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.

September 01
K - 6
Holiday & School Celebration

A library card is a passport. It permits its owner to travel to other places and times through the pages of a book. Membership in the community of the public library places thousands of resources at students' fingertips. Celebrate National Library Card Month with a trip to the library to explore all the many resources available!

Invite a librarian from your school or a nearby public library to visit your classroom to bring applications and talk to the students about the advantages of having a library card. In completing the applications, students will learn not only how to fill out forms but also how to go through the process of directions.

Once the applications are completed and students have their library cards, it's time to explore the library itself. Schedule a library tour to acquaint students with the general features and resources available; then, invite your students to reflect on what they've found and how they might use the resources in the future. Return to these notes later in the year, expanding on ongoing experiences in the library.

Library Card Sign-up Month begins today.

Explore the public library that is home to lion cubs Lionel and Leona and their parents, Cleo and Theo, at this PBS Kids companion site.

This website, from the Library of Congress, offers a wealth of information about life, history, government, and culture in the United States. The online resources are searchable, or visitors can use the site map and index tools to locate information.

From the National Archives, this site links to ten Presidential libraries and two Presidential materials projects. The site includes Presidents George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.

This site promotes quality reading through book reviews, related games, author biographies and interviews, and more. Students can also learn how to set up a successful book club and find discussion guides for select books.

The American Library Association site for Library Card Sign-up Month has free promotional tools, including links to download slideshows, posters, bookmarks, and more.

December 28
3 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

In 1733, Benjamin Franklin, using the pseudonym Richard Saunders, began publishing Poor Richard's Almanack, which included agricultural predictions, charts of the moon's phases, and a series of proverbs, such as "haste makes waste." Franklin, acknowledged as one of America's Founding Fathers, especially for his role as a statesman, continued to publish his Almanack until 1758.

Share some of the following proverbs taken from Poor Richard's Almanack with your students:

  • There are no gains without pains.
  • At the working man's house, hunger looks in but dares not enter.
  • Industry pays debts while despair increases them.
  • Plough deep while sluggards sleep and you shall have corn to sell and to keep.
  • One today is worth two tomorrows.
  • Have you something to do tomorrow? Do it today.
  • Trouble springs from idleness and grievous toil from needless ease.
  • The noblest question in the world is: What good may I do in it?
  • Hear no ill of a friend, nor speak any of an enemy.
  • Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure when he is really selling himself a slave to it.

Ask students to give their impressions of the person who would write these statements. Then, have students choose one saying, paraphrase it, and explain why they agree or disagree with its message. As a final activity, ask students to write their own mottos for life. These mottos can be illustrated and displayed in the classroom or made into bumper stickers or t-shirts.

Poor Richard's Almanack was first published in 1733.

This site pairs Franklin's quotes with a "translation" into verse. The quotes are arranged by topic and can also be searched through an index.

 

Gettysburg College offers electronic access to pages from the original Almanack. Additional pages are also available.

 

This webpage developed by PBS is part of their Benjamin Franklin resource. It offers information about Franklin's satirical writing style and the humor found in Poor Richard's Almanack.

 

While devoted to science and technology rather than reading per se, this institution promotes discovery and ongoing inquiry-the cornerstones of an inquiry-based classroom. Included is a list of resources for studying Franklin.

 

December 21
K - 6
Holiday & School Celebration

The onset of winter weather varies from year to year and from place to place, but December 21, the winter solstice, is considered the first official day of winter. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year. The days get longer as winter progresses. In the Northern Hemisphere, it also marks the day when the sun is furthest to the south.

Winter has long been immortalized in art, poetry, and song. For many of us, winter makes us think of frolicking on snowy days and reading by the fire on cold nights-even if we live in a warm place where it never snows! Brainstorm with your students about the words and images that come to mind when they think of winter. How do these words and images compare to their own experiences with winter weather? Have students select and read a picture book about winter. How do the words and images in the book compare to the list they brainstormed and to their own experiences? Students can use the interactive Venn Diagram to make the comparison.

As students read, ask them to look for examples of winter activities that the characters do with their families or friends. Were there any winter traditions on the list students brainstormed? Challenge your students to celebrate what winter means to them by starting their own tradition on the first day of winter. Students can use the interactive Postcard Creator to write to family and friends, inviting them to participate in the new tradition.

It's Winter in the Northern Hemisphere!

This page from American Memory at the Library of Congress celebrates the winter solstice through images and anecdotes of winters past, drawn from American literature and folk history.

 

This National Geographic News article discusses the winter solstice and ancient celebrations associated with it.

 

Reading Rockets provides this annotated list of books about winter for children.

 

While snowy weather can be fun, severe winter storms can be dangerous. Scholastic offers this resource featuring information about winter storms, eyewitness accounts of winter storms, and associated vocabulary.

 

November 20
1 - 12
Author & Text

Children's favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein was published on this day in 1974. While Silverstein's rhymes may have been simple and catchy, his complex and thoughtful themes stick with his readers long after childhood. Silverstein was also a songwriter of such hits as "A Boy Named Sue" and "The Cover of The Rolling Stone."

Everyone remembers Shel Silverstein. Ask seniors in high school who their favorite poet is and half will give his name. This activity can begin for middle and high school students by asking them what they remember about Silverstein. For lower grade levels, introduce them to a short verse of his poetry like the one below, and ask them for their general impressions: If you had a giraffe . . . and he stretched another half . . . you would have a giraffe and a half . . . One quality of Silverstein's work is that even though it is often fantastical, it tends to be quite visual. Ask students to draw what they imagine when they read such lines as "If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire" or "Some whatifs crawled inside my ear."

After students have presented their drawings, ask them to write a line or two of their own that continues the passage and matches the flow and style of Silverstein's work. Then have students paraphrase the author's purpose in writing the poem. This is where they will find that though the words of a Silverstein poem are easy enough, the ideas are often difficult to communicate.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein was published in 1974.

This entry from the Academy of American Poets includes a biography, bibliography, and samples of Silverstein's poetry.

This site includes resources related to Silverstein's poetry for parents and teachers, as well as an area "For Kids Only!"

This site includes an easy-to-read biography of the author and analysis of his work.

HarperCollins, publisher of Silverstein's books, offers a guide to using Silverstein's poetry in the classroom. The guide includes printable sheets for students.

August 18
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

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.

 

Montgomery Ward published the first mail-order catalog in 1872.

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.

 

July 11
K - 5
Author & Text

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.

 

Author E.B. White was born on this day in 1899.

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.

 

November 11
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Today, the United States honors those soldiers who have fought for their country in military service. Across America, ceremonies are held to commemorate the efforts of our armed forces past and present, and to remind us of both the strength and the compassion of our country.

Have students write biographical poems about a soldier by completing each of the following lines of the poem. This classroom activity is adapted from a lesson plan by Nancy Haugen of Arizona.

  • Line 1: Soldier
  • Line 2: Four words describing what a soldier is expected to do (teachers can specify that the words be adjectives, gerunds, etc.)
  • Line 3: Who feels . . .
  • Line 4: Who needs . . .
  • Line 5: Who fears . . .
  • Line 6: Who loves . . .
  • Line 7: Who thinks . . .
  • Line 8: Who believes . . .
  • Line 9: Synonym for "soldier"
Veterans Day is celebrated in the United States today.

This project, from the Library of Congress's American Folklife Center, is a collection of interviews and documentary materials highlighting veterans' experiences over much of the 20th century.

This page, from the Department of Veteran Affairs, provides links to resources on the history of the holiday, photographs of past celebrations in our nation's capital, and other media used to promote the holiday.

This site provides information about the VFW's programs and activities around the country. The VFW's stated mission is to "honor the dead by helping the living."

Students can use these resources to research veterans and discuss the concept of patriotism.

July 04
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Many people celebrate the Fourth of July as the birthday of the United States, but the actual events on that day involved only a half dozen people. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed by the officers of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most of the other members signed during a ceremony on August 2.

Is the Fourth of July the day the U.S. declared its independence? Explore all the dates during the summer of 1776 that are associated with the Declaration of Independence:

  • July 2: Declaration of Independence Resolution adopted by the Continental Congress

  • July 4: Declaration of Independence signed by the officers of the Continental Congress

  • July 8: First public reading of the Declaration of Independence

  • August 2: Declaration of Independence signed by 50 of the 56 men who signed the document

Explore texts that include the stories surrounding the Declaration of Independence. Possibilities include reference books, encyclopedias, and specific texts, examples of which appear in the Independence Day Book List. With your students, consider why there are so many different dates and why we celebrate the nation's birthday on July 4.

It's Independence Day! Or is it?

This page features the Declaration of Independence along with information about its writing and preservation, a timeline of its creation, and information on the signers.

As on online companion to the television series Liberty! The American Revolution, originally broadcast on PBS, this webpage focuses on the events of July 4, 1776. Be sure to explore the site for lesser-known facts. For instance, did you know that Congress designated a woman as the first official printer of the Declaration?

On July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell was rung in Philadelphia to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. This National Park Service site includes facts about the Liberty Bell and its historic significance during the American Revolution.

September 27
9 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Thomas Nast was born on September 27, 1840. He was a 19th- century caricaturist and editorial cartoonist and is considered to be the father of American political cartooning. During the Civil War and Reconstruction era, Nast was well known for his cartoons supporting American Indians, Chinese Americans, and the abolition of slavery. Some of the images and icons he created or popularized include the Republican Party elephant, the Democratic Party donkey, and Uncle Sam.

Political cartoons, because of their powerful means of communicating the artists' message, are subject to "freedom of speech" protections. Have students create their own political cartoons after studying First Amendment rights and freedom of speech issues.

  • First, explore free speech issues and the First Amendment using resources on this EDSITEment Freedom of Speech Week webpage. Ask students the following: "What constitutes free speech? When does one's freedom of speech become an infringement on another person's rights? How do political cartoonists exercise their first amendment rights?"
  • Then, after completing one or more of the lessons below, ask students to comb the newspaper or Internet resources and create a list of current events.
  • From this list, have students draw original cartoons using the techniques they've studied.

After students have completed their work, consider having them published in the school newspaper, or share them in the school library.

Thomas Nast was born on this day in 1840.

This extensive resource on Nast, offered by The Ohio State University, includes a biography, timeline, portfolio of Nast's cartoons, bibliography of works by and about Nast, and a teacher's guide. Also included is an essay titled "The World of Thomas Nast."

EDSITEment offers this collection of lesson plans and other resources on free speech and the First Amendment.

The Library of Congress offers this resource about political cartoons for teachers, including collections of historical political cartoons on American and British topics.

This ReadWriteThink resource links to information about First Amendment issues.