity.
Beware the Ides of March!

Turner Classic Movies creates sites for educators on several of their most popular films. This one on Julius Caesar includes activities and resources for the play and the 1953 version of the film.

This National Geographic article describes the events leading up to the assassination of Caesar, including a discussion of Plutarch's, Shakespeare's, and Dante's treatments of the leader.

This is a site where people have sent in visual depictions of a superstition or urban legend. Be sure to preview the images to ensure they are appropriate for your students. Students might try a similar activity using photography or other media.

The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal offers information about common superstitions. They also offer ideas for a Superstition Obstacle Course.

March 31
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

César Chávez led the efforts to improve working conditions for California's migrant farm workers and formed the United Farm Workers Union. Chávez was committed to non-violent protest. He conducted several fasts and led a number of strikes and grape boycotts to further the cause of field workers.

Chávez was able to accomplish a great deal in his lifetime, promoting the civil rights and improving the working conditions of migrant farm workers. Have your students name other leaders who, like Chávez, have used non-violent means to achieve their ends. Some examples could include Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, or Susan B. Anthony.

Then, have students work in small groups to research one of these civil rights leaders. Students should find information about the leader's philosophy, the social cause for which he or she was fighting, and some of the specific methods he or she used for peaceful protest. Next, have students work, in their groups, on a creative writing piece. Have students imagine how history might have been different if this person had never lived, or had held a different philosophy. Then ask them to write a short story (or alternately, a play or poem) about this imagined history.

César Chávez was born on this day in 1927.

The Library of Congress offers this brief description of César Chávez' work. The page includes a timeline and links to related information.

This resource, based on the PBS film The Fight in the Fields, provides information on Chávez' struggle. Features include information about the film, a timeline, and links to related resources.

This biography, from the California Department of Education, is intended for intermediate students. The detailed account includes related images.

This Internet activity from SCORE encourages upper grade students to select from 11 American labor leaders, including Chávez, and to create museum exhibits highlighting their accomplishments.

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.

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.

June 10
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

On a series of three artificial islands and in the surrounding ponds, visitors to the 1854 World's Fair at the Crystal Palace in London saw the first life-size replicas of dinosaurs such as the Iguanodon, the Megalosaurus, and Pterodactyls, all created by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

Waterhouse Hawkins' dinosaur replicas offer a great opportunity for an inquiry-based project. Some of Hawkins' models are known for their minor errors or incomplete detail. Consider the horn on the Iguanodon or the submerged Mosasaur (with body obscured since only fossils of the head had been discovered). The replicas are in fact more of a historical artifact than an accurate scientific model.

After learning about Hawkins' replicas, do a study of what we know about these same dinosaurs today-what did Hawkins get right and where did he draw the wrong conclusions? Students could work individually or in small groups to investigate a dinosaur of their choice, comparing Hawkins' versions to current knowledge about the prehistoric animals. The ReadWriteThink Venn Diagram is a nice tool to help students organize and present their findings.

The Crystal Palace hosted the first display of life-size dinosaur replicas in 1854.

This page from Smithsonian.com lists some dinosaur books appropriate for kids, along with brief descriptions.

 

Nyder's site includes photos of all the remaining dinosaurs in their original location on artificial islands outside the site of the original Crystal Palace building at Sydenham.

 

This Brooklyn College page details not only Hawkins' work on the Crystal Palace dinosaur replicas but also the ill-fated plans to build similar replicas in New York City.

 

Scientists out on a dig have found parts from six different dinosaurs. Put the parts together to create a dinosaur that really existed, OR create an imaginary dinosaur of your own!

February 04
K - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Rosa Parks (1913–2005) is best known for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a crowded bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement that ultimately led to the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation. Rosa Parks became an icon of the movement, celebrated for this single courageous act of civil disobedience, but she is often characterized by misconceptions. Contrary to popular belief, Parks was not a demure seamstress who chose not to stand because she was physically tired. Her calm demeanor hid a militant spirit forged over decades. Learn more about her and her life by exploring these primary sources.

Explore the sites and online exhibitions listed below. Ask students what they can learn from these primary sources about why Rosa Parks took her stand against segregation, and about the organizations and movements that participated in the struggle. They might compare that to what they learn from a textbook or other secondary source and then write a possible update for the secondary source.

It's important that students understand the difference between primary and secondary sources. Visit here for a solid definition and see some examples.

Rosa Parks was born on this day in 1913.

Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words showcases rarely seen materials that offer an intimate view of Rosa Parks and documents her life and activism—creating a rich opportunity for viewers to discover new dimensions to their understanding of this seminal figure.

This gallery showcases a selection of items from the Rosa Parks Papers at the Library of Congress, a gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. This collection contains thousands of items that document the life, work, and legacy of this civil-rights legend.

In honor of the birthday of civil rights legend Rosa Parks, this blog highlights the many cards and letters students wrote for Ms. Parks over the years.

The Rosa Parks Collection, which is on loan to the Library for 10 years from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, spans from 1866-2006 and contains 7,500 items and 2,500 photographs.

December 07
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1941, the United States forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were taken by surprise when Japanese warplanes began to drop bombs on the city and naval base. Hundreds of soldiers and civilians were killed during the raid, and the Navy suffered the loss of a great number of ships and other military hardware. This event marked the American entrance into World War II.

 

On December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy" in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, many Americans were called upon to act as heroes. Countless Americans gave their lives in defense of our country and its citizens in Pearl Harbor. Similarly, the surprise attacks on America on September 11, 2001, called for heroic acts of selflessness from ordinary citizens, as well as firemen, police, military personnel, and other government workers. Ask students to compare these two events using the interactive Venn Diagram. How are they alike? How are they different?

How did each event change American citizens' perspectives on war and the need for war? How did the two different Presidents of the United States react? What was different about the media coverage?

The class could be divided into groups to brainstorm various aspects of this discussion and then report back to the class as a whole.

 

Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in 1941.

This resource from the National Archives includes the typed first draft of President Roosevelt's War Address to Congress with his handwritten edits. An audio excerpt of the speech is also available.

 

This page by the Naval Historical Center features a historic overview of the Pearl Harbor raid and its aftermath.

 

This Teacher Tool Kit contains a variety of primary and secondary sources that can be used to supplement your curriculum instruction and offer the most direct explanation of the events surrounding the attack on December 7, 1941.

 

This page from the Library of Congress includes a copy of the U.S.S. Ranger's Naval dispatch from Commander in Chief Pacific announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

November 19
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Invited to speak at the consecration of a memorial honoring the dead at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most well-known speeches in American history. While the speech is extremely short-just 267 words-Lincoln used the opportunity both to honor the sacrifice of the soldiers and to remind American citizens of the necessity of continuing to fight the Civil War. The Gettysburg Address stands as a masterpiece of persuasive rhetoric.

Middle and high school students should be able to do a close reading of the Gettysburg Address by using the Pre-AP strategy called SOAPSTone. Print a copy of the Address. Then, ask students to identify and discuss the following:

  • The Speaker of the text
  • The Occasion of the speech
  • The Audience (both present and after it was distributed)
  • The Purpose that Lincoln had in delivering it
  • The Subject matter discussed
  • The Tone of the piece Another interesting exercise for high school students is for them to compare Lincoln's Address with those of other famous orators, such as President John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech.

    While younger students may find the text of this speech too advanced, they can certainly begin the process of identifying the purpose, structure, and means of persuasive speech and writing.
  •  

    Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address in 1863.

    This site contains the full text of the Gettysburg Address as well as rough drafts and the only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg.

    The Library of Congress offers this collection of over 30,000 items by and about Abraham Lincoln. The collection includes letters and other items from Lincoln's presidency, as well as sheet music, pamphlets, and other items that reflect Lincoln's life and times.

    This site ranks the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century as determined in a nationwide survey. The speeches were rated on two criteria: rhetorical artistry and historical impact.

    October 07
    3 - 12
    Author & Text

    Novelist, poet, and screenwriter Sherman Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. Often focusing on the connections between physical places and the stories that occur in them, Alexie wrote a semi-autobiographical young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian with a protagonist who chooses to leave the school on his reservation to attend a nearby high school where he is the only Native American student.

     

    In 2003, Sherman Alexie was asked to contribute to the "Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves" exhibition, a project of The Museum of Tolerance. The collection consists of recreations of parts of participants' childhood homes or other significant family locations and showcases the diversity of Americans' personal histories. The scenes explore the meaning and inspiration behind the places and objects where memories and family history were made.

    • Ask your class to imagine that they have been asked to participate in such an exhibit. Have students draw or take photos/video of their home or another significant location and then write or record reflections that explain why this location is important to their family history and their personal identity.

    • Alternately, have students create an exhibit for a character from a short story, book, or play the class has read. They can use information in the text (and their imaginations), to help them create a representation of the rooms of a character's family home and explain how these rooms reflect the personal history and identity of the character.

     

    Sherman Alexie was born in 1966.

    Featuring information about Alexie's publications, this site also includes his blog, contests for readers, and a calendar of his appearances.

     

    The official site for the Musuem of Tolerance exhibit includes images of some of the displays and resources for researching family history including tips for getting started and links to genealogy sites.

     

    This collection of resources, a supplement to the NCTE book Sherman Alexie in the Classroom, offers ideas for teaching social justice and an introduction to Native American literatures, as well as critical excerpts about Alexie's work.

     

    Alexie's entry on the Academy of American Poets site contains a biography and a link to his poem "Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World."