May 05
7 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Cinco de Mayo is not an American holiday, although perhaps it should be, since Mexican Americans treat it as a bigger holiday than do residents of Mexico. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla, where in 1862 a small number of Mexican soldiers defeated the French 100 miles east of Mexico City. People of Mexican ancestry in the U.S. celebrate this day with parades, folk dancing, mariachi music, and other fun.

Ask students to conduct research in the library and on the Web to find images and artifacts that suitably represent Mexico. Students can choose to research a piece of art, music, dance, literature, or food. Challenge students to think beyond stereotypical images of Mexico and Mexican-American culture (such as tacos, chihuahuas, and sombreros), and look for objects and icons with a deeper and more substantial meaning. Start your students' research with a brainstorming session which can include:

  • Artists such as Diego Rivera
  • Ancient Mexican peoples, such as the Aztecs
  • The history of the Mexican state of Puebla

After students have completed their research, have them create a presentation that highlights something interesting, beautiful, significant, or amazing about their choice-and share the information with the class.

Today is Cinco de Mayo.

This article from America's Story from America's Library discsusses Cinco de Mayo as a "local legacy."

This site contains basic information about Cinco de Mayo, as well as dozens of links for further exploration an activities.

Xpeditions provides this map of Puebla, central to the story of Cinco de Mayo.

November 18
3 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

On November 18, 1928, Mickey Mouse made his movie debut in Steamboat Willie, one of the earliest animated cartoons. This seven-minute film, directed by Walt Disney, was the first to combine animation technology with synchronized sound. From this short film, based on a cartoon drawing, Disney created one of the largest media empires in the world.

Steamboat Willie was one of the earliest animated cartoons, a medium that grew from comic strips and Sunday funnies into a multimillion-dollar business. Invite your students to experiment with cartoon and comic strip drawings by collaborating to create a short, humorous story, with at least one main character that performs an action. When students have completed the short sequence, have them use the Comic Creator or this online tool to make a flipbook.

Students choose one background and repeat it multiple times as they draw their characters' actions from one frame to the next. When they've completed each sequence of drawings, they print out the pages, cut the frames, and staple them together to create a flipbook. By stapling all the pages together in one corner or along one side, students are able to flip the pages of the book quickly, simulating animation. Students can also use the Flipbook Tool to create their product. Allow students to share their flipbooks with their classmates. Teams can also experiment with adding vocals in the background to synchronize with the images.

Mickey Mouse appeared in his first animated feature.

This page features a short clip of the 1928 cartoon that launched Mickey's career.

This website offers something for students of all ages. Students will enjoy film clips, interviews with Walt Disney, a comprehensive biography of his life, photographs with audio for kids, and special exhibits.

This site offers extensive information for teachers about animation history, animation techniques, and teaching animation in the classroom.

This Library of Congress site includes 21 animated films and 2 fragments, which were produced from 1900 to 1921. Compare the animation in these early films to that in Steamboat Willie as well as that in current cartoons. Be sure to preview the films for their appropriateness for your students.

March 11
K - 12
Author & Text

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.

Ezra Jack Keats was born on this day in 1916.

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.

June 01
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

On June 1, 1980, Ted Turner introduced the Cable News Network (CNN), the first all-news television network. CNN has since provided news coverage and features 24 hours a day. News seekers can now find up-to-date coverage on CNN.com and CNNRADIO, or sign up for e-mail alerts of breaking news stories.

New technologies have made it easier than ever for people to get the news. This is in stark contrast to previous centuries, when there were fewer news sources and it could take days or even months for important news to travel long distances. Have students brainstorm a list of modern news sources, such as newspapers, radio, the Internet, television, e-mail, or text messaging. Next, have students brainstorm a list of news sources from previous centuries, such as telegrams or the town crier.

Arrange the class in small groups and assign each group one of these news sources to research. Students should find out when and where the method was first used, when people stopped using it, and so on. Then have students work together using the ReadWriteThink Interactive Timeline to create a visual timeline showing the evolution of the news over time. See also the Timeline Tool page for information and activity ideas.

CNN debuted as the first television news network in 1980.

CNN offers teachers a variety of tools for the classroom, including a calendar of programming events, reference tools, Web links, teaching tips, and lesson plans.

 

Published by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, this website offers teachers a variety of resources, including lesson plans, teaching tips, and a database of high school newspapers.

 

The Newseum offers online exhibits about a variety of news and journalism topics, as well as brief descriptions of some of their physical exhibits.

 

This site from the Journalism Education Association offers information on publishing articles and podcasts online. Included also are tips on how to promote high school newspaper websites.

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 15
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

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?
The RMS Titanic sank on this day in 1912.

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.

April 12
K - 6
Author & Text

Since he did not have books growing up, Soto regards his own emergence as a poet as "sort of a fluke." After working as a laborer, Soto entered college intending to major in geography. While in school he realized that he wanted to express himself as a writer. Soto's books and poetry present vivid pictures of life in a Mexican-American neighborhood.

Soto's stories and poetry evoke memories and images of home, family, and community. Use one of his works, such as Too Many Tamales or Baseball in April as a basis for exploring these themes. Try one of these activities:

  • Too Many Tamales is about a family preparing food for their Christmas celebration, and the children who share in the preparations. Invite students to share a story about their part in a special family event. Extend this idea using the lesson My Family Traditions: A Class Book and a Potluck Lunch, which asks students to share recipes and information about their own family traditions.

  • The streets and neighborhoods of Fresno, California are an integral part of Soto's stories. Invite students to describe their street.

  • Ask students to compose an acrostic poem that describes a person, place, or event they cherish using the Acrostic Poems interactive tool.
Gary Soto, poet and children's writer, was born on this date in 1952.

Visit Soto's official website for information about the author. Visitors can find a catalog of his works, biographical information, and frequently asked questions.

 

Houghton Mifflin provides this brief biography of Soto, along with a selected bibliography and a recipe for one of Soto's favorite foods-frijoles.

 

This essay, provided by Georgetown University, offers classroom strategies for working with Soto's poems, as well as information about the major themes and style elements found in his work.

 

In this Webcast from the Library of Congress, Soto discusses his writing and reads selections from his novel "Poetry Lover" at the 2001 National Book Festival.

 

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.

May 01
K - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

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.

May is Get Caught Reading Month!

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.

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.