Novelist and poet Paul Fleischman was born in Monterey, California, in 1952. He is the author of the Newbery Award-winning book Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, and numerous works of fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry, as well as picture books. Fleischman won the Scott O'Dell Award, which is awarded to the year's best work of historical fiction for children or young adults, for his Civil War novel Bull Run.
Fleischman grew up in a home where reading and writing were very important-his father, author Sid Fleischman, won the Newbery Award for the novel The Whipping Boy. Paul Fleischman has fond memories of his father reading books aloud to the family, of listening to the radio with his mother, and exploring the many books in his father's study. Share some of Fleischman's memories with your class by reading his essay "My House of Voices."
Invite students to brainstorm a list of the voices that fill their own homes (or another location, such as their school or a community building). With their lists for inspiration, ask students to write a descriptive essay, similar to Fleischman's essay, that gives a tour of the voices in these places. Younger students might write a collaborative essay, with individual students or small groups cataloguing the voices of different areas of a place that they have all visited, such as the school or a nearby park.
In addition to reviewers' comments, this site includes excerpts, biographical information, and articles, including "From Seed to Seedfolks," which provides background on Seedfolks.
Candlewick Press offers this guide to Fleischman's first published play, Zap. Included are discussion questions and activities.
This teacher's guide to Fleischman's Seedfolks includes an interview with the author and specific activities and curriculum connections.
EduPlace offers this brief biography of Paul Fleischman, in which the influences of his childhood and of music on his work is highlighted. Also included is a selected list of Fleischman's books.
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol as a "potboiler," or an inferior work done purely for quick profit. Unfortunately, while the book was an instant success and remains one of his best-known works, Dickens made little profit because people purchased pirated editions. There were no copyright laws at that time in England.
Chances are, your students have either seen or will be seeing a production of A Christmas Carol in December. What a perfect time for a collaborative project for middle school and primary students!
Have a middle school English class or the drama club write a script for A Christmas Carol on a level that primary students can read and perform. Involve students in home and career classes to create the costumes and scenery for the production. Invite film students to record the performance and have computer students create a website showcasing photographs from the project.
This online resource from PBS provides information about the life and career of Dickens.
Since 2002, Stanford University has encouraged community reading and discussion of Dickens' novels through the serial release of his major works. Biographical and historical context information is included with each serial publication.
This webpage includes hundreds of links to primary and secondary documents on various aspects of Dickens' life and work.
This page from The Victorian Web provides extensive links to Dickens' biography, chronology, a list of works, an introduction, and other relevant essays.
Ralph Waldo Emerson- essayist, poet, and lecturer-was born in Boston in 1803. A founding figure of transcendentalism, Emerson believed that we need to trust ourselves and to live in harmony with nature. His influence on the major figures in American literature, such as Thoreau, Whitman, and Hawthorne, cannot be overstated. At Emerson's funeral in 1882, Whitman called him "a just man, poised on himself, all-loving, all-inclosing, and sane and clear as the sun."
Before sharing the quotation below, ask students to suggest definitions of success. Next, share this quotation which is often attributed to Emerson: "To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child or a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
Then, identify and list the definitions of success that the author puts forward. Next, ask students to name people they know (not celebrities or politicians) who seem to fit these definitions of a successful person. Last, using the Postcard Creator, have students write a note to a person on the list, explaining why they believe he or she is a success.
Note: There is some question as to whether the above quote in fact can be attributed to Emerson. This might make an interesting research question for students to explore and debate.
American Transcendentalism Web from Virginia Commonwealth University offers this page on Emerson. The Web contains hundreds of articles on Emerson and other transcendentalists.
Poets.org offers this page on Ralph Waldo Emerson. It includes biographical information, a selected bibliography, and links to selected writings and related Internet resources.
This resources from PBS includes a biography of Emerson, information about his role in the transcendentalist movement, and excerpts of his work.
"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.
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.
Lane Smith has collaborated with Jon Scieszka on titles including the Caldecott Honor book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Stories and the best-selling The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. In addition to his collaboration with Scieszka and other authors, he has written and illustrated several of his own children's stories. His illustrations have appeared in several publications other than books, including The Atlantic Monthly and Newsweek.
Discuss with your students some of the ways in which illustrations can enhance a story. Begin by reading just the text of a picture book. Then share the actual book, pointing out the illustrations. Ask students how the pictures help them understand the story better. Then, have your students become illustrators, using a variety of media. Offer choices including paint, pencil or colored pencil, pen and ink, felt-tipped markers, or collage. Offer students a variety of choices such as:
- Illustrate a favorite story they have written.
- Collaborate with a partner and become an author—illustrator team. Alternatively, each student writes a story and then illustrates each other's works.
- Select a favorite children's book and mimic the illustrator's style, or create illustrations for the story in their own style.
When students have completed their illustrations and stories, be sure to display them in the classroom or school library!
This site offers information on the adventures of the Time Warp Trio, as well as links for games and the TV show. There is also a section of links for teachers and parents.
Penguin Publishers offers this biography of Smith. Also included are links to an author interview and a booklist.
This resource from Scholastic provides suggested activities for teaching Squids Will Be Squids by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. There is a link on the page to similar resources for The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.
Lane Smith's website offers a brief biography and bibliography, as well as sketches, videos, and games related to his work.
Born on March 25, 1964, Kate DiCamillo is the award-winning author of Because of Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, her first novel, was a 2001 Newbery Honor book and was released on film in 2005. Her novel The Tale of Despereaux won the Newbery Medal in 2004 and Flora & Ulysses won the Newbery Medal in 2014. Additional works include The Tiger Rising, Mercy Watson to the Rescue, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
DiCamillo often writes about animals, such as the title characters in Mercy Watson to the Rescue, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and The Tiger Rising. Have your students examine the characters in these stories, looking for character traits, examples of personification, and similarities and differences. Then challenge students to write original short stories featuring animals as central characters.
- Have students visit the interactive Plot Diagram to plan their stories.
- Then have students visit the interactive Story Mapping tool and select the character map option to develop their stories' central characters.
- Ask students to print out their plot diagrams and character maps and use them to write their stories. When students have finished writing, have them share their work by reading their stories aloud or posting them in the classroom.
Kidsreads offers this brief biography of Kate DiCamillo. An author interview and links to book information are also included.
DiCamillo's website provides book and author information, upcoming public appearance dates, and more.
Scholastic offers this biography of DiCamillo, as well as links to an annotated book list and an interview transcript.
This resource from Reading Rockets highlights DiCamillo talking about her well-known texts as well as sharing about her early rejections.
Ezra Jack Keats wrote and illustrated more than 85 children's books. His beautifully written and illustrated story, The Snowy Day, won a Caldecott medal in 1963. Peter, an African American child who is the hero of The Snowy Day, is the main character of seven other books by Keats.
Although Ezra Jack Keats had no formal training in art, his illustrations won many awards. As you read his books to your class, point out that his illustrations are a combination of painting and collage. In celebration of his birthday, invite your students to be authors and illustrators. Have them write their own stories that include some characters from Keats' books. The stories can be done individually or in groups. Ask students to bring in scraps of materials to create their collages.
Have students practice using collage techniques with the Collage Machine at the National Gallery of Art. Step through the pictures available in the tool to show the options for adding images to collages that go beyond color blocks. Look at the ways to manipulate the images (reducing or enlarging their size, flipping and layering images and so on) in order to demonstrate options students can explore in original collages.
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation provides this resource, perfect for an author study on Keats. Students of all ages will enjoy reading his biography with photographs and hyperlinks. The page on tips and resources offers suggestions on using Keats' books to enhance literacy.
This online exhibit is provided by the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. Visitors will find proofs for 37 books written and/or illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, his personal papers, fan mail, and more! There is a link to Keats Across the Curriculum which includes activities and Internet resources for many of his books.
The Snowy Day is possibly one of Keats' best-known and beloved stories. This Teaching Heart webpage is filled with suggestions for teaching this children's literature classic.
Introduce a snowy day center with a three-step project.
TeenTober is a nationwide celebration hosted by libraries every October and aims to celebrate teens, promote year-round teen services and the innovative ways teen services helps teens learn new skills, and fuel their passions in and outside the library. TeenTober allows libraries the flexibility to choose what to celebrate (digital literacy, reading, technology, writing, etc) and the length of time for each celebration.
Celebrate this year's TeenTober by encouraging your middle or high school students to:
- Join a book discussion group at their school or public library.
- Read biographies of their favorite musicians, comedians, politicians, or sports figures.
- Read books about a hobby that interests them.
- Read books that approach a subject through humor.
- Read what they want to read, just for the fun of it.
The official website for TeenTober includes information on getting ready, registering, and celebrating the month-long event with young adults.
Have students check out the Young Adults' Choices list, a collection of books selected by teams of teenage reviewers.
Learn about more books for teens through this ReadWriteThink.org podcast series. Review past episodes and subscribe so that you don't miss future ones.
This blog includes information about books for young adults, including reviews and links to podcasts.
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.
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.
President Woodrow Wilson signed the law that proclaimed June 14 each year to be celebrated as the national holiday of Flag Day. Every year since 1916, this day has been a day of patriotic celebration.
Share with your students the songs from Patriotic Melodies from the Performing Arts Encyclopedia of the Library of Congress. Ask your students to consider how America, Americans, and the flag are represented in the various songs and to hypothesize about the reasons for the differences that they notice. With 27 songs to choose from, each student can work on a separate song or small groups can tackle several songs. The songs range from well-known tunes such as "When Johnny Came Marching Home" and "You're a Grand Old Flag" to more obscure songs like the "Library of Congress March."
This Library of Congress site includes historical background, photos, and artwork that explain how the flag and Flag Day came into being. Have students write their own stories about their personal interaction with the flag, or have them interview members of their family or community and write their stories.
The American Flag Foundation encourages all Americans to "pause for the pledge" at 7:00 p.m. on Flag Day. This site includes information on the program and a collection of educational resources including flag Q&A, flag etiquette and retiring, and information on the Pledge.
This site provides historical information about the U.S. flag, as well as images of each of the official versions of the flag throughout America's history. The site also features a variety of patriotic writings, including poems, essays, letters, and songs.
From the Verizon Literacy Network, this interactive activity includes 25 hidden flags for users to find, along with an interesting fact about the flag at each location.