March 09
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

When Barbie was released in 1959, she immediately stepped into controversy. The idea of a doll with an adult woman's features was brand-new. The market, though, was eager for a doll with lots of clothes, including bridal gowns and swimsuits. But by the 1970s, people began wondering why she did not have a business suit or a doctor's scrubs, and in more recent years, whether the body image she presents is healthy to young girls' self-esteem. Sales continue to grow, and so does the debate.

While Barbie's collection of accessories has changed over the years, her figure has remained relatively unchanged-despite questions about its effect on the self-esteem of the children who play with the doll. Take this opportunity to explore body image and advertising:

  • Have students bring in pictures from the magazines that they typically read. Students should bring pictures of both male and female subjects.
  • Post these pictures around the room and have students walk around with a two-columned chart with headings Male and Female which they will use to record words and phrases that describe what they see in the pictures. Students should then share their lists with the class.
  • Ask students to write about how gender is represented in the advertisements they see. Is this typical of how men or women appear in movies, on TV, etc.? Which celebrities most exemplify these characteristics?
  • After sharing responses in a think-pair-share arrangement, have students explain whether these gender representations are accurate in real life. Ask students to consider the effect that these representations can have on people's self-esteem.
  • Conclude by discussing why advertisers portray males and females in this way. What is the goal and purpose of advertising?
The Barbie doll was unveiled in 1959.

This History Channel article provides information about the origin and evolution of this famous doll.

PBS offers information about the inventor of Barbie.

BBC News shares Barbie's measurements and shows how a woman would look with Barbie's proportions. offers this poem by Denise Duhamel that compares Barbie to Buddha. Students will enjoy the sarcastic tone of this piece.

December 08
K - 4
Author & Text

Illustrator Mary Azarian won the 1999 Caldecott Medal for Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Azarian is a skilled woodcut artist who is strongly influenced by her love of gardening. You can enjoy additional examples of her work in A Gardener's Alphabet, Farmer's Alphabet, and Barn Cat, written by Carol P. Saul.

There are ways to bring snow to your students regardless of the weather outside your classroom. If you're fortunate enough to have a supply of snow outside your window, take a mini field trip outside with your students. Have them each hold a piece of black paper to "catch snowflakes" for inspection. Be sure to have magnifying glasses available so students can take an up-close look. Ask students to sketch some of the structures they observe and then compare their drawings to identify both similarities and differences among snowflakes.

If you're located in a warm winter climate, you can still offer a snowflake experience to your students. The website offers a tutorial for Growing Your Own Snow Crystals. (Use caution as this experiment uses dry ice.) These homegrown snow crystals can be closely examined by students using magnifying glasses or microscopes.


Snowflake Bentley illustrator Mary Azarian was born in 1940.

This website provides snow-related data and resources, including images, data sets, articles, and more. Students can use the information found here for activities such as research projects or creating snow quizzes and snow books.


Students can access stunning microscopic images of snow crystals on this page. Connect a study of geometry and art by having students create their own unique snowflake designs.


This website provides an informative look at the science of snow. It suggests experiments and activities, and also offers a snowflake guide and frequently asked snow questions.


This interactive resource allows users to create original snowflakes.


July 19
3 - 8
Author & Text

John Newbery, an 18th-century English children's book publisher and seller, was born on July 19, 1713. The American Library Association's Newbery Medal, awarded to the most distinguished children's fiction book each year, honors Newbery's work.

Your class can publish books and other documents just like Newbery. Have each student choose a book that is special-it could be a favorite book or a book that reminds him or her of something special-then write a short story about why the book was chosen and why it deserves special mention.

Using the Stapleless Book Planning Sheet, students can plan the pages of their own stories before entering the information in the Stapleless Book tool. For longer projects, students can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.

Children's publisher John Newbery was born in 1713.

The American Library Association awards the Newbery Medal annually. This site includes information about the award, the application process, and a complete list of the distinguished books.

This section of author Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord's site includes instructions for such projects as making accordion books, index card books, wish scrolls, and stick and elastic band books.

The Newbery Video, Part I written by Mona Kerby and funded by the International Reading Association highlights favorite Newbery Award books and authors. Authors include: Lloyd Alexander, Sharon Creech, Sid Fleischman, Karen Hesse, Lois Lowry, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Katherine Paterson, and Jerry Spinelli. Part 2 of the video continues the discussions with authors and includes student projects and commentary.

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.

January 01
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Annie Moore, a 15-year-old girl from Ireland, became the first person to enter Ellis Island on New Year's Day, 1892. In the 62 years that Ellis Island served as the entry point to the United States, over 12 million people were processed through the immigration station. Ellis Island was closed on November 12, 1954. Part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument since 1965, the buildings were restored after decades of disuse and reopened as a museum in 1990.

Take your students on an interactive tour of Ellis Island. Scholastic provides a tour, including audio, video, and photographic resources.

Allow students plenty of time to explore the tour and the resources provided there, supplementing the information with additional resources from the Web Links section below. Be sure to listen to the audio stories of immigrants included in most stages of the tour. Invite students to interview an immigrant in your town to collect his or her story. Students can publish the stories they collect online and read stories published by other students.

To show how children who did come through Ellis Island felt, you might share books such as The Memory Coat (Scholastic, 1999) and Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story (Troll Communications, 2001). Based on what they've learned through their exploration of Ellis Island online, their interview with a local immigrant, and in the available texts, have students assume the persona of someone who has just landed on Ellis Island and write a diary entry about his or her experiences. Collect the entries into a class anthology that shows students' understanding of the feelings of people coming to the U.S. for the first time.

Annie Moore becomes the first immigrant to enter Ellis Island in 1892.

This Library of Congress site from the America's Story collection explores the arrival of 15-year-old Annie Moore, the first person to enter the U.S. through the gates of Ellis Island.

This site includes historical information on the role that Ellis Island played in the lives of the more than 12 million people who immigrated to the United States over the course of the 62 years.

Ellis Island comes to life in this interactive tour featuring audio, photographic, and video files. This site is part of a Scholastic collection titled Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today.

March 06
7 - 12
Author & Text

One of the most popular Latin American authors, Garcí­a Márquez was raised by his grandparents in a house in Colombia which was always overflowing with relatives and stories. His grandfather, a retired colonel, told him stories of the brutality of war, while his grandmother told him folk tales filled with ghosts and superstition. This mix may have contributed to the development of his style often called "magical realism," popularized in his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. Márquez passed away on April 17, 2014.

Before beginning a work by Garcí­a Márquez, introduce your students to some of the hallmarks of the literary style known as magical realism by exploring what it is not, through comparisons with familiar genres that also use unrealistic elements: fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tales.

  • Ask students to form groups to participate in a collaborative creative writing activity. Each group will narrate the same event, but they will do so in different genres: fantasy, science fiction, and fairy tale.
  • Read the events/prompt aloud: "A man is killed. His mother finds the body and begins preparations for his burial."
  • Encourage students to be creative in their responses, but to follow the conventions of their genre. Then ask students to share their responses. Discuss the genre elements their creative depictions display and talk about what these genres have in common and what they do not.
  • Read from One Hundred Years of Solitude the scene in which José Arcadio is shot and his body discovered by Úrsula (Chapter 7, beginning at "One September afternoon" through "with a shell of concrete"). Have students compare the depiction from the novel to the ones they created. How is magical realism similar and different from the genres with which they are already familiar?
Author Gabriel García Márquez was born on this day.

This article from NPR talks about Márquez after his death and how he gave "A Voice To Latin America".

The Nobel Museum creates excellent websites for all of the laureates, and this one contains Garcí­a Márquez's acceptance speech and links to other resources.

24 Books That Shaped One of Humanity’s Greatest Writers

The digital archive of Colombian-born writer Gabriel García Márquez includes manuscript drafts of published and unpublished works, research material, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, clippings, notebooks, screenplays, printed material, ephemera, and an audio recording of García Márquez's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

April 12
K - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

April 12 is known as D.E.A.R Day! D.E.A.R. stands for "Drop Everything and Read," a national month-long celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority activity in their lives. It is also Beverly Cleary’s birthday! D.E.A.R. programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday, since she first wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Today is the birthday of author Beverly Cleary, who brought to life the characters of Ramona and older sister Beezus. On this day, D.E.A.R Day, families are encouraged to take at least 30 minutes to put aside all distractions and enjoy books together. Get together with other readers, find someone to read to, or even just read alone. Here are some additional ideas:

Family Read Aloud

With this tip, learn a few simple read-aloud strategies that can sharpen a child's emerging reading skills and help you have fun together with a good book.


This lesson encourages children to explore authentic reasons for writing by writing messages to their family in a family message journal.

Retell Stories

Tell me about it in your own words! If students can paraphrase the information they have read, then you—and they—can be confident that they understand it.

Drop Everything!

Don’t think that means that the celebration is only allowed during this month, though. It’s encouraged all year long!

Today is D.E.A.R. Day!

This website has reading lists, activity ideas, digital assets, and other resources on D.E.A.R.

Reading Rockets shares resources about Beverly Cleary and D.E.A.R.

Drop Everything and Read suggestions from the International Literacy Association

October 13
1 - 6
Author & Text

Beverly Cleary was born on April 12, 1916, and has authored dozens of books since her first, Henry Huggins, in 1950. Cleary has won many awards for her writing, including the 1984 Newbery Medal for Dear Mr. Henshaw, and the Newbery Honor for Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8. The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden honors Cleary's contributions to children's literature and highlights her most memorable characters.


Create your own classroom tribute to Beverly Cleary while students practice persuasive writing. Have students select the characters they believe are the most memorable from Cleary's book and then write short persuasive essays to explain their choices.

  • After students select their characters, have them use the Character Map section of the interactive Story Mapping tool to brainstorm ideas about why the characters are memorable.

  • Have students use their Character Maps and notes to write persuasive essays that explain why the characters are special and important. Students can map out their essays using the online Persuasion Map.

  • Next, provide a variety of art materials (clay, paint, pencils, markers) and have students create sculptures, drawings, or paintings of the characters.

Display students' artwork and writing together in a classroom, cafeteria, or hallway as a Beverly Cleary tribute.


The Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden was dedicated on October 13, 1995.

Read about this tribute to Beverly Cleary, and view a gallery of sculpture images.


HarperCollins provides this website for teachers and children. Resources include trivia, author and character information, a booklist, and printable teaching guides.


In this video interview, provided by Reading Rockets, Beverly Cleary discusses how she became a celebrated author.


This brief, kid-friendly biography is accompanied by a list of Cleary's books.


Check out the movie starring Joey King as Ramona Quimby and Selena Gomez as Beezus Quimby.

February 14
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Like many holidays, Valentine's Day arose from a confluence of Christian and pagan themes. Originally it was the occasion of a pagan Roman rite called the Lupercalia, on which young men and women were matched by drawing lots. In the fifth century, the Church changed the emphasis of the festival by making it the commemoration of a Christian priest named Valentine, martyred on this day in 289. Nevertheless, the day's association with romantic love persisted.

This would be a great day for students to practice their skills in using poetic devices. Have students find examples of each type of figurative language below, and then write an original example using each device, each time employing the word love:

  • Simile: Love is like an ocean rolling over me.

  • Metaphor: Love is a tree with many branches.

  • Personification: Love whispers in your ear.

  • Rhyme: Love sure can stink/Anyone in it might be a fink.

  • Alliteration: Love lightly leaps.

When they have finished, students can illustrate their examples, share them with the class, and post them around the room.

Valentine's Day is today!

This ReadWriteThink interactive tool allows students to create poems about selected themes. For Valentine's Day, they can select a heart from the Celebrations theme.


This page includes definitions of several types of figurative language, including idioms, onomatopoeia, and alliteration.


This resource, from the Library of Congress, explores possible origins of Valentine's Day traditions. Related Library of Congress resources, such as music and photographs, are included.


This interactive resource focuses on idioms and accompanies the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Figurative Language: Teaching Idioms.


September 26
3 - 8
Historical Figure & Event

Did you know that Johnny Appleseed was a nickname given to John Chapman? There are many nice folktales written about him, but we have no proof that these things really happened. One thing that is true about John Chapman is that he planted apple trees!

As you share the details of John Chapman's life and his travels, use the Timeline Tool to organize the details that you find in the books and websites that you check. As you work through the details, ask students to look for details that are fact and those that are exaggeration. If desired, use the Venn Diagram tool or Mobile App to organize the information (especially if you are using the stories of Johnny Appleseed as part of a tall tales unit). As extensions, you might track Chapman's journeys on your classroom map or have students use the Theme Poems Interactive to create poems about apples or about Johnny Appleseed. For additional help, see the more tips about Theme Poems and the more tips on the Timeline Tool.

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, was born in 1775.

From the Library of Congress America's Story from America's Library, this site provides a short biography of John Chapman in the context of other historical events.

This University of Illinois Extension site includes links to apple facts, recipes, history and legend, and educational material.

Second graders from Austin, Texas contributed the writings and drawings about Johnny Appleseed found on this webpage.