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.

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 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.

April 30
3 - 8
Holiday & School Celebration

Developed under the leadership of author Pat Mora, El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros focuses on providing children with books in many languages and making reading an integral part of their lives. El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros is supported by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, an ALA affiliate that provides library and information services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking community.

Celebrate El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros by having students write and share their own multilingual stories:

  • Read a book with parallel stories with the class, such as La Llorona: The Weeping Woman or The Day It Snowed Tortillas / El Dia Que Nevaron Tortillas, both by Joe Hayes. With students, examine the way that the books tell the story in two different languages.

  • Arrange students in mixed multicultural groups and explain that together the groups will compose an illustrated, bilingual, or multilingual children's storybook to share with younger students.

  • Return to the parallel stories read by the class to model how students will compose their own stories.

  • Spend time exploring and creating the different parts that make up a professional book: title pages, acknowledgements, and dedications.

  • Use the Book Cover Guide to discuss covers and dust jackets. Have students design these additional parts of the book.

  • Students can use the Book Cover Creator to make the polished covers.

  • Once the books are assembled, students can deliver them to their intended readers for a celebration of Día!
Celebrate El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros (Children's Day/Book Day)!

The official ALA site for El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros includes a state-by-state list of Día events, library programming ideas, a Día  fact sheet, and downloadable Día brochures.


Pat Mora, founder of El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros, provides background and celebration suggestions on her personal website.


This Día-sponsored website features bilingual story time resources, a Spanish story time plan for preschoolers, and online resources for librarians working with Latino children. The site also includes guidelines and information on the Estela and Reforma Award, established to promote El Día de Los Niños/El Día de Los Libros.


This is the webpage for current winners of the American Library Association's Pura Belpré© Award, which is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. offers a collection of tips and activities translated in Spanish to support literacy learning at home.

May 16
5 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Since 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with over 6,000 members, has given awards for the best in film. The first ceremony, with 250 people in attendance, took place during a banquet held in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Tickets cost $10 and the entire ceremony is said to have taken less than an hour-a far cry from the four-hour, star-studded extravaganzas of today.

Students love to watch and talk about movies. With persuasion, they can even be convinced to write about movies. For younger and middle-grade students, you can ask them to make lists of their favorite and their least favorite movies. Looking over these lists, students can then brainstorm qualities that make a film good or bad. Examples might include acting, special effects, and humor. Ask them to rank these qualities from the most to least important and then to explain why the top three are the most important elements to look at in a film.

Next, have students apply these criteria to a film they have seen by writing a movie review that makes their critical stance clear. Older students can take this activity one step further by comparing their review to that of another critic. After reading through one or more reviews, students should write an answer to one of the critics, defending their own reviews and critical stance.

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in 1929.

The official website of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, this site includes lists of the current year's nominees and winners. There is also information on previous years' ceremonies.

In 1998, the American Film Institute announced their list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time, and this updated version was created ten years later. This list can be compared to a list of past Oscar winners.

The British equivalent to the website, the BAFTA website includes information on categories, nominees, and winners.

This page from Lincoln City Libraries features a list of past winners of the Best Picture Oscar which are based upon novels, plays, and short stories.

February 02
K - 5
Holiday & School Celebration

Groundhog Day is observed each year on February 2. The famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is pulled from his simulated burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to make the most anticipated weather forecast of the year. The legend says that if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow, spring is just around the corner.

Observe Groundhog Day in your classroom with your own shadow-watching activity.

Begin by bringing in a stuffed animal to stand in as the "groundhog." Have students select a name–something catchy–such as "Fairview Fred" or "Springfield Sal." Then plan a Groundhog Day celebration by choosing a location on school grounds and inviting other classes to attend the event.

Model your celebration after the annual event in Punxsutawney by including a variety of activities such as a scavenger hunt, storytelling, and games. Punxsutawney residents always include music in their celebration. Invite your school's band or chorus to provide live entertainment. At a predetermined time, have your "groundhog" look for his shadow, and then make the official announcement.

Later, have students watch or listen to news reports describing what happens in Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day and compare it with their predictions. Then, watch the calendar to see if your forecast is accurate!


Groundhog Day is February 2.

This page from the Stormfax Weather Almanac offers information about the origins of Groundhog Day. There is also a record of past Groundhog Day predictions and information about the Groundhog Day film starring Bill Murray.


Check out the area for Teachers to find activities, lesson plans, and games to share with students during your Groundhog Day festivities. Students can even submit poetry or video for inclusion on the site.


Students can read weather-related folktales and proverbs at this American Folklore website.


Students can meet real groundhogs from Lums Pond State Park in Delaware at this rich multimedia site. The site includes basic information about groundhogs, as well as audio, video, and images.


February 29
3 - 7
Holiday & School Celebration

Our solar year is 365.24219 days. Since our calendar does not deal in partial days, every four years, we add an additional day to February. Therefore, our calendar year is either 365 days in nonleap years or 366 days in leap years. A leap year every four years gives us 365.25 days, sending our seasons off course and eventually in the wrong months. To change .25 days to .24219, we skip a few Leap Days every one hundred years or so.

Many years ago, people did not have the scientific information that we have available today to explain the change of seasons, the need for a Leap Day every four years, and the cycle of moon phases. Early civilizations relied on other means of explanation such as myths and folk tales.

Divide the class into groups and provide each group with an explanatory myth (e.g., the children's book Max and Ruby's First Greek Myth by Rosemary Wells or the works of Gerald McDermott or Tomie dePaola). Have students write summaries of the stories to share with the class. Then have the students in each group compose an original myth that explains either the same phenomenon from the book they summarized or another one of their choosing. Stories can be illustrated and collected into a book to share with other classes in the school.

Today is Leap Day!

This site explains things about Leap Year that are not common knowledge to most, has resources for party planning, and also includes a list of Leap Day books.

Wonder of the Day based on the student question “Why is there leap year?”

Intended for grade-school-level students, this NASA website recommended by SchoolZone has information about astronomy as well as projects, lesson ideas, and resources for the classroom.

This site from NASA, focusing on an image of a coin minted with Julius Caesar's likeness, provides a brief explanation of the origins of Leap Day. The site also references Sosigenes, the astronomer who consulted with Caesar on the calendar and invention of Leap Day.

March 19
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Before the invention of the railroad, people used local "sun time" as they traveled across the country. With the coming of the railroad, travel became faster, exacerbating the problems caused by the hundreds of different "sun times." At the instigation of the railroads, for whom scheduling was difficult, the U.S. Standard Time Act was passed, establishing four standard time zones for the continental U.S. On November 18, 1883, the U.S. Naval Observatory began signaling the new time standard.

After learning about different time zones, ask your students to plan a video conference with a class from a different country or from a different time zone in the United States. As they plan, ask students to:

  1. Use the World Time Engine to find the best time to schedule this meeting.
  2. Research the country or state of the students with whom they will video conference and brainstorm a list of questions and topics for discussion. The place selected can be coordinated with topics they are currently studying.
  3. Brainstorm a list of topics about their own town or country that they would like to discuss. Alternatively, they could brainstorm a list of questions they think students from the other time zone might ask them.
  4. Use a time zone map to figure out how many time zones they would have to travel through to have this conference if video conferencing hadn't been developed.

If you decide not to carry out an actual video conference, alternatively, divide your class into two groups and allow them to conference with one group playing the role of the class from another time zone.

On this day in 1918, the United States passed the U.S. Standard Time Act.

This page from the Library of Congress' American Memory site offers excellent information and primary documents about the history of standardized time.

Students take a journey from ancient calendars and clocks to modern times, at this NIST Physics Laboratory website.

This site provides a clickable map that gives the official time for each time zone in the U.S.

BBC News looks at time zones--how they are worked out, why they cause so many arguments, and how they affect us all.

June 10
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

On a series of three artificial islands and in the surrounding ponds, visitors to the 1854 World's Fair at the Crystal Palace in London saw the first life-size replicas of dinosaurs such as the Iguanodon, the Megalosaurus, and Pterodactyls, all created by sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

Waterhouse Hawkins' dinosaur replicas offer a great opportunity for an inquiry-based project. Some of Hawkins' models are known for their minor errors or incomplete detail. Consider the horn on the Iguanodon or the submerged Mosasaur (with body obscured since only fossils of the head had been discovered). The replicas are in fact more of a historical artifact than an accurate scientific model.

After learning about Hawkins' replicas, do a study of what we know about these same dinosaurs today-what did Hawkins get right and where did he draw the wrong conclusions? Students could work individually or in small groups to investigate a dinosaur of their choice, comparing Hawkins' versions to current knowledge about the prehistoric animals. The ReadWriteThink Venn Diagram is a nice tool to help students organize and present their findings.

The Crystal Palace hosted the first display of life-size dinosaur replicas in 1854.

This page from lists some dinosaur books appropriate for kids, along with brief descriptions.


Nyder's site includes photos of all the remaining dinosaurs in their original location on artificial islands outside the site of the original Crystal Palace building at Sydenham.


This Brooklyn College page details not only Hawkins' work on the Crystal Palace dinosaur replicas but also the ill-fated plans to build similar replicas in New York City.


Scientists out on a dig have found parts from six different dinosaurs. Put the parts together to create a dinosaur that really existed, OR create an imaginary dinosaur of your own!

December 09
9 - 12
Author & Text

Joel Chandler Harris is best known for his Uncle Remus stories. Harris collected the Uncle Remus tales from the stories shared by slaves. His use of phonetic dialogue in his stories allowed later authors to use vernacular in their renditions of regional tales. Harris's stories remain a good example of regional folk literature from the American South.

One striking aspect of Harris' stories is that in conveying the regional dialect the dialogue is written phonetically, which lends itself to oral reading of the stories. This vividly evokes the stories' original cultural milieu. Select a short segment of Uncle Remus with prominent dialogue and read it aloud to your students. Then read a segment from another book that features a different type of phonetic dialogue, such as The Witches by Roald Dahl, and listen to a Gullah Tale. After reading the three different examples of phonetic dialogue, have students use the interactive Venn diagram to compare them.

One thing all three examples have in common is that they render dialogue that has a vivid sound and feel. Challenge students to write a brief dialogue that might occur between themselves and a friend or parent. Encourage them to pay attention to phrasing and vocabulary, so that the dialogue sounds realistic. Next, have them exchange papers with a partner and read each other's dialogue aloud. Did the dialogue sound the same aloud as they imagined it when they wrote it? They should then revise any parts of the dialogue that did not sound realistic. They can repeat this process until they have a realistic dialogue.

Author Joel Chandler Harris was born in 1848.

This site provides information about the life of author Joel Chandler Harris, as well as links to the books that made him famous.


Links from this site take readers to songs and sayings by Harris.


In this Scholastic workshop, students hone their storytelling skills. There are online activities, examples, and practice opportunities included in this resource.


This resource offers examples of folk tales in both English and Gullah, a phonetically written language. Students can hear folk tales read aloud in both languages.


December 16
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Over two hundred years ago, a group of activist colonists disguised themselves as Native Americans and dumped tea into the Boston Harbor.

"High Tea in Boston Harbor" was the headline of the Boston Gazette.

After reading the headline of the Boston Gazette aloud (above), ask your students to create a political cartoon for this event. Political cartoonists demonstrate a particular point of view in their cartoons. Students may decide to create their cartoons from the perspective of one of the colonists, King George III, or a fish in the Boston Harbor!

Invite students to use the interactive Comic Creator to create their political cartoons and then have students share their cartoons with the class. Ask the class to identify the cartoonist's point of view. Visit the Comic Creator tool page for more information about this tool.  

Make copies of the student-generated political cartoons and distribute them to small groups of students. Have each group of students work collaboratively to develop higher-level response questions for the political cartoons.

The Boston Tea Party took place in 1773.

Primary students will enjoy this resource created by fifth-grade students.


Presented by PBS, this educational website chronicles the American Revolution. To assess learning, ask your students to play "The Road to Revolution," an interactive game about the revolution.


At this page on the Kidport Reference Library website, students can learn about the events leading to the Boston Tea Party and access links to related information.