July 17
9 - 12
Author & Text

Jack Kerouac published his most famous novel, On the Road, in 1957, but his depiction of the iconic road trip was actually inspired by two real-life trips Kerouac took ten years before, in 1947 and 1949. This influential novel, with its spontaneous and unconventional writing style and its focus on drugs and disillusionment, helped to define the Beat Generation, a social and literary movement of the 1950s that also included William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.

For high school students, begin a discussion by asking:

  • If you could travel anywhere in the United States by car, where would you want to go and why?
  • Who would be the one person that you would most want to take with you on the trip and why?
  • What difficulties would you expect to have on your trip?

Afterward, read a section from On the Road that deals with the aspects of cross-country travel and that reflects Kerouac's unique writing style. An appropriate excerpt from the novel can be found at this Literary Kicks site.

Lead students in a discussion with the aim of characterizing Kerouac's style. Then ask students to attempt to emulate his stream-of-consciousness style with their own written narrative in which they blend their road trip from the opening discussion with details from vacations and trips they have taken in the past.

On the Road author Jack Kerouac embarked on his first cross-country road trip in 1947.

Stories, anecdotes, interviews and audio about Jack Kerouac and his writing.

This American Museum of Beat Art site dedicated to Kerouac incoludes a biography, bibliography, and links, including one to Dharma Beat, a Kerouac newszine. This site is part of a larger archive and collection of works pertaining to the Beat Generation.

Time Magazine's original review of On the Road will give students a sense of how the book was received when it was first published in 1957. Time chose Kerouac's book as one of the 100 most important modern novels written in English.

When students try to model their own narratives using Kerouac's style, this University of Pennsylvania site will help identify the components of his style, form, and process.

July 10
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1925, from July 10 to July 21, John Scopes was on trial for teaching the idea of evolution in his public school classroom in Dayton, Tennessee. The court case, dubbed the "Trial of the Century," featured two of the most famous attorneys in the United States-Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.

The Scopes Trial focused on the evolution of mammals, but the word evolution can refer to other objects and processes, such as tools, computers, and automobiles. Have your students brainstorm a list of objects and processes that have changed over time. Then, individually or in small groups, invite students to choose and focus on one item from the list. Allow them to use the interactive Timeline tool to sketch out the changes, or evolution, of the items that they have chosen. View more tips to learn more about the tool. After considering the changes that have occurred for the items, have students examine the significance of the changes. In their opinions, have the changes affected the world for the better or for worse? Students can then share their information and opinions with the whole class.

Conclude the project by posting all of the timelines on your classroom wall, creating a giant timeline of the evolution of the items your students have investigated. Invite students to look for patterns as well as to connect the timelines to historical events that occurred during the same time period. For a more structured activity, try the resources in the ReadWriteThink lesson Timelines and Texts: Motivating Students to Read Nonfiction.

The Scopes Trial began today in 1925.

This website, developed by PBS, features detailed information about the Scopes, or “Monkey” Trial, including images from the famous courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee.

Part of the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law collection Famous Trials in American History, this site highlights documents related to the Scopes Trial.

This article, featured in the National Geographic Magazine, tells about life in Dayton, Tennessee 75 years after the Scopes Trial took place there.

This NPR resource offers a timeline of events surrounding the Scopes trial, as well as audio of an All Things Considered feature on the subject.

November 01
K - 12
Literacy-Related Event

National Family Literacy Day®, celebrated across the U.S., focuses on special activities and events that showcase the importance of family literacy programs. First held in 1994, the annual event is officially celebrated on November 1st, but many events are held throughout the month of November. Schools, libraries, and other literacy organizations participate through read-a-thons, celebrity appearances, book drives, and more

Kick off National Family Literacy Day by inviting parents, grandparents, and other family members to your classroom for a family-school reading day.

  • Invite students' family members to read a favorite story from their childhood, or their child's favorite bedtime story. (Grandparents can share both their child's and their grandchild's favorites!)
  • Provide a collection of books for families to share during a group reading session. Invite families to get comfortable by bringing a cushion, beanbag chair, or pillow.
  • Introduce families to some of the games & tools provided by ReadWriteThink. Encourage them to use these engaging tools at home to enhance their reading and writing experiences.
  • Provide each family with a certificate of participation or a bookmark at the end of the event. Ask a local bookstore for a donation, or print certificates and bookmarks from your computer.
  • At the close of your event, be sure to remind parents about other National Family Literacy Day events in your community.

Remember that family literacy is something that should be encouraged all year round. Invite students and their families to brainstorm ways they can keep their family engaged in reading on a regular basis!

Celebrate National Family Literacy Day!

NCFL provides support and strategies to a network of entities involved in advancing education and families learning together, including educators, schools, community based organizations, and libraries. Our efforts support learners of all ages in these environments in concert with our advocates and partners.

Reading Rockets offers resources for family literacy bags that students can take home to share with their families.

The International Literacy Association offers a series of brochures with literacy tips intended for parents. Some of the topics covered include reading with young children, watching television together, surfing the Web, the importance of nutrition, and more. Brochures are available for download in both English and Spanish.

Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.

December 01
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

On her bus ride home from work on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks sat in the first row of the "colored section." The bus was crowded, and when asked to give up her seat for a white person, she refused and was arrested.

Parks died on October 24, 2005 at her home in Detroit.

Rosa Parks clearly broke the law when she refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. As educators, we teach citizenship to students. Laws are made to benefit society and should be followed by all. In the case of Parks, your students will likely agree that the law was unjust and her actions were justified.

Ask your students to make believe that the year is 1955 and they just heard about the arrest of Parks. Invite them to write newspaper editorials explaining their points of view about the current segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama.

Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

Students can visit the Scholastic website to find interesting and easy-to-read information about Rosa Parks, including an interview with her.


Read an interview with Rosa Parks courtesy of the Academy of Achievement.


Tolerance.org offers educators a free curriculum kit for the classroom that revisits this familiar historical event. The kit includes a teaching guide, with classroom activities tied to the story of Rosa Parks.


October 08
5 - 12
Author & Text

Faith Ringgold began her career as a painter, and is best known for her painted story quilts, which combine painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling. Her first book Tar Beach earned a Caldecott Honor Award, as well as the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. Ringgold has written and illustrated 11 children's books, addressing issues of race, African American history, and civil rights.


Use Ringgold's books as a springboard for a discussion of race, gender, and civil rights-both current and historical. Then invite your students to write and illustrate original picture books based on these issues.

  • First, have students brainstorm, select, and research a specific event or topic, such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speech or the Underground Railroad.

  • Then have students plan and write an illustrated story using the interactive Flip Book. The Flip Book allows students to create up to 10 pages and provides text, drawing, and background editing tools. See the Flip Book page for more information about this tool.

When their books are complete, students can be invited to take turns reading them to the class.


Faith Ringgold was born on October 8, 1930.

Faith Ringgold's homepage provides an author biography, a questionnaire about race, an author interview, and other related resources.


This resource from Scholastic provides a biography of Ringgold, as well as a link to a booklist.


This resource focuses on Ringgold's work as it relates to racism and gender inequality.


Random House provides this teacher's guide for Tar Beach, which includes book and author information as well as teaching ideas.


PBS offers information about Ringgold's painted story quilts.


September 29
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In June 1829, the British Parliament established Greater London's Metropolitan Police, popularly known as "bobbies." Scotland Yard, the site of their first headquarters, opened on September 29, 1829, and eventually became the official name of the force.

Visit Scotland Yard's Crime Prevention Page and check out pages with advice on such topics as driving, mobile phones, and personal safety. Explore the resources on the Scotland Yard site and ask students to compare the advice given to London's citizens to the advice and tips available from your local police department. Ask students to hypothesize the reasons for the differences that they see-are the differences due to the different laws in the different countries, or something else?

After learning about Scotland Yard, encourage students to read fiction, such as the books listed in the text section below, in which Scotland Yard is featured. Students can use the interactive Mystery Cube to analyze the mystery book they read or to plan their own mystery story. More tips are available for the Mystery Cube.

Scotland Yard was established this day in 1829.

In the history section of the Scotland Yard site, students can read about the establishment of one of the world's most well-known police departments.

This collection of stories from Scotland Yard includes details on famous cases. Be sure to review the collection to find stories that are appropriate for your students.

Part of the Crime, Punishment and Protest through Time collection, this question-and-answer style site provides details on such topics as why citizens originally opposed the founding of Scotland Yard.

October 25
5 - 10
Historical Figure & Event

Pablo Picasso, a dominant figure in 20th-century Western art, was born on October 25, 1881, in Malaga, Spain. In painting and sculpting, he was one of the creators and popularizers of the Cubist style. Though Picasso was not typically considered "political," one of his most celebrated works, Guernica, memorializes the destruction of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. He died on April 8, 1973.


For high school students, select a Picasso Cubist portrait from one of the Websites. If you have a projector, you can project the image from the website onto a screen. If not, you can make a color copy of the portrait or arrange for your class to visit the computer lab.

Give students about one minute to view the piece, then ask them to write their impressions and share them with a partner. Next, show students a Picasso portrait that does not employ the Cubist style (most of his work prior to 1905) and ask them to describe the person's face and body. Then, share with students the main concept of Cubism, which is to capture the essence of a subject by showing its multiple perspectives all at the same time. Show students another Picasso Cubist portrait and ask them to describe the person in the portrait this time. Is this person recognizable? What perspectives are shown? After this discussion, students can have fun creating their own Picasso-style art using the interactive Picassohead.


Artist Pablo Picasso was born on this day in 1881.

This website is a virtual one-stop shop for everything related to Picasso. The site not only contains biographical information about Picasso, but also offers thousands of full-color images of his work.


This website, developed by Maryland Public Television, highlights several Picasso paintings and provides analyses of his works. The section called Vantage Point offers materials for using Picasso to enrich mathematics, social studies, and language arts curricula.


This page features the text of the 1973 New York Time article announcing the death of Picasso. Students can compare the 1973 perspective of the painter and his work with the modern perspective.


The Guggenheim Museum provides examples of Cubist art from its collection, including some of Picasso's works. Also included is a definition of Cubism.


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.

August 15
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Connecting the United States from east to west, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in Strasburg (formerly Comanche), Colorado on August 15, 1870. In spite of this fact, the Golden Spike Ceremony celebrating the railroad's completion took place months earlier in a different location: May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah.


There are many misconceptions surrounding the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Golden Spike Ceremony that took place on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah was actually arranged at the last minute. Because there were so many people in the area, photographers were unable to get a picture of the event and journalists had difficulty seeing what was happening.

Access the National Park Service website and take a look at the webpage Golden Spike. With your students, explore all the differing accounts of what happened as the railroad neared completion. Discuss the reasons people need and want ceremonies, and why ceremonies, such as the driving of the Golden Spike, may not always match the events that they are intended to celebrate.


In 1870, the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad was completed.

Companion to the PBS series The West, this website includes details on the Transcontinental Railroad in the context of other important events related to America's expansion to the west.


A Brief History of Building the Transcontinental Railroad


Part of the PBS American Experience site, this collection offers numerous resources related to the railroad, including interactive maps, a timeline, a teacher's guide, and much more.


One of the "Treasures of Congress," this collection of primary documents tracks the various stages of completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.


February 09
8 - 12
Author & Text

Matt de la Peña is known for his young adult novels such as Ball Don't Lie and We Were Here that depict teens whose lives are shaped by the stresses of poverty and neglect.  He also collaborated on A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, a book for younger readers illustrated by Kadir Nelson. "Last Stop on Market Street," written by Matt de la Peña, is the 2016 Newbery Medal winner.

Share with students de la Peña’s essay Sometimes The 'Tough Teen' Is Quietly Writing Stories.  Have students read and discuss the essay in groups, focusing on questions such as

  • What attitudes toward literacy (reading and writing) does de la Peña convey?
  • What stories does he tell to get these points across?
  • How does he craft or structure the stories to make them both interesting and effective in communicating the points?

Then invite students to write a literacy narrative of their own, selecting a few key stories to shape into an essay that conveys a point they wish to make about reading and/or writing in their own lives.

Author Matt de la Peña was born today.

Matt de la Peña’s official site offers biographical information and news about his books and upcoming projects.

In this video interview hosted by the Library of Congress, de la Peña discusses his efforts to represent aspects of the Mexican-American experience to readers.

This article from The New York Times reports on the removal of de la Peña’s books from classrooms in Tucson schools.

Covering some of the same material as the essay in the classroom activity, this interview also addresses his then-newest title, The Living.