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.

May 24
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

When the Brooklyn Bridge was opened, its span across the East River in New York was the longest in the world, and its two stone landings were the tallest structures in North America. Designed by John Roebling and completed by his son and daughter-in-law Washington and Emily Roebling, the bridge stirred controversy over its cost, size, safety, and even its very necessity.

Celebrate the Roebling family's achievement and explore the literary concept of point of view by sharing with students a pair picture books that highlight the controversies over the construction and opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. The two books, Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner and Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing by April Jones Prince use the same historical event as their centerpiece: the crossing of the bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn by the elephants from P. T. Barnum's circus.

  • Begin by showing students the first pictures of the two books and asking them to predict how the stories might be similar and different. Students will note that both stories will likely discuss the construction of the bridge, but will have different points of view.
  • Ask students to confirm or clarify their predictions as you read the two stories.
  • After reading, have students discuss the similarities and differences between the books based on the two points of view. Which book had a more personal perspective? Which was more informative? How were similar events portrayed differently? Which book did they prefer?
  • Have pairs of students apply their observations by writing two complementary pieces about a recent classroom event (e.g., a school performance, a field trip, or a classroom party). Have one student write an account from a general observer's perspective, while the other writes from the perspective of a student in the classroom.
  • Ask students to share their writing and discuss how they chose different details, used different forms of expression, and conveyed different stories about the same event.
The Brooklyn Bridge opened on this day in 1883.

This resource focuses on construction of the Brooklyn Bridge within the historical and political context of the late 19th century. It also treats the bridge as a geographic symbol and work of art which inspires writers, artists, and ordinary Americans who cross the bridge or view it from afar.

This site provides history, video, pictures, and speeches associated with the bridge.

This page features the American Memory entry for John A. Roebling's birthday. Included is a collection of primary documents on the Brooklyn Bridge and bridges throughout the United States.

The bridges section of PBS's Building Big website offers information about the science behind bridges, bridge architects, and some famous bridges.

February 21
9 - 12
Author & Text

Erma Bombeck was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1927. Soon after the birth of her first daughter, she began writing a newspaper column called "At Wit's End," which was quickly picked up by newspapers across the country. Bombeck's largely autobiographical accounts of the "battles" between men and women and between children and parents, told with gentle yet sarcastic humor, became part of America's reading throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Bombeck died in 1996.

Many students have difficulty identifying or appreciating allusive or satirical humor. Using the following lines from Bombeck's newspaper column, ask students to identify not what they think is funny, but what someone else might find funny.

  • Shopping is a woman thing. It's a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.

  • There are two kinds of women who will spring big bucks for a make-up mirror that magnifies their faces. The first are young models who need to cover every eyelash, shadow their cheekbones, define their lips, and sculpt their faces. The second group are women who, without their glasses, cannot find their faces.

  • I just clipped two articles from a current magazine. One is a diet guaranteed to drop five pounds off my body in a weekend. The other is a recipe for a 6-minute pecan pie.

  • Most children's first words are "Mama" or "Daddy." My kid's first words were, "Do I have to use my own money?"

High school students can rewrite the passages to make them funny for a different audience.

Humorist Erma Bombeck was born in 1927.

This University of Dayton website is dedicated to Bombeck's life and work. The site includes several of her columns, as well as video clips from the short-lived sitcom called Maggie, which Bombeck developed.

 

This page features a biography and an interview with Bombeck from 1991. In the interview, she discusses her writing process, as well as influences on her life.

 

Just as Bombeck did in her syndicated newspaper column, Mark Twain used irony and sarcasm to tell his humorous stories. This PBS resource explores Twain's use of humor.

 

June 08
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Ice cream has been around since long before 1786. Emperor Nero of Rome had his slaves get snow from mountains then had it mixed with nectar, fruit pulp, and honey. Marco Polo brought recipes for water ices to Europe from the Far East. Ice cream first appeared in Italy when it was discovered that ice and salt could cause freezing.

During the warm month of June in the northern hemisphere, the topic of ice cream can be quite refreshing. The weather was probably hot in 1786 when Mr. Hall of 76 Chatham Street advertised the first commercially made ice cream. How has advertising changed over the years? Find some advertisements in newspapers, magazines, or on the Internet, or share these vintage ice cream advertisements. Evaluate the ads you have chosen with the ReadWriteThink Advertisement Dissection and Analysis printable activity sheet.

Invite students to think of a new flavor of ice cream and create an advertisement for their product. They can create an advertisement for television, radio, magazine, newspaper or the Internet. Students can add music to their ads or create a short video. After all the advertisements are completed, students can present them to a neighboring class who will vote on the most convincing ad. The winner can choose the flavor for a class ice cream party.

Commercial ice cream is first sold in the U.S. in 1786.

Extend students' learning by sharing this activity with their families or afterschool providers. The activity reinforces procedural writing by having students write a recipe for an ice cream sundae.

 

This site from PBS Kids Go! encourages young people to think critically about media and become smart consumers. Activities on the site are designed to provide users with some of the skills and knowledge needed to question, analyze, interpret, and evaluate media messages.

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 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.

 

July 18
4 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 2009, the United Nations declared July 18 Mandela Day, an international day of honor for former South African President Nelson Mandela.  Also his birthday, Mandela Day invites everyone, particularly young people, to take action to promote peace and combat social injustice.  According to the official Mandela Day website, Mandela Day "was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made [in 2008], for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world's social injustices when he said that 'it is in your hands now'."

Familiarize students with Mandela's life and legacy by reading aloud Kadir Nelson's Coretta Scott King Honor book, Nelson Mandela.  Share the illustrations and stop frequently for questions and discussion of Mandela's early life, determination to change social conditions in apartheid-era South Africa, and eventual presidency.  Fill in any gaps with resources from the biographical websites below.

Then explain the purpose and mission of Mandela Day before inspiring students to brainstorm their call to social action by sharing the Take Action page from the Mandela Day website.  There, students will see examples of service projecs around the key themes of awareness building, food security, literacy and education, service and volunteerism, and shelter and infrastructure.

Invite students, as a class or in small groups, to determine a project they can undertake, using resources such as the Letter Generator, Printing Press, and Persuasion Map to plan and publicize their contribution to a more just world.

Celebrate Mandela Day today.

This site provides a gallery of past and current Mandela Day projects as well as resources for teachers to support students' participation in the Day.

From Mandela's official site, this biography contains text, images, video, sound files and primary source documents to tell the story of his life.

This BBC resource features a timeline with key events, photographs, and videos.

Resouces on this Biography.com on this page are categorized into "In the News" and "History & Culture."

This three-minute video from Time.com further develops Mandela's biography.

Slate.com offers this collection of annotated photographs of Mandela's life.

April 12
K - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

April 12 is known as D.E.A.R Day! D.E.A.R. stands for "Drop Everything and Read," a national month-long celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives. It is also Beverly Cleary’s birthday! D.E.A.R. programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday, since she first wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Today is the birthday of author Beverly Cleary, who brought to life the characters of Ramona and older sister Beezus. On this day, D.E.A.R Day, families are encouraged to take at least 30 minutes to put aside all distractions and enjoy books together. Get together with other readers, find someone to read to, or even just read alone. Here are some additional ideas:

Family Read Aloud

With this tip, learn a few simple read-aloud strategies that can sharpen a child's emerging reading skills and help you have fun together with a good book.

Journaling

This lesson encourages children to explore authentic reasons for writing by writing messages to their family in a family message journal.

Retell Stories

Tell me about it in your own words! If students can paraphrase the information they have read, then you—and they—can be confident that they understand it.

Drop Everything!

Don’t think that means that the celebration is only allowed during this month, though. It’s encouraged all year long!

Today is D.E.A.R. Day!

This website has reading lists, activity ideas, digital assets, and other resources on D.E.A.R.

Reading Rockets shares resources about Beverly Cleary and D.E.A.R.

Drop Everything and Read suggestions from the International Literacy Association

December 11
4 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

Annie Jump Cannon was born today in 1863.  Cannon, who was deaf for nearly her entire career, studied astronomy in college and is responsible for developing a system for classifying stars based on decreasing order of surface temperature.

Turn students' attention to the stars by pointing them toward the StarDate Constellation Guide, Enchanted Learning's Constellation page, and Norm McCarter's Constellation Legends.  After choosing and constellation and reading about it across multiple sources, students can share their learning by creating a trading card for their constellation using the Trading Card Creator interactive or Trading Cards app.

Astronomer Annie Jump Cannon was born today.

This website sponsored by the Museum of Flight offers additional information on Cannon’s career and photos of her lab and other related images.

 

Learn about the American Astronomical Society award honoring Cannon at this website.

 

Cannon's page on this site is one of many profiles of femals astronmers, both historic and cotemporary.

 

This website offers students an image of the Google homepage honoring Cannon, as well as a chance to take a Star Quiz.

 

April 15
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

The RMS Titanic, a British luxury passenger liner, sank en route to New York City, and some 1,500 of its passengers perished. The ship had been designed and built by William Pirrie's firm of Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. A credulous public had believed that design innovations such as its 15 "watertight" bulkheads would make it "unsinkable."

Your students probably had some background knowledge about the Titanic even before the release of James Cameron's movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett. A nice way to begin your study is with the Internet Workshop model. You might use the recommended Websites from this calendar entry as part of the Internet Workshop.

Some questions you might ask students to explore are:

  • Could this disaster happen today?
  • What could have been done to prevent the disaster at that time?
  • What really sank the Titanic?
  • Did anything good happen as a result of this disaster?
The RMS Titanic sank on this day in 1912.

Visitors to this website learn about Halifax, Nova Scotia's role during the tragedy's aftermath. Included is a transcript of Robert Hunston's wireless document The Titanic Disaster as Viewed from Cape Race.

 

This exhibit includes hyperlinks to facts about the Titanic and a large collection of historical photographs.

 

The Anderson Kill & Olick law firm offers this interactive mock trial of the Titanic's operators, the White Star Line.

 

The BBC's site contains 13 audio recordings of survivors relaying their experiences. The collection also includes six primary source documents.

 

This site has a collection of fifteen short videos about the Titanic. Included in that collection is an interactive infographic from History.com called "Titanic by the Numbers". The timeline starts with the construction of the Titanic and ends in 1913 with stories from survivors.