May 02
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

Since 1984, the National PTA has designated time each May for communities nationwide to honor teachers for their work with children. Parents, students, and schools across America celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week to show appreciation for the work and dedication of teachers and reaffirm the commitment to parent-teacher partnerships.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, read a book about a teacher such as Thank You, Mr. Falker, Miss Nelson is Missing, or a Magic School Bus story with Ms. Frizzle. Why are the teachers in these stories special? Have a class discussion about some of your students' favorite teachers. Then have students try these follow-up activities:

  • Compare a favorite teacher to a teacher from a book with the Interactive Venn Diagram.
  • Write a letter to a favorite teacher using the Letter Generator.
  • Create a character map of either Miss Nelson or another storybook teacher with the Story Mapping tool.
  • Use the Essay Map to plan and write an essay on why they would or would not like to be a student in one of the storybook teachers' classrooms.
  • Read and present another book about a special teacher. Older students may choose books like The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, or A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines.
Teacher Appreciation Week honors our teachers.

This National PTA resource offers ideas to help parents, students, and schools honor teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

The National Education Association offers these activities, appropriate for a Teacher Appreciation Week celebration.

This page from Reading Rockets celebrates teachers through notes of appreciation from parents, videos of authors and illustrators talking about their favorite teachers, and a link for users to send their own e-cards to teachers they appreciate.

Students enjoy interactive activities as they learn about different topics of science with a truly unusual teacher: Ms. Frizzle. Be sure to check out the interview with Magic School Bus author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen.

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.

June 06
K - 8
Author & Text

Cynthia Rylant has authored dozens of books for children of all ages. Writing in multiple genres, she has earned the Newbery Medal for her book Missing May, the Newbery Honor award for A Fine White Dust, and Caldecott Honors for The Relatives Came and When I Was Young in the Mountains.

Explore the element of plot using the work of Cynthia Rylant. First, select a title appropriate to the grade level of your class. Ask your school librarian for a list of Rylant's titles from which you or your students may choose.

Have students work as a class on one book, or in small groups or individually on selected titles. Students can then use the ReadWriteThink Plot Diagram to map the plot of the selected story. Finally, invite students to create original literary works using the plot diagrams.

  • Younger students can adapt the story into a picture book by creating illustrations depicting the elements of plot.

  • Older students can rewrite the story by changing a plot element, such as the climax or resolution.
Celebrate Cynthia Rylant's birthday!

This biography of Cynthia Rylant includes quotes from her about her writing and her childhood.


This page offers a summary and classroom activities for teaching Missing May, Rylant's 1993 Newbery Medal winner.


This article, found on Houghton-Mifflin's Education Place website, introduces author Rylant and lists selected books she has written.


West Virginia Wesleyan College offers this page on Rylant, which includes brief biographical information, critical responses to Rylant's literature, a works published list, and a selected bibliography of articles about Rylant.

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.

September 17
5 - 8
Author & Text

American writer William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. As a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, Williams met and became friends with Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle (who used the pseudonym H.D.), and these friendships affected his work as a writer. Over the course of his life, Williams wrote poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and plays.

Williams' poems are often used in the classroom as models for poetry writing. In addition to the resources in the lesson plans below, explore the student poems at Plum Good Poetry, from Barry Lane's Discover Writing website.

Celebrate Williams' birthday by asking your students to write imitation poems of their own. Choose a poem and make copies for students or write the poem on the board. With students, take the opportunity to review grammatical structures as you work through the way that the poem is written. Pay attention to sentences, phrases, and parts of speech. With the structure of the poem identified, ask students to write original imitations, using the same sort of sentences, phrases, and parts of speech that Williams did. Publish your finished work with the ReadWriteThink Printing Press or Stapleless Book.

For more on imitation poems, you may wish to use the ReadWriteThink lesson Literary Parodies: Exploring a Writer's Style through Imitation.

William Carlos Williams was born in 1883.

The Academy of American Poets page for Williams includes biographical information and the text of many of Williams' poems. The site includes an audio recording of the poet reading his poem "To Elsie."

This collection of resources from the Modern American Poetry website includes biographical information, photos, critical information, and poems.

In this Prairie Home Companion episode, private eye Guy Noir investigates a poetic catastrophe with the help of the Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins, who shares parodies of Williams' "This Is Just to Say." Both transcript and audio versions of the show are available.

The University of Pennsylvania offers this collection of sound recordings of Williams reading his poetry at several events between 1942 and 1962.

April 23
1 - 12
Author & Text

William Shakespeare is the most widely taught playwright in the English language. By 1588, Shakespeare had left his wife and children to live in London as an actor. During the next ten years, he became a successful playwright, performing for the royal court and building a new theater called the Globe. He retired to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1616, where he died soon after. Since that time, few young students of English literature have not heard the line, "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?"

Students at every grade level can be involved in activities to celebrate Shakespeare's birth.

Elementary students can begin learning about the rhyming structure of a sonnet by using one of the Websites below. They can also begin practicing with the number of syllables in a line.

Introduce middle school students who enjoy insulting one another to the Shakespearean Insult Kit, which includes a selection of Shakespearean invectives. They will gain confidence with the language as well as blow off some steam.

Demonstrate to high school students that Shakespeare always remains relevant through modern updates and reworkings. Select a short scene for your students to read from Othello (e.g., the scene where Iago first tells Othello that his wife might be unfaithful) and then watch the recent adaptation of that scene from the movie O, in which the main character is a basketball star. You can do the same with the sleepwalking scene from Macbeth, and have students watch its updated version in Men of Respect, a modern-dress gangster movie. On a lighter note, The Taming of the Shrew was updated in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, in which the final party scene is similar, but modernized for a contemporary-and female-audience.

In 1564, William Shakespeare was born on this day.

This award-winning website for younger students was created by elementary students at Crichton Park School in Nova Scotia. It contains a collection of materials related to Shakespeare, including resources for teachers.


This site is both an annotated guide to Shakespeare resources available on the Internet and a collection of original resources, including a comprehensive timeline of Shakespeare's life and work.


The Academy of American Poets provides this Shakespeare exhibit. Included are selected writings, biographical information, and links to related resources.


This website for the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works contains authoritative articles on his life and work, as well as continually updated links to other related resources.


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.

March 30
3 - 12
Author & Text

Anna Sewell's novel about a horse named Black Beauty touched a responsive chord in readers of many ages when it was first published in 1877. It remains a classic novel, one that speaks to contemporary readers as well.

In Black Beauty, Anna Sewell tackled one of the contemporary issues of her time, the cruel treatment of horses, many of them abused by their owners. Her work made readers aware of the need for laws to protect animals from harsh and abusive treatment.

After exploring the cruelty to animals in Sewell's novel, extend the discussion to current events. Divide students into pairs or small groups and ask them to conduct some research into the use of animals in testing drugs, cosmetics, and other products. Be sure to have online as well as traditional print resources available. Student groups should compile and present the information for and against using animals to test various substances.

Black Beauty author Anna Sewell was born in 1820.

Penguin Group publishing offers this biography of Sewell. Students can read about her childhood, her love of horses, and her gift for writing.

This site provides a biography of both Anna Sewell and her mother. They were both writers of juvenile fiction.

Project Gutenberg makes available downloadable versions of Sewell's classic text.

The ASPSCA offers this informational website for children. Students can access information about adopted pets, alternatives to dissection, animal-safe science projects, and more.

July 11
3 - 8
Author & Text

Author Patricia Polacco was born in Lansing, Michigan. Her writing is inspired by her rich Russian, Ukrainian, and Irish cultural heritage. As a child, Polacco struggled to learn to read and learned that she was dyslexic at the age of 14. In her stories, she shares with readers her childhood, her struggles and triumphs in school, and her diverse cultural background.

Have your students share family stories of their own by writing original poems and reviewing parts of speech using the Diamante Poems tool.

  • Begin by having students brainstorm important or special childhood memories or people. Examples might be a grandparent or other relative, a memorable trip, or a hardship they have overcome.
  • You can also have students explore their memories with the Exploring and Sharing Family Stories lesson.
  • Then have each student select the topic they will write about and access the Diamante Poems tool.
  • Using the tool, students choose adjectives, nouns, and -ing words describing the topic they've selected to create a diamond-shaped poem.
Children's author Patricia Polacco was born in 1944.

A moving piece by Patricia Polacco on a teacher who had a positive influence on her life.

In this Reading Rockets resource, students can watch a video interview with Patricia Polacco online or read a transcript of the interview. They can also access a short biography of Polacco and a list of selected children's books she has written.

Patricia Polacco's site offers information about Polacco and her books for both teachers and students, including activity ideas for teachers, coloring pages and puzzles, and biographical information.

Start your author study by reading a short biography of Patricia Polacco and choosing some of her books to read . Then use the activities and lessons included to have fun with her culturally diverse characters and stunning illustrations.

January 28
3 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, 74 seconds after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. All seven astronauts on board were killed, including teacher Christa MacAuliffe, who was to have been the first U.S. civilian in space. Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched the explosion on television.

Students will not have first-hand memories of the explosion, so interviewing an adult about the events of that day is one way for students to obtain information while learning more about how to conduct an interview.

In groups or individually, have students interview a parent or another adult on the subject; then, have them share the information they gather. In particular, ask students to consider whether everyone interviewed had the same memories and recollections. Encourage them to hypothesize about possible reasons for the differences.

Alternatively, ask middle or high school students to write about their own recollections of the Columbia disaster from February 2003. Have students compare accounts of the events, again noting differences and possible reasons for those differences. Have students research another historic event from multiple perspectives.

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.

The New York Times Learning Network provides this article about the Challenger disaster that appeared in the Times on the day of the explosion.

This official NASA website offers archives of the 135 space shuttle missions and the ongoing missions of the international space station. Details on space shuttle missions include original launch details, the history of human space flight, and the construction of the shuttle.

This Kennedy Space Center website provides historical information related to the space shuttle program, including mission facts and a reference manual.

In August 2007, Barbara Morgan, who trained with Christa MacAuliffe as back-up candidate for NASA's Teacher in Space program, finally travelled in space as part of the mission STS-118 crew. Read about the mission and Morgan's experience at this NASA page.

NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education shares a video of astronaut-educator Ricky Arnold performing one of McAuliffe’s experiments aboard the International Space Station.