November 26
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

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?"

The United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day today.

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.

April 07
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

One of jazz's most influential singers, Billie Holiday was born in 1915 in Philadelphia. "Lady Day," as she was later to be known, sang with such intensity and emotion that she made every song her own, whether she wrote it or not. Unfortunately, the blues she sang of were also her reality–she was a terribly unhappy and insecure person and died prematurely in 1959 due to a life of drug and alcohol abuse.

Holiday's most popular and influential song is probably her 1939 recording of Strange Fruit, a haunting depiction of the lynchings of African Americans that were occurring throughout the Jim Crow American South. The link allows you to read the lyrics and also listen to part of Holiday's rendition of the song. Because of the subject matter and the vividness of the song's images, this activity should be reserved for high school or mature middle school students.

The song is a perfect text to use to teach tone. Before explaining the context of the song, have students read the lyrics or listen to the song and identify the most powerful or descriptive images.

Next, share some facts about the lynchings in the South during this period, such as, "Between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 lynchings of African Americans occurred in the U.S." Ask students to try to determine Holiday's attitude toward this issue, which you can then define as the tone of the song. Have students compare the tone of Holiday's song to that of Langston Hughes' poem on the same topic, Song for a Dark Girl. Then apply the concept of tone to another piece you are currently reading.

Jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday was born in 1915.

This comprehensive site on Billie Holiday includes a biography, photos, quotes, and more.


This page provides links to a variety of artist showcases. Audio and video files are provided along with biographical and historical information.


These pages from the Library of Congress' America's Story site offer information and images. See also the Library's additional Billie Holiday information, on its American Memory pages.


As part of its Independent Lens series, PBS presents the role that protest music has played in American history. The site contains protest music from the days of slavery to the present protests against the war in Iraq.


May 31
5 - 12
Author & Text

"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.
Time Magazine launches its "Tom Swifty" contest today in 1963.

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.

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.

July 21
9 - 12
Author & Text

At 17, Ernest Hemingway began his literary career as a newspaper writer. In 1926, his first major work, The Sun Also Rises, was published. This novel, as well as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, were based on his experiences in World War I and the Spanish Civil War. Considered to be one of his best works, The Old Man and the Sea was published in 1952, two years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Have your students examine the ways different authors treat the subject of war in their writing.

  • Have your students read For Whom the Bell Tolls or A Farewell to Arms, as well as a war novel by another author. Some choices include Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, or Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels.
  • Then ask individual or small groups of students to compare and contrast the way the two authors have depicted war in their novels, using the Interactive Venn Diagram. Students should examine ways the authors use figurative language, characterization, point of view, and other plot elements to tell the story.
  • Finally, have students share their Venn diagrams as a whole group.

You may wish to use this activity as a term project and have students use their research to write comparative essays on the two chosen novels. Have them use the Compare & Contrast Map to plan their work.

Novelist Ernest Hemingway was born on this day in 1899.

PBS offers this collection of Hemingway resources. There are virtual tours, images, and information about key locations in his life, including Spain, Africa, Key West, Cuba, and more.

This page features information about Hemingway's Nobel Prize. Included are links to a biography, his presentation speech with an audio clip, a critical article, and other information.

The website of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation includes a variety of resources on the author.

The National Portrait Gallery offers this exhibition of images and information from Hemingway's life. The site includes sections on Hemingway's beginnings in Paris, as well as the middle and final years of his literary career.

January 25
7 - 12
Author & Text

Considered Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns was born to poor tenant farmers in 1759. The author of "Auld Lang Syne," Burns became famous after he published his first volume of poetry, written in the Ayrshire dialect of Lowland Scots. When he died at age 37, 10,000 people turned out for the funeral of their beloved "Rabbie" Burns. Every year on this day, many Scots celebrate his honor with a ritual dinner of haggis and scotch whisky.

In addition to being a poet, Robert Burns collected traditional Scottish ballads. To celebrate his birthday, introduce students to the ballad form. Share elements of the ballad with students. Ballads are a part of oral tradition. They celebrate a desirable attribute, tell a story, or herald a significant event, and they often contain a refrain. The metrical and rhyming structure of ballads can take many forms. Here is one type of ballad stanza, which follows a strict formula:

The second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme.
Line one has 8 beats
Line two has 6 beats
Line three has 8 beats

Read some examples of traditional Scottish ballads to familiarize yourself with their basic characteristics.

Next, have students brainstorm two lists: one should include qualities they admire in people they know, and the other should contain significant events that have happened recently. Have students choose one item from either list as a subject for a ballad. A good way to start is for students to try writing the refrain first and then try writing a stanza, adhering to the formula above. You may want to have students read-or perform-their ballads aloud.

Poet Robert Burns was born in 1759.

Getting ready for your own Burns Night celebration? This BBC website includes biographical background material, poetry text, and audio (useful to demonstrate accurate pronunciation of Scots). Even more importantly, the site includes step-by-step details on hosting a traditional Robert Burns supper, including links to recipes for haggis, the traditional Scottish dish made from sheep stomachs, lamb livers, and oatmeal.

This website offers information about the National Trust for Scotland site established at Burns' Scottish birthplace.

This webpage offers a biography of Burns and links to a selection of his poetry.

April 11
5 - 12
Author & Text

Known for such realistic fiction such as Out of My Mind, historical fiction such as Copper Sun, as well as adaptations such as Romiette and Julio, author and educator Sharon Draper has won multiple Coretta Scott King Awards for her work.  She is the 2011 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to the field of adolescent literature by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English (ALAN), the 2015 recipient of the Edwards Award for her significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature, and NCTE's 2016 Charlotte Huck Award.

Among Sharon Draper’s most popular books are the Hazelwood Trilogy (Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, Darkness before Dawn) and the Jericho Trilogy (The Battle of Jericho, November Blues, Just Another Hero). Obtain copies of the books and preview each title on a classroom projector (each page contains an overview and summary; some contain audio previews as well).

Give students time to choose a book and then form literature circles around each title.  After individual book groups have finished, form new groups that bring the books from each trilogy together to discuss how the books relate to an build on one another.

Sharon Draper was born on this day in 1952.

Draper’s official site contains rich resources on each of her books as well as specific resources for students, teachers, and librarians.

Among a variety of resources on Sharon Draper and her work is a collection of video interviews discussing specific works and teaching and writing more broadly.

This site offers biographical information and profiles of many of Draper’s works.

A conversation with Sharon Draper around #WhyIWrite.

This blog post from YALSA's The Hub recognizes Draper's contributions to the field and shares some student testimonials about favorite titles.

October 23
9 - 12
Author & Text

Laurie Halse Anderson, the New York Times-bestselling author who is known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, was born on this day in 1961.  Her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”.

In the novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, the main character lists "the first ten lies they tell you in high school":

1. We are here to help you.
2. You will have time to get to your class before the bell rings.
3. The dress code will be enforced.
4. No smoking is allowed on school grounds.
5. Our football team will win the championship this year.
6. We expect more of you here.
7. Guidance counselors are always available to listen.
8. Your schedule was created with you in mind.
9. Your locker combination is private.
10. These will be the years you look back on fondly.

Discuss with the students if some of these "lies" were similar to the ones they have heard, as well as how they are different.  Then, ask students to brainstorm their own personal list of "ten lies they tell you in high school," complete with the truth, or their views on the truth.

Have students share, as a class, the "lies" they have been told in high school and how they've learned differently.  Consider publishing a handmade classroom book with the lists of ten lies created by each student, and using it as a "guide to high school" for future students.

Author Laurie Halse Anderson was born today.

Laurie Halse Anderson's  site has information on her life, books, and censorship, among other resources.


This site contains biographical information and an interview with the author.


Anderson's playful side emerges when she looks at real history and women who played a role in it.

April 21
1 - 6
Author & Text

Barbara Park was the author of over two dozen Junie B. Jones books, as well as several stories for older readers including My Mother Got Married and Other Disasters, Skinnybones, and Mick Harte Was Here. Park's books have earned a number of awards, including many children's choice and parents' choice award lists. Titles in the Junie B. Jones series continue to appear on bestseller lists.

Have your students write their own "Junie B." stories after brainstorming issues they've experienced during the school year.

  • First have the group make a list of the Junie B. adventures in the books they've read (e.g., cheating, school play, losing a tooth).

  • Then ask students to brainstorm a second list of ideas that would make interesting stories.

  • Students can work alone or in pairs to write their stories, using one of the ideas from the class list. Have students use the interactive story map to plan their writing.

  • After all stories have been completed, have each student or pair share their story with the class.

Have students turn their stories into books, with illustrations, and then work with your school or community librarian to create a library display of all the new stories.

Barbara Park, author of the Junie B. Jones series, was born on this day.

A website for kids, including a bibliography of Junie B. books, interactive and printable activities, as well as information about Park's books for older children.


This Random House resource provides summaries and teacher's guides for all of the Junie B. Jones books. Links are provided to other book series resources as well.


This resource contains a brief biography of Park as well as some notes and a list of some of her Junie B. Jones books.


This site provides links to resources about Barbara Park, including an interview in which she describes her experiences in writing the books.


December 02
9 - 12
Author & Text

Born in England, Macaulay came to the U.S. as a child. He received his B.A. in architecture in 1969 and has since worked as an illustrator, graphic designer, and author. Macaulay is well known for his books on architectural structures, which feature a unique genre blend of fact and fiction. He has earned a number of awards for his work, including the Caldecott Medal (for Black and White) and Honor Awards (for Castle and Cathedral).


Invite your students to explore Macaulay's use of multiple genres by composing original multigenre texts using the interactive Multigenre Mapper. This tool invites students to create original works that include one drawing and three texts.

  • First, select a topic for students' multigenre texts. You might choose a subject you are currently studying in science or social studies or let students choose their own topics.

  • Next, ask students to brainstorm a set of subtopics and possible writing genres (for example, poetry, recipes, fables, journal entries, or news articles) that could be used to share the subtopics with readers in an engaging way.

  • Have students use the Multigenre Mapper Planning Sheet to write rough drafts of their texts.

  • Finally, have students visit the interactive Multigenre Mapper to compose their texts online.

Have students print and share their final texts, explaining how they blended different genres to create their final products. Create a display or index of the texts so that other students in the school can enjoy them. Include some of Macaulay's texts to tie the project together.


David Macaulay was born in 1946.

David Macaulay's site at Houghton Mifflin offers information about Macaulay and his books. Highlights include a video of Macaulay at work, animated demonstrations and slide shows of parts of his books, and the text of some of his speeches and interviews.


This workshop from the "Write in the Middle" program focuses on multigenre writing and includes a related reading from the NCTE journal Language Arts.


PBS offers this companion site to their series Building Big, hosted by David Macaulay. The site offers an Educator's Guide to the series, as well as several interactive features.