September 21
K - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

The United Nations has declared September 21 as the International Day of Peace. In a message commemorating the Day in 1995, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali stated that "the world, once more, cries out for peace. And for the economic and social development that peace alone can assure... Let us keep our goal clear and simple... Let us work for peace."

For middle and high school students:

  • Have students brainstorm a list of conflicts that are happening around the world: Israel-Palestine, Iraq, etc.
  • Ask students to generate a list of reasons why people fight: religion, economics, etc.
  • Have students form groups and assign each group one reason from the list they generated above. In groups, students should discuss and be ready to present possible solutions that could address the causes. It is important to emphasize that students are not trying to solve a particular world crisis, but rather are trying to identify solutions that can work in general (education, tolerance, debt relief, etc.).
  • The groups could then create posters that promote their particular solution. See the lesson plan Designing Effective Poster Presentations for tips and ideas on making posters. For elementary-age students, follow the same process as above, but instead of looking at the world, ask students to focus on conflicts, reasons, and solutions in their school.
Today is the International Day of Peace.

This site contains a number of links to other websites dealing with ways to become active in promoting peace around the world and in the local communities.

This site, part of the United Nations Cyberschool Bus, contains five curricular units that focus on ecology, tolerance, critical thinking, social justice, and global citizenship.

Read about the outstanding people who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the official site for the award. The site includes biographies, lectures, and additional information for all the award winners as well as educational material.

April 10
6 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Often considered to be the first true copyright law, the Statute of Anne drastically changed how copyright worked in Great Britain by naming the author, rather than the publisher, as the holder of the copyright. Later, this law had great influence on emerging U.S. copyright laws. In fact, the first U.S. copyright law began with "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning" —words taken directly from the Statute of Anne.

Create a students' copyright guide as a handy reference for classroom work or the library.

  • First, form small groups to conduct web research on copyright issues. Assign groups topics, such as the types of copyright protected works, fair use, court cases, public domain works, and so on. Students can use the interactive Notetaker to help them organize their research findings.
  • After students have finished their research, have each group compile their information into a page for the class booklet, by visiting the Printing Press tool and selecting the "flyer" option.

  • Collect each group's work and create a booklet. Be sure to create a table of contents and index for the guide, as well as a cover page. Keep a copy of the guide in the library and near photocopying machines.

  • You might also want to reproduce the guide and distribute a copy to each student.
The Statute of Anne, an influential copyright law, went into effect in 1710.

This site offers teachers information on copyright issues, including a list of links to online copyright references.

 

This website provides resources for children, as well as parents and teachers. Included are copyright basics, a quiz, and more.

 

This series on copyright law and the fair use exceptions is aimed at teachers and covers things such as applying the law to new technologies and district liability.

 

This student interactive, from CyberBee, answers many questions students may have about intellectual property rights and fair use.

 

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!

October 02
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Marshall was instrumental in numerous civil rights cases. In 1954, he argued and won the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court declared segregation of public schools illegal.

 

Discuss the following statement by Thurgood Marshall with your students: "If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his house, what books he may read or what films he may watch." Invite students to think about Marshall's statement by considering each piece of the comment. For instance, begin by reading the First Amendment and talking about the civil rights that the amendment guarantees. After exploring the quotation fully, use K-W-L Creator to complete a K-W-L chart with your students and have them use the resources listed below to begin an investigation.

 

Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1967.

This site includes biographical and background information on Marshall, as well as details on court decisions he was involved in.

 

From the US Postal Service, this printable resource includes information about Marshall, a few lessons plans, and a word puzzle.

 

From the Library of Congress, this page includes a biography of Marshall with links to information on important cases he played a role in, such as Brown v. Board of Education.

 

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids provides grade-appropriate information about the Supreme Court and how it works.

 

July 12
1 - 12
Author & Text

Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817. Thoreau is best known for his book Walden, which chronicles the two years that he lived in a small hut near the edge of Walden Pond.

Take your class on a nature walk near your school, or have them focus on a natural setting nearby. As students walk or view the setting, ask them to take note of the details of the surroundings and make a mental "snapshot" of the location in their minds.

Once they return to class, have students write their notes during a focused writing session, making sure to capture the details of the setting. After the initial writing session, students can revise and polish their writing and create a class booklet of the nature walk, using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.

Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817.

This biography of Thoreau, published by the Academy of American Poets, links to a collection of online texts including Walden.

After reading passages from Walden with your students, have them compare Thoreau's description of the pond with the photographs on this website.

This entry on Thoreau includes a complete biography with links to related materials and readings. The site provides extensive information about Thoreau, including links about his work as a surveyor and pencil maker.

Students can keep a record of their own nature observations in a field journal, as described in this resource from the American Museum of Natural History. A number of diverse example pages, including drawings, charts, and narrative observations from the field journals of actual scientists, are included.

March 05
3 - 12
Author & Text

Leslie Marmon Silko, born in 1948 and raised in the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, proudly proclaims her mixed Native American, Mexican, and White heritage. As a writer, Silko draws on the stories she heard from her great-grandmother at Laguna. The oral tradition of storytelling, she insists, is alive and well for anyone who takes the time to listen to others. Silko's most widely taught novel, Ceremony, deals with a young World War II veteran's return to his Indian reservation.

To celebrate Silko's birthday, your students can revive elements of the oral tradition.

Have students write a brief anecdote about something funny that happened to them recently. Have students limit their writing to no more than a paragraph. Then ask students to read what they have written several times to themselves. Next, in pairs, have students tell each other their stories without looking at what they wrote. Each pair should then join with another pair and tell each other their stories, again without looking at what they wrote. Stop the class at this point and ask students to look back at what they have written to see if their stories have changed in the telling. Why do these changes happen? Finally, have students move into a larger group and retell someone else's story as well as they can. Before wrapping up, students should discuss some of the elements of oral storytelling: what makes a good story? What changes in the retelling and why?

Have students interview older family members to learn about family stories that may have been passed down through generations. Students may wish to share these stories in class or write them down and illustrate them.

Today is Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko's birthday.

This resource from American Passages offers a brief biography of Silko, as well as teaching tips and questions for her novel Ceremony.

This is a collection of notes by a Georgetown professor on the major themes and complex style of Silko's work.

The Smithsonian Institution offers this collection of Native American-related resources. There are links to Smithsonian resources, online exhibitions, and recommended reading lists.

This PBS site provides a collection of resources on Native American storytelling.

September 17
6 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Since it became a national observance in 2004, Constitution Day has commemorated the date of the 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution. Constitution Day offers students a chance to learn about this important document, from the Preamble to the seven articles to the twenty-seven amendments.

Help students deepen their understanding of one aspect of The U.S. Constitution by asking them to explore The Interactive Constitution. From the section on the articles, students can choose from among the Preamble, the branches of government, and more. Alternately, they can explore each of the twenty-seven Amendments (currently the first fifteen amendments are fully developed). Each section provides a common interpretation followed by Constitutional scholars’ discussion of a debatable issue.

Let pairs or small groups choose what they will learn about. After they read and discuss the entry, direct them to the Trading Card Creator, where they will select the Abstract Concept template. After they complete their Card, have groups present informally to share what they have learned.

Constitution Day is observed today in the U.S.

The online presence of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, this site offers background about the Constitution as well as lesson plans, activities, and resources.

 

More appropriate for older students, this collection of official government documents and journal articles can enhance inquiry into the nature and function of the Constitution.

 

This site of the National Archives offers activities designed around artifacts from their collection, as well as a link to their document-based workshop on teaching the Constitution.

 

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.

 

December 17
3 - 6
Historical Figure & Event

Wilbur and Orville Wright's landmark flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, was the realization of their dream of powered human flight. Although their historic achievement lasted only 12 seconds, it continues to symbolize—even after more than 100 years—human determination, imagination, creativity, and invention.

The anniversary of the Wright brothers' amazing flight offers a great opportunity for a highly motivational learning experience. After your students learn about the Wright brothers, have an anniversary party to showcase their creative work. Remember to include a cake in the shape of an airplane!

In addition, the following activities for elementary school students can be used as extensions to the lesson plans listed below:

  • Students can create a multimedia timeline presentation on the lives of the Wright brothers or on aviation over the last 100 years.

  • Ask students to compare the Wright Flyer, which Wilbur and Orville flew, with the planes we have today. Have them imagine what airplanes will be like 100 years from now and design or illustrate a future model.

 

The Wright brothers made their phenomenal flight!

This website provides information about the Wright brothers' development of the first powered aircraft; included are interactive experiments, an electronic field trip, and information on the restoration of the Wright Flyer.

 

The Franklin Institute provides an excellent multimedia resource for students interested in learning more about the Wright brothers and seeing film clips of early flights.

 

This page from Scholastic celebrates 100 years of flight with a biography of the Wright brothers, information on how they invented their plane, and an activity that walks you through making some of the decisions you'd have to make to build your own plane.

 

NASA provides this site for kids, which includes information about the history of flight, how flight works, and how jet engines work. Also included is an interactive game about the Wright brothers.

 

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.
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    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.