May 02
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Since 1984, the National PTA has designated time each May for communities nationwide to honor teachers for their work with children. Parents, students, and schools across America celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week to show appreciation for the work and dedication of teachers and reaffirm the commitment to parent-teacher partnerships.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, read a book about a teacher such as Thank You, Mr. Falker, Miss Nelson is Missing, or a Magic School Bus story with Ms. Frizzle. Why are the teachers in these stories special? Have a class discussion about some of your students' favorite teachers. Then have students try these follow-up activities:

  • Compare a favorite teacher to a teacher from a book with the Interactive Venn Diagram.
  • Write a letter to a favorite teacher using the Letter Generator.
  • Create a character map of either Miss Nelson or another storybook teacher with the Story Mapping tool.
  • Use the Essay Map to plan and write an essay on why they would or would not like to be a student in one of the storybook teachers' classrooms.
  • Read and present another book about a special teacher. Older students may choose books like The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, or A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.
Teacher Appreciation Week honors our teachers.

This National PTA resource offers ideas to help parents, students, and schools honor teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

The National Education Association offers these activities, appropriate for a Teacher Appreciation Week celebration.

This page from Reading Rockets celebrates teachers through notes of appreciation from parents, videos of authors and illustrators talking about their favorite teachers, and a link for users to send their own e-cards to teachers they appreciate.

Students enjoy interactive activities as they learn about different topics of science with a truly unusual teacher: Ms. Frizzle. Be sure to check out the interview with Magic School Bus author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen.

April 18
4 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

The son of a French immigrant, Paul Revere worked as a gold- and silversmith for more than 40 years in Boston, Massachusetts. In the years before the revolution, Revere gathered intelligence information by "watching the Movements of British soldiers," as he wrote in a personal account of his ride. Although he was joined by William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, it is Paul Revere who is generally remembered for making this historic midnight ride.

As you study Paul Revere, have students learn about primary source documents while researching their family histories.

Paul Revere's ancestry can be traced back to his great-great grandfather, Jean Rivoire, born in France in about 1610. Challenge your students to examine their own roots by investigating likely sources of information about their ancestors. First, discuss the differences between primary and secondary sources. Brainstorm some possible primary sources, and then have students research their family histories. Some possible sources include a family Bible, interviews with family members, a grandparent's diary or journal (with permission, of course), letters and other correspondence, or photographs.

Next, have students create a family tree from the information they have gathered. Have students compare their family trees and discuss some of these questions: How far back were students able to trace their ancestry? How many different countries of origin are represented in your students' family trees? Why might it be difficult to trace some family trees? How can students make a contribution to preserving their own family histories?

Paul Revere began his famous midnight ride in 1775.

This site features the real story of Revere's historic ride. Links to other resources, including Revere's biography, are also found here.

 

This Archiving Early America page features a Flash movie on Revere's ride.

 

This page from AmericanRevolution.org offers an account of Revere's famous ride in his own words.

 

Read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, which immortalized Revere's famous ride. Compare Longfellow's account with Revere's own version at the Revere Speaks website above.

 

July 05
3 - 8
Author & Text

Each year, the Hannibal Jaycees sponsor National Tom Sawyer Days during the Fourth of July weekend to celebrate the town's most well-known citizen, Mark Twain. The highlight of the event is the fence-painting contest, which begins on July 4 with local competition and advances to state and national contests over the next three days.

Mark Twain uses great detail to capture the locations of his tales. Readers feel as if they have actually traveled with Twain to the settings of his stories and novels. Choose a particular scene in one of Twain's works and do a close examination of the setting. First, have students map the story setting, using the interactive Story Map. Then discuss the setting using these prompts:

  • How does Twain use extended description, background information, and specific detail to make the setting come alive for readers?
  • How do the main characters fit into the setting-do they seem at home or out of place?
  • How do their reactions and interactions with the setting affect the realism of the location?

Discuss the techniques that Twain uses to make the settings in his stories vivid and real to the readers and the extent to which these techniques are effective.

Annual fence-painting contests take place in Hannibal, Missouri.

Visit this PBS site to learn about Twain through his writing and view his scrapbook.

Visit Hannibal, Missouri, where Sam Clemens and other children who influenced characters in Tom Sawyer grew up.

Visit this archive, produced by the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia, to find pictures, transcriptions, and analysis of Twain's writing, and information about the marketing of his books.

November 01
K - 12
Literacy-Related Event

National Family Literacy Day®, celebrated across the U.S., focuses on special activities and events that showcase the importance of family literacy programs. First held in 1994, the annual event is officially celebrated on November 1st, but many events are held throughout the month of November. Schools, libraries, and other literacy organizations participate through read-a-thons, celebrity appearances, book drives, and more

Kick off National Family Literacy Day by inviting parents, grandparents, and other family members to your classroom for a family-school reading day.

  • Invite students' family members to read a favorite story from their childhood, or their child's favorite bedtime story. (Grandparents can share both their child's and their grandchild's favorites!)
  • Provide a collection of books for families to share during a group reading session. Invite families to get comfortable by bringing a cushion, beanbag chair, or pillow.
  • Introduce families to some of the games & tools provided by ReadWriteThink. Encourage them to use these engaging tools at home to enhance their reading and writing experiences.
  • Provide each family with a certificate of participation or a bookmark at the end of the event. Ask a local bookstore for a donation, or print certificates and bookmarks from your computer.
  • At the close of your event, be sure to remind parents about other National Family Literacy Day events in your community.

Remember that family literacy is something that should be encouraged all year round. Invite students and their families to brainstorm ways they can keep their family engaged in reading on a regular basis!

Celebrate National Family Literacy Day!

NCFL provides support and strategies to a network of entities involved in advancing education and families learning together, including educators, schools, community based organizations, and libraries. Our efforts support learners of all ages in these environments in concert with our advocates and partners.

Reading Rockets offers resources for family literacy bags that students can take home to share with their families.

The International Literacy Association offers a series of brochures with literacy tips intended for parents. Some of the topics covered include reading with young children, watching television together, surfing the Web, the importance of nutrition, and more. Brochures are available for download in both English and Spanish.

Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.

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.

November 21
K - 7
Literacy-Related Event

The NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children honors the work of educator Charlotte Huck, who championed the classroom use of storybooks to teach reading and language arts.  The award was established in 2014 to promote and recognize excellence in the writing of fiction for children that invites compassion, imagination, and wonder.

After sharing one or more of the winning, honored, or recommended titles as a classroom read-aloud, invite students write and illustrate their own story in which someone learned how to be more compassionate or to feel empathy for those who are different from themselves.

Allow students to decide to tell a story from their own lives or to create characters and imagined situations that would inspire others to be more compassionate.  Share tools such as the Story Map and Cube Creator to help students plan and generate ideas.  Arrange for a time for students to share their stories with classmates or with younger students.

The Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children is announced today.

This festival, hosted by the University of Redlands, brings together authors and illustrators of children’s literature with teachers, librarians, and families.

Charlotte Huck’s HarperCollins biography page includes a link to her book Princess Furball, illustrated by Anita Lobel.

NCTE’s page for its children’s book awards, also including the Orbis Pictus Award for nonfiction.

December 15
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

The Bill of Rights was ratified by three-fourths of the newly formed United States in 1791 to ensure individual rights that were not addressed in the United States Constitution. These first 10 amendments to the Constitution enumerate and protect many of our rights, including freedom of speech, worship, the press, and assembly.

Bill of Rights Day is a good opportunity for students to explore a variety of students' rights issues. Ask students to identify an issue that has come up in your school, such as dress codes, drug testing, zero tolerance, privacy, religion, or freedom of expression. Have them explore the ways in which the Bill of Rights protects and does not protect students, as well as some of the past and recent challenges to students' rights. Have students write position papers or debate individuals or teams of students with opposing points of view. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Student Rights page has information and articles about recent court cases focused on students' rights.

Students can continue to explore the Bill of Rights by examining the ways in which it applies to current events and issues such as homeland security, prisoners' rights, the death penalty, and more. Provide access to a daily newspaper. Then ask students to construct a scrapbook or bulletin board display of articles that address Bill of Rights issues.

Bill of Rights Day is observed.

This website from the United States National Archives offers a look at the actual Bill of Rights, with links to high-resolution images and related information.

 

This ACLU resource provides a brief history of the Bill of Rights and the rationale for the creation of these 10 amendments to the United States Constitution.

 

This resource featured on Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids provides information about citizenship and the Bill of Rights.

 

This online exhibit includes images of many original documents and describes how the Bill of Rights was passed.

 

April 09
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Marian Anderson planned on singing at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, which was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). They refused to let her perform because she was African American. Eleanor Roosevelt, outraged by this show of prejudice, arranged for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial instead.

When Eleanor Roosevelt learned that Marian Anderson had been denied permission to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, she decided to resign her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Show your students her resignation letter, along with the letter from Mrs. Henry M. Robert, Jr., president general of the DAR, responding to Roosevelt's resignation (pages one and two). Students may have difficulty reading the handwritten text so, after viewing the original documents, you may want to transcribe them.

Ask your students to write a letter to a newspaper editor explaining their feelings about a present-day social injustice. Invite your students to compose their letters with the Letter Generator.

In 1939, Marian Anderson was denied permission to sing at Constitution Hall.

Read the transcript of this PBS report on Anderson's life, which includes comments by Anderson, her family, and her friends and colleagues.

 

This resource is from the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The site offers video and audio excerpts of Anderson's concerts and interviews.

 

These pages from the Library of Congress' America's Story site provide information about Anderson for elementary students.

 

This DAR press release paid tributeto Marian Anderson's memory and commemorated a pivotal event in the struggle for racial equality.

September 18
9 - 12
Author & Text

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was published in 1937. The novel tells of the life and loves of Janie Crawford in a story that is highlighted by its use of storytelling, black folklore, and dialects.

Their Eyes Were Watching God explores stories and storytelling. To introduce the novel in your class, ask students to brainstorm the kinds of stories they know. If students offer specific stories, list the stories and then go back through the list and divide the stories into categories such as family stories, mythology, folklore, urban legends, and so forth.

Next, ask students where these stories come from. Students should identify such sources as experience, books, parents, ancestors, history, friends, nature, fears, dreams, childhood, and home. As students begin reading the novel, return to these questions-identifying the kinds of stories that are being told, where the stories come from, and why they are being told.

Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937.

This Today in History entry from the Library of Congress celebrates Hurston's birthday. Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Eatonville, Florida, the first incorporated black town in the United States.

This site offers biographical information about Hurston, lists of her books, related news, links to additional resources, and guides for educators and reading groups. Included is an Instructor's Guide for Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The Library of Congress offers a collection of plays written by Hurston but unpublished until 1997, well after her death. The plays reflect Hurston's life, as well as her studies of African American folklore.

February 29
3 - 7
Holiday & School Celebration

Our solar year is 365.24219 days. Since our calendar does not deal in partial days, every four years, we add an additional day to February. Therefore, our calendar year is either 365 days in nonleap years or 366 days in leap years. A leap year every four years gives us 365.25 days, sending our seasons off course and eventually in the wrong months. To change .25 days to .24219, we skip a few Leap Days every one hundred years or so.

Many years ago, people did not have the scientific information that we have available today to explain the change of seasons, the need for a Leap Day every four years, and the cycle of moon phases. Early civilizations relied on other means of explanation such as myths and folk tales.

Divide the class into groups and provide each group with an explanatory myth (e.g., the children's book Max and Ruby's First Greek Myth by Rosemary Wells or the works of Gerald McDermott or Tomie dePaola). Have students write summaries of the stories to share with the class. Then have the students in each group compose an original myth that explains either the same phenomenon from the book they summarized or another one of their choosing. Stories can be illustrated and collected into a book to share with other classes in the school.

Today is Leap Day!

This site explains things about Leap Year that are not common knowledge to most, has resources for party planning, and also includes a list of Leap Day books.

Wonder of the Day based on the student question “Why is there leap year?”

Intended for grade-school-level students, this NASA website recommended by SchoolZone has information about astronomy as well as projects, lesson ideas, and resources for the classroom.

This site from NASA, focusing on an image of a coin minted with Julius Caesar's likeness, provides a brief explanation of the origins of Leap Day. The site also references Sosigenes, the astronomer who consulted with Caesar on the calendar and invention of Leap Day.