In 1804, at the request of Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out from St. Louis with their 33-member team to explore the American West. By mid-November of 1805, guided and aided much of the way by a young Shoshone woman named Sacagawea, they arrived at the Pacific Ocean. Their accounts, describing the American Indians they met, the wildlife they saw, and the physical environment they withstood, paved the way for the great western expansion.
Think for a moment about how descriptive Lewis and Clark needed to be in their writings for an audience back East who had never seen, or imagined, what they were seeing. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice descriptive writing with your students.
Depending upon your school's technology, you can have students look at Kenneth Holder's paintings of various scenes from the Lewis and Clark trail, available here. If this is not possible, print out landscape scenes-or slides from your own vacation-that are vivid in their details. Then, ask students to write words and phrases that describe what they see, what they imagine they might hear, etc. Remind them that they are writing for an audience that has never seen these pictures before. Ask students to transform their notes into a descriptive paragraph as if they were a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Last, ask students to return to a piece that they have already written this year and revise it by adding more sensory words and phrases.
This portion of the PBS website dedicated to the Lewis and Clark expedition is an interactive story where portions of the journey are recounted and students are expected to make a choice about what Lewis and Clark should do next.
This is a short, easy-to-read article on York, William Clark's slave, who played a vital, but underappreciated, role on the expedition.
This National Geographic site tries to uncover some of the mystery surrounding this teenage Shoshone woman who acted as an interpreter and guide for the expedition.
This site, dedicated to Lewis and Clark, includes an interactive journey log, timeline, games, and information about supplies used and discoveries made by the Corps of Discovery.
Sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, Digital Learning Day has since 2012 encouraged teachers to share and celebrate effective teaching and learning that showcases innovation in the use of digital instructional technology. Though Digital Learning Day does promote the effective use of contemporary tools and technologies, it is truly a day to reflect on the enhanced or transformed learning those tools support.
Ask students to reflect on something they recently learned how to do. After a few minutes to write or talk with a partner, have students share what they learned as you record their topics for everyone to see. Then lead a discussion around the role digital tools played in the different learning students shared.
How many of the examples were about learning to use a new digital tool?
How many examples featured students using a digital technology to facilitate or support their learning?
Which examples can students imagine doing differently with the support of a digital tool?
Then have students reflect on the varied ways digital learning plays a part in their everyday lives.
This page houses a collection of social media celebrations of last year’s Digital Learning Day.
Find inspiration from a lesson plan from the Alliance for Excellent Education, arranged into themes such as language arts, STEM, and digital citizenship.
This collection of ReadWriteThink resources offer additional inspiration for considering the role digital technology can play in student learning.
Need help defining 21st Century literacies or the implications for classroom practice? This collection of NCTE documents can help.
Since 1978, the month of May has been a time to honor the heritage of Asian and Pacific Americans and their contributions to the United States. Originally a week-long Asian American Heritage Week, the celebration now lasts through the entire month.
Ask students to consider the portrayal of Asians in popular culture by focusing on characters in films and movies. Have students explore images from classic and contemporary films and then compare these images to the historical and cultural reference materials.
- Visit Asian Images in Film, from Turner Classic Movies, with the class and analyze still images and movie trailers on the site to identify how and when Asians are included in Hollywood films.
- Have students consider the shortcomings of Hollywood portrayals, after viewing the Asians in Hollywood, Stereotyping of Asians, or Anglos Playing Asians videos on the site.
- Ask students to find historical and cultural reference materials covering topics similar to those in the film clips. Have students compare the film portrayals to the information that they find in other texts.
This Library of Congress site features resources on Asian Pacific American history and culture, including links to biographies in the Veterans History Project, contemporary Japanese paintings, and resources for teachers.
The Smithsonian Education site includes materials on ethnic heritage, world music, history, and the arts. Visitors can learn about Hawaiian Lu'aus, Chinese immigrants' participation in the American Gold Rush, and the art of Buddhism. Educational materials and lesson plans are also provided.
This article from the Asia Society explores the history of Asian Americans and their role in shaping the country.
Find great books written about a wide range of Asian and Pacific American cultural experiences for children and adolescents.
Watch online interviews with Asian American children's book authors.
These resources below will help you explore the contributions of Asian Pacific Americans with students and ask them to think critically about how the roles and culture of Asians and Pacific Islanders have been presented in literature and popular culture.
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?"
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.
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.
In a world full of junk mail and an endless array of catalogs, students may not think much about where it all started—in Chicago, Illinois in 1872, when entrepreneur Montgomery Ward mailed a one-page catalog to rural shoppers.
Explore how mail-order catalogs have changed over the years. Most libraries will have reproductions of a Ward or a Sears and Roebuck catalog. Alternately, access the linked images from the entry on Ward from the Engines of Our Ingenuity website or the online images from an 1875 Montgomery Ward catalog available on Flickr (with login). Ask students to consider how and why catalogs have changed over the years. After discussing the obvious differences, such as the use of color in modern catalogs and the differences in paper quality, focus students' attentions on the layout and style of the catalogs. As an extension, ask students to compare their findings about printed catalogs with online catalogs.
Read an article published in Fortune magazine in 1935 on Ward's mail-order catalog business during the Depression. The article includes photos of the office workers who processed the orders for the company.
This article from the American National Business Hall of Fame puts Montgomery Ward's accomplishments in historical context.
This page, part of the PBS site Chicago: City of the Century, offers a brief look at Montgomery Ward's efforts to preserve Chicago's lakefront area. The site also offers information about Ward's early mail-order business in the context of Chicago's history.
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?
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.
Get Caught Reading is a nationwide public service campaign launched by the Association of American Publishers to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read. May is officially Get Caught Reading month, but the celebration lasts throughout the year. Get Caught Reading is supported by hundreds of celebrities, including LL Cool J, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, and the newest addition, Olivia the Pig.
Celebrate Get Caught Reading Month with a reading-related service project. Try one of these activities with your students:
- Plan an intergenerational reading day. Invite seniors to visit your school, or arrange a trip for your students to a local senior center. Have students select books to read to adults, and invite adults to share a favorite story with students. Extend an ongoing invitation to guest readers, perhaps on a monthly basis.
- Organize a book drive to collect new or nearly new books to supplement your classroom or school library, or to donate to families or a local children's hospital.
Be sure to have a camera on hand to "catch your students reading" on film throughout the month. You can also have students organize a community "Get Caught Reading" campaign by taking photos of members of their families and community figures (firefighters, grocers, local police officers, etc.) caught reading, and creating a school display.
The Get Caught Reading website offers resources for teachers, librarians, and kids. Look for literacy fact sheets, artwork, and information on getting involved.
The Northwest Territories Literacy Council offers this reproducible guide to Get Caught Reading. Included are ideas for promoting this and other literacy programs, as well as reproducible bookmarks and posters.
Reading Connects offers this page, filled with suggestions for promoting reading at school.
KidsReads.com helps kids select books that appeal to them by offering kid-friendly reviews and information about children's books and authors. The information is searchable by author, series, and special features. The companion site Teenreads.com focuses on young adult literature.
Prior to Google, Web search engines ranked search results according to the number of times a key word appeared on a page. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized the Internet search process by ranking pages based on the number of other pages to which they are linked. Since incorporating in 1998, Google has grown in popularity as a preferred Internet search engine and information application provider. In 2006, the verb "google" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Working with your librarian/school media specialist, engage students in an overview of developments in information/reference search technology. Guide students in an exploration of the following search tools (or others that provide a similar sense of contrast and development):
- card catalog
- Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature
- library Web site
- Google or other search engines
After students have had a chance to become familiar with the different search technologies, lead a discussion about the purposes, benefits, and disadvantages of each.
Encourage students to think beyond the notion that the newest technology is always the best. Remind them, for example, that information they find through an online search may not have the same credibility as something they might have found through the library card catalog. Or point out that while an online search engine may offer faster, more refined results, it may be keeping track of what you searched for without your full knowledge or permission.
Part of Google's official site, this timeline covers the company's lifespan from 1995 to the present, including thorough links to more recent developments in Google services. The timeline also lists the April Fool's Day jokes for which Google has become famous.
This frequently-updated blog includes information about new developments at Google, as well as innovative ways to use Google tools for work or leisure activities. Here you can also find links to other blogs about web technologies and blogs written by Google staff.
Offering an extensive history of search engines, this site puts Google in perspective as one of the industry leaders in the market. The site also includes an extensive list of links for further reading and exploration on the topic.
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.