November 26
5 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

According to the Wampanoag and the ancestors of the Plimoth settlers, no oral or written account confirms that the first Thanksgiving took place between them in 1621. The Wampanoag, and other Native Americans, did participate in daily and seasonal thanksgivings for thousands of years prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival. This process of thanksgiving continues today.

Provide students with a selection of texts about Thanksgiving. Invite students to partner-read their selected books, considering these questions:

  • From whose perspective is the story told?

  • Whose voices are active and passive?

  • What words are used to describe the groups?

  • Whose story has the most detail?

  • What details were offered or implied in the text or illustrations about Thanksgiving and each group’s lifestyle (e.g., food, clothing, beliefs, and traditions)?

  • Are the illustrations accurate? How do you know?

Next, share with students texts that are #OwnVoices. Oyate and American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) both provide critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books.

Select one of the #OwnVoice texts to read, like Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, a children's picture book, by Chief Jake Swamp. This version of the Iroquois Thanksgiving Address, or Ganohonyohk, is written especially for children who want to know more about Six Nations Iroquois spirituality. The Thanksgiving Address is one of the key speeches of the Six Nations Iroquois.

End the session by allowing students to share "What are some things you are thankful for and where do they come from?"

The United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day today.

Oyate is a Native organization working to see that our lives and histories are portrayed with honesty and integrity, and that all people know that our stories belong to us.

American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) provides critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books.

The words in this book are based on the Thanksgiving Address, an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants, that are still spoken at ceremonial and governmental gatherings held by the Six Nations.

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.

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.

November 01
3 - 12
Holiday & School Celebration

After nearly a century of advocacy, National American Indian Heritage Month was first recognized through joint resolution by Congress in 1990. Now recognized annually, November is a time to learn more about the history and heritage of Native American peoples.

Engage your students in an exploration of Native American heritage through a study of Native American pourquoi tales. Pourquoi tales explain why something or someone, usually in nature, is the way it is. Have your students read a variety of Native American pourquoi tales, explore the cultural origins and signficance of these stories, and share similar stories from their own cultures.


This First People website includes a selection of tales, including many pourquoi tales. After reading these tales and identifying pourquoi story elements, brainstorm with the class a list of animals with distinctive features or a list of natural events such as lightning, rain, or snow, and then have students write original pourquoi tales for how they came to be. When students finish, they can publish their tales using the ReadWriteThink Printing Press. The "booklet" option allows students to add additional pages to accommodate longer stories. After printing the finished product, students can add illustrations to their stories.


November is National American Indian Heritage Month.

This website offers an extensive list of resources related to Native American heritage and culture. Teachers and students can find links to Internet resources, selected Smithsonian online exhibits, and recommended reading.

This radio series, available in audio and text, features elders, historians, storytellers, artists, and leaders from thirteen American Indian Nations along the Lewis and Clark trail. These elders share their history, stories, culture, and music in a series of hour-long radio broadcasts.

October 07
3 - 12
Author & Text

Novelist, poet, and screenwriter Sherman Alexie grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. Often focusing on the connections between physical places and the stories that occur in them, Alexie wrote a semi-autobiographical young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian with a protagonist who chooses to leave the school on his reservation to attend a nearby high school where he is the only Native American student.


In 2003, Sherman Alexie was asked to contribute to the "Finding Our Families, Finding Ourselves" exhibition, a project of The Museum of Tolerance. The collection consists of recreations of parts of participants' childhood homes or other significant family locations and showcases the diversity of Americans' personal histories. The scenes explore the meaning and inspiration behind the places and objects where memories and family history were made.

  • Ask your class to imagine that they have been asked to participate in such an exhibit. Have students draw or take photos/video of their home or another significant location and then write or record reflections that explain why this location is important to their family history and their personal identity.

  • Alternately, have students create an exhibit for a character from a short story, book, or play the class has read. They can use information in the text (and their imaginations), to help them create a representation of the rooms of a character's family home and explain how these rooms reflect the personal history and identity of the character.


Sherman Alexie was born in 1966.

Featuring information about Alexie's publications, this site also includes his blog, contests for readers, and a calendar of his appearances.


The official site for the Musuem of Tolerance exhibit includes images of some of the displays and resources for researching family history including tips for getting started and links to genealogy sites.


This collection of resources, a supplement to the NCTE book Sherman Alexie in the Classroom, offers ideas for teaching social justice and an introduction to Native American literatures, as well as critical excerpts about Alexie's work.


Alexie's entry on the Academy of American Poets site contains a biography and a link to his poem "Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World."


May 11
6 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Prominent political and social activist was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico on June 29, 1893 or September 12, 1891.  After being educated at the University of Vermont and Harvard University and serving in the US military in World War 1, Albizu Campos became interested in the Puerto Rican independence movement, serving as the president of the Nationalist Party from 1930 until his death in 1965.

Among his accomplishments are improved labor conditions in Puerto Rico (Albizu Campos led strikes against the Puerto Rico Railway and Light and Power Company and the US sugar industry) and bringing attention to the problematic colonial relationship between the US and Puerto Rico.  His theory of non-collaboration with colonial structures (such as boycotting elections and military service) made him a controversial figure in the US.  He was jailed twice and was under FBI surveillance for much of his life.

Called “El Maestro” or “The Teacher” for his powerful speaking ability, Albizu Campos is the namesake of several schools in Puerto Rico, Harlem, and Chicago.

Using background information on Pedro Albizu Campos as an example, invite students to investigate the complicated histories of figures from throughout the world associated with nationalist movement.  These movements, often related to histories of colonization, assert the interests of one's own nation as separate from the interests of other nations or the larger interests of all nations.  Prominent nationalist figures include

  • Pedro Albizu Campos (Puerto Rico)

  • Simón Bolívar (South America)

  • Miguel Hidalgo (Mexico)

  • Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)

  • Nelson Mandela (South Africa)

  • Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (India)

  • Michael Collins (Ireland)

Let students or groups of students choose a figure from this list, or another nationalist figure of their choice.  Students can conduct research through print and Internet sources and share their findings with their peers using the Bio-Cube student interactive.

Pedro Albizu Campos leads the Puerto Rican Independence movement.

This biography provides additional information about the life and accomplishments of Pedro Albizu Campos.


This entry from Stanford University provides background information on nationalism, including links to other resources.

March 16
9 - 12
Author & Text

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter tells the tale of Hester Prynne, her daughter Pearl, and the city that condemns them because Hester will not name her child's father. The novel remains one of the classics of early American literature more than 150 years since its first publication in 1850.

Before beginning a reading of this novel, brainstorm with the class the possible meaning of the title. What does the word scarlet connote? What is the letter? Can letter have more than one meaning? Are there synonyms for scarlet that could convey the same significance and meaning? Be sure to record the responses of the class and return to them once the reading has begun, to explore how students' definitions have changed.

An alternative activity might be to show students the opening minutes of the movie adaptations of the novel first, and then ask them to read the opening chapter of the novel. Students could then write a short comparison of the book and the movie. An adaptation of the lesson Cover to Cover: Comparing Books to Movies (see Lesson Plans below) can also provide a foundation for this activity.

The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850.

This comprehensive Washington State University site contains links to various resources on the author. Included are some online works, biographical information, activities, and reviews.

Biographical information on Hawthorne along with details about imagery and symbolism in the novel are found at this University of Wisconsin site.

This page, from The Life and Works of Herman Melville site, describes the friendship between these two authors, who were contemporaries though fifteen years apart in age.

This interactive exhibit features the family newspaper, The Spectator, conceived by Hawthorne as a youth. Included are historical images, portraits, and artifacts related to Hawthorne's life and writing career.

August 15
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Connecting the United States from east to west, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in Strasburg (formerly Comanche), Colorado on August 15, 1870. In spite of this fact, the Golden Spike Ceremony celebrating the railroad's completion took place months earlier in a different location: May 10, 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah.


There are many misconceptions surrounding the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Golden Spike Ceremony that took place on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah was actually arranged at the last minute. Because there were so many people in the area, photographers were unable to get a picture of the event and journalists had difficulty seeing what was happening.

Access the National Park Service website and take a look at the webpage Golden Spike. With your students, explore all the differing accounts of what happened as the railroad neared completion. Discuss the reasons people need and want ceremonies, and why ceremonies, such as the driving of the Golden Spike, may not always match the events that they are intended to celebrate.


In 1870, the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad was completed.

Companion to the PBS series The West, this website includes details on the Transcontinental Railroad in the context of other important events related to America's expansion to the west.


A Brief History of Building the Transcontinental Railroad


Part of the PBS American Experience site, this collection offers numerous resources related to the railroad, including interactive maps, a timeline, a teacher's guide, and much more.


One of the "Treasures of Congress," this collection of primary documents tracks the various stages of completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.


August 04
7 - 12
Historical Figure & Event

Americans made history in 2008 by electing Barack Obama as the nation's first African-American President. In addition to his work as a community organizer and Senator, Obama also wrote two books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, before being elected President of the United States.


In his memoir Dreams from My Father, Obama describes an incident in which he, as a young boy, "came across the picture in Life magazine of the black man who had tried to peel off his skin" (51). Seeing the devastating effect negative messages about being African-American had on this man, Obama "began to notice that [Bill] Cosby never got the girl on I Spy, that the black man on Mission Impossible spent all his time underground. [He] noticed that there was nobody like [him] in the Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog ... and that Santa was a white man" (52).

Share this passage expressing Obama's experiences with media messages and his understanding of his identity. Then encourage students to engage in an examination of the ways they are portrayed in the media. Point them toward print, online, and television portrayals of people who share their age bracket, race, gender, and any other relevant aspects of their identity.

Adapt activities from the lesson plans below to supplement their research and organize their findings.


President Barack Obama was born today in 1961.

Information and resources from the National Association for Media Literacy Education.


These resources promote media literacy education as a framework for accessing, analyzing, evaluating, creating, and participating with media content. Visitors will find readings, lesson plans, and samples of student-produced media.


This online article presents a summary of recommendations from a study that links young people's understanding of their identity to ways they are portrayed in the media. Included is a link to the full research report.


Nationally recognized as a leader in media literacy education, the Media Literacy Project provides resources that promote critical thinking and activism to build healthy and just communities. In addition to teaching and learning resources, visitors will also find information about media-based contests for students.


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.