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ESDN-wcs_nyaquarium_2016-pc-697.jpgFranky Abbott is an ACLS Public Fellow working on outreach, education, and content-related projects for DPLA. She has worked at a variety of academic institutions on digital programs and projects and as a 10–12 grade English teacher and college-level instructor. She has a Ph.D. in American Studies from Emory University.


The Digital Public Library of America is a free online library that provides access to books, photographs, maps, audiovisual materials, and more from libraries, archives, and museums across the United States. At its one-year anniversary this week, DPLA includes 7 million items from more than 1,100 U.S. based partners. It is a one-stop shop where teachers and students can easily find primary sources and other materials from a wide range of institutions, from small historical societies to large national archives.  All items have been curated and vetted by cultural heritage professionals. No registration or subscription is required.

DPLA aims to expand the realm of openly available materials and make these riches more easily discovered and more widely usable in three ways:

  • A portal for discovery. DPLA delivers digital resources to students, teachers, scholars, and the public, wherever they may be in America. Browse partner content using a map, timeline, virtual bookshelf, and exhibitions. Search using facets to refine results by date, location, type, language, subject, and more.
  • A platform opening our cultural heritage. With an application programming interface (API) and maximally open data, DPLA can be used by software developers, researchers, and student coders to create novel environments for learning, tools for discovery, and engaging apps. Its growing app library includes apps for visual exploration and serendipitous discovery, apps that integrate DPLA content into library systems and other online resources, and mobile apps that show resources related to the user’s geographic location.
  • An advocate for a strong public option in the twenty-first century. For most of our nation’s history, the ability to access materials for free through public libraries has been a central part of our culture, producing generations of avid readers and a knowledgeable, engaged citizenry. DPLA works, along with like-minded organizations, to ensure that this critical, open intellectual landscape remains vibrant and broad. DPLA seeks to multiply openly accessible materials to strengthen the public option that libraries represent in their communities.

Uses in the Classroom


DPLA offers teachers movement toward educational goals that align with Common Core State Standards: helping students build digital literacy and 21st-century skills and teaching students to work critically with primary sources. It represents the kind of online resource that students will increasingly navigate as they grow as researchers. As such, it helps refine their critical searching skills, helps them to better assess the relevance of resources and to develop an understanding of how to interpret contextual record information and build citations.A search for “Martin Luther King, Jr.,” for example, will yield more than 2,277 results from 100 institutions in a variety of formats: text, image, sound, and moving image. Students can use a faceted search to focus on specific aspects of MLK’s life and work. For example, they can use the map feature to identify items related to MLK’s birthplace—Atlanta, Georgia—and the timeline to highlight items from 1968, the year of his assassination.DPLA provides tutorials and help with searching, browsing, and the creation of accounts in order to save and share lists, both privately and publicly. These activities help students to focus search results and research questions for a particular research topic. A search activity can be completed alone or within a larger project to align with Common Core Anchor Standards for English Language Arts in Writing such as: 7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation and 8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Primary Sources


Use DPLA to tap an abundance of primary sources. You can find online exhibitions that tell the story of a significant topic or event by pairing readings with relevant primary sources. Here is a sampling of popular topics in history/social studies and science:


Research and reading activities incorporate these exhibitions and align with Common Core State Anchor Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in Reading such as 7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively as well as words and 9. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.Exhibitions offer a curated approach, but DPLA content can offer a wealth of other primary source possibilities for teachers and students searching and browsing the collection. A small fraction of the available examples that could help meet similar CCSS objectives include:


Opportunities for Educator Involvement

DPLA’s easy-to-install search widget can be used to add a DPLA search box to any course, library, or other school website.


For educators engaging students in coding activities, DPLA offers instructions and support for work with the DPLA API for app building.


The DPLA Community Reps program recruits representatives from the public to work with the project in their local communities. The first class of reps—100 reps from 36 states and 2 international countries—includes a strong cohort of teachers, school librarians, media specialists, and curriculum developers who believe in DPLA’s open mission and its value as a resource. These reps use the project with classes of students and share it with colleagues, and then provide the organization with use cases and feedback. This supports DPLA’s plans to develop future education partnerships and design new education resources.


DPLA is now accepting applications for a second class of community reps and we’re specifically looking to grow our group of educators. The deadline is April 30, 2014.



Aquarium, Battery Park, New York City [Postcard], ca. 1931. From the New York Aquarium Postcards collection of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives. Via Empire State Digital Network. http://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16124coll7/id/83

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Month (NPM) brings together lovers of poetry from around the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Along the way, the Academy has enlisted a variety of government agencies and officials, educational leaders, publishers, sponsors, poets, and arts organizations to help.


EDSITEment has been involved in this annual effort since the project’s inception in 1997. Over the years, EDSITEment has created features with a variety of themes highlighting the best open source resources to teach poetry in the classroom.





New Poetry Resource for the Common Core

This year EDSITEment has created a new feature: National Poetry Month Exemplars: Poetry for the Common Core.


Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide....


- A Shropshire Lad II: Loveliest of trees, the cherry now by A. E. Housman

The poetry selections within this new feature represent Common Core State Standards Exemplars (ELA: Appendix B.) You’ll find examples of classic and contemporary poets and poems that can be integrated into your English Language Arts classroom to meet the new grade level standards of elementary, middle, and high school levels of college and career readiness. For each of the twenty-three poems or poetic forms included, there is a link to the poem and a host of open-source multimedia resources to teach it.


These multimedia resources include EDSITEment lessons as well as EDSITEment-reviewed websites that discuss the poem, its context, and the poet. Media incorporated in these resources include audio clips, video, primary source documents, and photographs, along with other useful tools such as student-driven interactives. The resources relate to each poem and offer unique ways to build the content and skills for understanding poetry with English Language Arts classes. It is part of EDSITEment’s continuing commitment to support the success of teachers and students in meeting the Common Core State Standards initiative.


EDSITEment also offers a literary glossary of terms cross-referenced with EDSITEment lessons. The glossary serves as a convenient tool for poetic devices and forms as students work through the close readings of the poems and lesson activities.


New Poet-to-Poet Project

This year, the American Academy of Poets is offering students a new way to engage with memorable poetry. For National Poetry Month, the Academy is introducing their Poet-to-Poet Project, a multimedia educational opportunity that invites young people in grades 3–12 to write poems in response to those shared by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.


For students to participate in Poet-to-Poet, have them watch the videos linked below, which show the Chancellors reading and discussing their poems. Then, have students write an original poem as a response. Email the poem to the American Academy of Poets at poet2poet@poets.org by the April 30, 2014 deadline. Please have students include their name and the name of the Chancellor poet who inspired their poem. The Academy will consider all student poems for publication on Poets.org in May 2014.


Teachers interested in using Poet-to-Poet in the classroom can tap into a series of activities developed by the Academy to align with the Common Core. EDSITEment-reviewed Poetry Foundation also offers Common Core State Standards Text Exemplars: Poems to integrate into your English Language Arts classroom.


Previous Annual National Poetry Month Resources from EDSITEment

To commemorate the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth on April 23, introduce your students to a list of Shakespeare's funniest "insults" -- we've compiled a lengthy list which you can download here.


After sharing Shakespeare's most hilarious digs (ie, "Thou hast not so much brain as earwax"), consider having students write their own humorous insults in the same vein as the Bard, then stage a "Bard-worthy Battle of the Insults" so they can recite their original creations with each other.


Please feel free to check out our free, core-compliant study guides for Romeo and Juliet and Anyone But You, our modern YA spin on Shakespeare's teen tragedy which USA Today has called "heartbreakingly lovely." Happy Birthday, Shakespeare!


Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

Authors of the Twisted Lit series of Shakespeare-inspired YA novels



Photograph of a low stone wall on farmland in Derry, N.H. once owned by poet Robert Frost. Some believe this area inspired Frost to write his poem, "Mending Wall." Source: AP, May 29, 2011. Courtesy NBC Learn K-12The Robert Frost Farm website hosts a Teachers' Resources page with EDSITEment and READWRITETHINK lessons on the poet.


               SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,

               That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it

               And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

               And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.


for-frost.jpgRobert Frost opens one of his most famous poems, “Mending Wall,” by remarking on gaps in a traditional New England stone wall used to separate the property of two neighbors. He surmises this wall has been compromised by “SOMETHING” — a supernatural force (perhaps “elves” as he suggests later in the poem). Whatever force is responsible, it clearly doesn’t appreciate the fact that this wall exists. The actual cause for this breach in the wall is not “hunters” but a natural phenomenon. The ground underneath the wall has expanded due to winter cold causing its stones to lift and become dislodged. Frost observes the resulting gaps caused by this expansion are so wide that two people can move through them side by side. Frost goes on to clarify his meaning.


The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.


Thus, Frost enlists his neighbor (and the readers) in the annual spring task to “walk the line” and re-set this wall. Good neighbor that he is, Frost is careful to keep the boundary between them as they do.


The Common Core State Standards suggests using “Mending Wall” as an exemplar to teach poetry in Grades 11–College and Career Readiness [p.161 in Appendix B: Frost, Robert. “Mending Wall.” The Complete Poems of Robert Frost. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1949. (1914)].


EDSITEment’s lesson, Robert Frost's "Mending Wall": A Marriage of Poetic Form and Content, guides students through a close reading, line-by-line, analysis of the poem to arrive at an understanding of why Frost chooses and places certain words within the poem to shape its meaning.


Close Reading of the Poem


By performing a close reading, students can begin to comprehend Frost’s masterful integration of form and content. Moreover, a close analysis into how Frost structures “Mending Wall” also speaks directly to the following Common Core Anchor Standard:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.


Activity 1 of this lesson directly addresses form by having students carefully examine the rhythm and meter of the first four lines (see the poem’s opening lines, above) and note the rhythmic changes in line four. From a content perspective, students will observe how this same line introduces “the gaps” in the wall. The form of the line, which projects a rhythmically, more unruly line that those preceding it, itself has breaks (gaps) in rhythm. Here is the first glimpse of Frost's marriage of form and content in this poem.


The rest of the lesson is based on this fundamental technique of observation, which gives students the tools to discern how formal change, repetition, and word relationships affect the meaning and significance of content. With the help of the worksheet, "Frost's Form and Content" in Activity 2, students can move on to an analysis of Frost’s figurative language, word relationships, and word meaning, which encourages discussion of the broader themes through group work. The following questions help unpack these themes:


  • How do we describe the speaker and his tone? How do we describe the neighbor? How do they compare?
  • What is the meaning and significance of the word "mending" in both the poem's title and in the action carried throughout the poem? (Notice how the word can be used as both an adjective and an action.)
  • In what way(s) does Frost directly and indirectly use this word? Does anything else in the poem need mending?
  • In what ways do "walls" become metaphorical and/or symbolic in the poem?
  • Why does the neighbor think that "good fences make good neighbors"? Why does Frost choose to close the poem on this note?


Deeper Analysis of the Craft and Structure Once the first level of understanding has been demonstrated, students are ready to make the descent into the subterranean meanings within the poem. This level of reading addresses the more subtle figurative and metaphorical levels of language noted in the following Common Core Standard:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)Activity 3 encourages students to focus on the poem's form in relation to themes they have identified and discussed. A teacher's version of the worksheet contains a helpful analysis of selected lines. Frost employs the word “gaps” and the word “walls” by playing with form to convey the multiple meanings of these antonyms and to get their figurative and connotative meanings across. The following questions (with suggested responses in brackets) are designed to encourage students’ understanding.

  • What “gaps” are coming up in this poem?
    [The breach in the physical space between the neighbors on either side of the wall; the emotional emptiness within their neighborly relationship.]
  • Can such emotional gaps be deeper even than the one under repair? How does Frost make these all too human gaps evident?
    [The superficial conversation exchanged by the neighbors in the poem. The neighbor doesn't understand the nuances of the speaker's comments and the speaker doesn't understand his neighbor's attachment to provincial clichés.]
  • What “walls” are being built in this poem?
    [The repetition of the word “walls” literally creates them within the poem and underline the physical walls that exist between neighbors; the “father’s saying” becomes a figurative wall — the neighbor’s belief in it without questioning perpetuates it.]
  • What is being “walled in” and “walled out” here? Does Frost think human beings should love “walls” and try to keep them up or like nature is it better to have walls come down?
    [As Frost tells us there are “no cows” to keep contained, each neighbor’s property—one containing pine trees and one containing apple trees—are being walled in; two different personalities are being walled out.]
  • Ask students to frame ultimate questions around the gaps and walls that surface in this poem?
    [Why can’t the gaps that divide human personalities be fixed as easily as natural (or supernatural) forces break down a wall? How can a broken wall between two properties be built up with effort, but an authentic relationship between two neighbors cannot be willed?]

For a culminating activity, have students to explain how Frost shoots the old cliché in the foot to arrive at a fresh understanding of this truth: Good fences do not (necessarily) good neighbors make!


Additional EDSITEment resources for teaching “Mending Wall”


EDSITEment-reviewed Poetry Foundation cites “Mending Wall” as the leading poem responsible for establishing Frost as “a major force in modern poetry.”

national-poetry-month.jpegBack by popular demand, it’s ReadWriteThink’s 30 poems for National Poetry Month. We have  thirty poetry activities for you, one for each day of the month of April! It’s our fourth year to celebrate National Poetry Month with a poem a day.


April is National Poetry Month, sponsored by Academy of American Poets and other poetry organizations. Our friends at the Academy of American Poets have already shared a guest post with information on the Poet-to-Poet Project, Poem in Your Pocket Day, and more.


Check out the calendar for April below. Each day has a link to a different kind of poetry writing, either a specific poetic form, like sonnets or acrostics, or poetry focused on a particular topic, like seasonal haiku or color poems. The materials range in grade levels, but can usually be adapted for any age (even college students). Just click each day for a month full of poetry fun!


1: Nonsense Poems2: Acrostic Poems 3: Seasonal Haiku4: Theme Poems5: STEM Poems 6: Bio- Poems
7: Riddle Poems 8: Nursery Rhymes9: Color Poems10: Two- Voice Poetry11: Headline Poems12: Diamante Poems13: Rebus Poems
14: Parody Poems15: One-Sentence Poems16: Name Poems17: Magnetic Poetry18: Letter Poems19: Bilingual, Spoken-Word Poetry20: 5Ws Poems
21: Free Verse22: Alphabet Poems23: Concrete Poems24: Found Poems & Parallel Poems25: Cinquain Poems 26: Limericks27: Traditional Sonnets
28: Astronomy Poetry29: Sports Poetry30: Catalog Poems


If you’re looking for even  poetry fun on the go, be sure to download our mobile poetry apps. Grab your tablet and write Acrostic Poems, Theme Poems, Diamante Poems, Haiku, or  “found poetry” with the Word Mover App.


—Traci Gardner

jabberwocky.jpgEach year the month of April is set aside as National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poets and their craft. Various events are held throughout the month by the Academy of American Poets and other poetry organizations.


In honor of National Poetry Month, introduce your students to a variety of poetic forms. We have resources for Theme Poems, Acrostic Poems, Diamante Poems, Haiku, or STEM Poetry. For poetry on the go, try the Word Mover App, which students can use to create found poetry.


Just keep reading to find  other timely ReadWriteThink calendar entries, lesson plans, and other classroom materials!


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

If you have feedback or questions about ReadWriteThink, please contact us.


—Traci Gardner


[Photo: poetry notebooking Jabberwocky by Jimmie, on Flickr]

Mary Downs and Leah Weinryb Grohsgal, NEH Program Officers, Division of Preservation and Access


Last week’s blog post introduced Chronicling America, a deep repository of historic American newspapers covering the years 1836–1922. Students can use newspapers available through Chronicling America to expose the rich texture of the women’s rights movement and its many milestones, meetings, and debates right from the beginning and in a way that few other resources can. As an added bonus, they will be working with the kind of complex informational texts that the Common Core English Language Standards recommends. In what follows, we'll be suggesting articles written from a variety of points of view that make arguments based on appeals to evidence.


Seneca Falls Convention

Let’s begin with the coverage of early women’s rights advocates, including Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who planned a two-day convention in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women’s role in society in July 1848.blog-logo-banner-smler.jpg


Convention attendees boldly prepared a “Declaration of Sentiments,” modeled on the Declaration of Independence, delineating the “civil, social, political, and religious rights” of women. After some debate, delegates decided to also include in the declaration women’s suffrage the right to vote. Some observers at the time were quite dismissive of the convention. A write-up in the Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania Jeffersonian Republicanreported that:


The women of Seneca Falls had a convention at which they put forth a “declaration of independence” asserting that men and women were created equal. This being a leap year, the women have a perfect right to make “declarations” of any descriptions without impunity.


Despite such mocking, the organizers held similar meetings over the next two years in Rochester, New York, and in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Many years later, a New York newspaper article reporting on the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, pointed to the foundation for women’s rights laid at Seneca Falls.


The West advances the right to vote

Yet, it was not in the East but in the West where women first gained voting rights. Contemporary observers attributed the early adoption of women’s suffrage in the western states to various factors, including the unconventional personalities of those who settled there, the need to attract women to an area populated primarily by men, or simply a ploy to solidify power by expanding the voter base.


In 1890, Wyoming was the first state to grant women full suffrage, followed in quick succession by Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. In Utah, the Evening Dispatch proclaimed that women’s suffrage “went into the constitution with a whoop.”


Soon newspapers were debating the effects. An 1894 article in the Kansas Agitator entitled “Wyoming Leads in Morals,” suggested that, because women in Wyoming had the right to vote, the state had a smaller ratio of criminals in the population than the “supposedly most civilized” northeastern states.” According to the article, Wyoming’s improvement from its roots as “the most barbarous and murderous [place] on the continent” stemmed from the civilizing influence of women’s participation in public affairs. “The air of liberty,” stated the article, “breeds purity.”


The Reform Movement

In the West as in the East, the mouthpiece for hashing out issues involving women’s rights was found in the local press, in which women took an active role. For example, until the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1878, married women in Oregon had no property rights, and any wages women earned legally belonged to their husbands.


Abigail Scott Duniway, known as “Oregon’s Mother of Equal Suffrage,” published The New Northwest in Portland from 1871 to 1887. Like many suffragists, Duniway advocated reforms beyond women’s enfranchisement, including temperance, wage equality, the right of women to own property, and the rights of Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. The New Northwest was “a journal for the people…not a women’s rights, but a human rights organ, devoted to whatever policy may be necessary to secure the greatest good for the greatest number.” One of its earliest battles was for economic rights for women. In 1912, when Oregon became the seventh state to grant women suffrage, the state’s governor asked Duniway to draft and sign the equal suffrage proclamation.



From the beginning, women’s suffrage was closely connected with the movement for temperance and intertwined in the public discussion of women’s rights. For some observers, this connection was natural. Alice Stone Blackwell, a prominent journal editor, defended suffrage on many grounds, observing that it would increase the amount of “dry” territory in the United States and reduce the “power of the saloon in politics.” On the other hand, a critical article in the Ogden [Utah] Standard asked, “Is Woman’s Suffrage Throwing John Barleycorn?”  and sought to separate the demand for suffrage from the prohibition of alcohol, pointing out that the earliest states to adopt woman suffrage, Wyoming and Utah, had not become dry decades after women got the right to vote there.


The Antis

As the women’s rights movement gained momentum, so did opposition. The New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, founded in 1897, asked “Why force women to vote?




National American Woman Suffrage Association Parade, March 3, 1913, Washington, D.C. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

cesar-chavez.jpgSpend time in the classroom this month honoring the accomplishments of César Chávez, who led the efforts to improve working conditions for California's migrant farm workers and formed the United Farm Workers Union. Chávez was committed to non-violent protest. He conducted several fasts and led a number of strikes and grape boycotts to further the cause of field workers.


The calendar entry for Chávez’s birthday (March 31) includes classroom activities, related websites, and lesson plans. For other timely ReadWriteThink calendar entries, lesson plans, and other classroom materials just keep reading!


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

If you have feedback or questions about ReadWriteThink, please contact us.


—Traci Gardner


[Photo: Cesar Chavez display by San José Library, on Flickr]

National History Day,held every year in June at the University of Maryland College Park, is a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in a serious academic competition in the humanities. Last year 600,000 students took part, along with 25,000 teachers. In the age of the Common Core State Standards, this exemplary program should be on the radar of every teacher, student, and parent.




The research process

Every fall, students start research on historical topics of their own choosing within a broad theme—this year it is “Rights and Responsibilities in History.” Next year the theme will be “Leadership & Legacy in World History.” Students must make choices about the topic and their research. They must find, analyze, and present a variety of complex informational texts, especially primary sources. This “allows them to take ownership of learning; it makes learning an exciting endeavor,” says the director of National History Day, Cathy Gorn. Some students start in sixth grade and participate every year, she adds. “We had one who said, ‘history is not my favorite subject, but I love History Day.’”


The different ways to present

Students also have to decide how to best present their findings. National History Day “started from the science-fair model, with the choice of doing a paper or an exhibit,” says Gorn. “We added documentaries, live performances, and, more recently, websites.” The variety helps students see that “history works in all kinds of fields, from Ken Burns [type] documentaries to museums.” With the inclusion of a website option, “there was a big jump in participation, because teachers got other kids interested. And, lo and behold, they produced the websites, and they learned history, too.”


How NEH supports NHD

The National Endowment for the Humanities has been a supporter of National History Day since the program began in 1965. NEH grants were instrumental in helping National History Day grow from a pilot start-up project in Ohio into a national (and growing international) program.


Recently, NEH sponsored a series, “Advice from Experts.” Teacher and students asked real questions and heard advice from experts in the fields of documentary filmmaking, websites, exhibitions, performance, and research papers in the format of engaging one-hour Google Hangouts that are archived on EDSITEment’s Chronicling America portal.


The EDSITEment connection

Last year for the first time, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded prizes to students who incorporated research using Chronicling America (a free online database of five million pages of historic U.S. newspapers dating from 1836 to 1922,and digitized through a partnership between NEH and the Library of Congress) into their projects. To accompany the new prize category, EDSITEment, NEH’s educational website, also created a set of online resources around Chronicling America to assist students and educators in using the newspapers in historical research.

Two $1,000 Chronicling America awards were made last year. The junior individual documentary award went to Richard Hernasy for “Unexpected Verdict: The Trial of John Peter Zenger.” The senior individual documentary winner was Joanna Slusarewicz for “It's a Jungle Out There: Upton Sinclair Turns the Tables on the Chicago Meatpackers and the Food Industry.”

daffodil.jpgIt’s been a long winter, but this week marks the first day of spring. Celebrate  with  these  new resources on ReadWriteThink:



For other timely ReadWriteThink calendar entries, lesson plans, and other classroom materials just keep reading!

Featured Resources

From the Calendar

  • March 16: The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850. Students brainstorm the possible meaning of the title The Scarlet Letter and what its significance might be. The class' responses are returned to once the reading has begun to see how their definitions have changed. (For grades 9–12)

  • March 17: Today is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by reading Irish folk tales and using the Story Map tool to create a graphic organizer and see what characteristics are unique to Irish tales. (For grades 1–12)
  • March 19: On this day in 1918, the United States passed the U.S. Standard Time Act. A video conference with a class from a different country or time zone is planned. Students brainstorm questions to ask and figure out how many time zones they would have to travel through to have the conference. (For grades 3–12)
  • March 21: Today is World Poetry Day. Students read and respond to Billy Collins’ poem “Introduction to Poetry.” Students then write about a favorite poem and imagine the perfect way to read it. (For grades 3–12)

  • March 22: Randolph Caldecott was born on March 22, 1846. Students explore the history of the Caldecott Medal and create a classroom literary award modeled after the Caldecott. (For grades K–12)

  • Later this month, find lesson plans and activities on Kate DiCamillo, Robert Frost, Anna Sewell,  César Chávez, and more!

If you have feedback or questions about ReadWriteThink, please contact us.


—Traci Gardner



[Photo: Spring Flowers by tejvanphotos, on Flickr]

spring-haiku-240.jpgWith the new Haiku Poem Interactive, students can learn about and write haiku, a popular Japanese poem that traditionally has three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.


Students begin by brainstorming words for their poems, and then they compose their poems with attention to how many syllables they’ve written for each line. The final step allows students to customize the design of their poems with one of the provided artistic backgrounds or by uploading their own image.


For other timely ReadWriteThink calendar entries, lesson plans, and other classroom materials just keep reading!


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

If you have feedback or questions about ReadWriteThink, please contact us.


—Traci Gardner

I must say Winston’s speech echoes the sentiments of all. None but he could have said it.

—Pierson Dixon, British Foreign Officer


Last year we highlighted how the writings of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874–1965) could profitably engage students in the study of informational texts through their well-crafted language and arguments. “Blood, Toil, Sweat, and Tears,” the speech Churchill delivered as he took office as Prime Minister during the dark days of World War II, is listed as an informational text illustrating the kind of  complexity, quality, and range expected in student reading.


Yet Churchill’s most famous and influential speech was given after the war, after his party was defeated in the election of 1945, at a small college in the American heartland that became, for one day, the center of the world. Churchill delivered “The Sinews of Peace”—commonly remembered for its description of the “iron curtain” that had descended on Europe—in the presence of President Harry Truman on March 5, 1946, at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. Almost 70 years later, it is still worth study for its own sake and for what it tells us about the origins of the Cold War.blog-logo-banner-smler.jpg


Important agreements regarding the postwar world had been reached by the American, Soviet Union, and Britain leaders at Yalta and Potsdam, but the Soviets wasted no time in violating them. For an overview of the European situation as seen by American policy makers, see the background sections of  two EDSITEment lessons, Victory and the New Order in Europe and The Sources of Discord.


Churchill intended to visit the United State early in 1946 for a holiday, but he also yearned for a chance to make a political impact, perhaps by addressing Congress. When no such offer came, he seized on an invitation to speak at Westminster College because President Truman promised to go there with him (hence so would the world’s press).


Some historians have argued that the Cold War started with this speech. Other have pointed out that Churchill  said little more than President Truman and his key advisors already thought but dared not say just yet: That the proper means of responding to an international bully like Stalin was a credible threat of force. In fact, diplomat George F Kennan had already said this in his “Long Telegram” from Moscow to the State Department a month before Churchill’s speech.


Because of his great reputation, Churchill’s speech became a key moment in the start of the Cold War. Only a man who had warned throughout the 1930s of the danger that the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany posed to peace, could tell the world:


Last time I saw it all coming and cried aloud to my own fellow-countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention. Up till the year 1933 or even 1935, Germany might have been saved from the awful fate which has overtaken her and we might all have been spared the miseries Hitler let loose upon mankind. There never was a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe. …


This can only be achieved by reaching now, in 1946, a good understanding on all points with Russia under the general authority of the United Nations Organisation and by the maintenance of that good understanding through many peaceful years, by the world instrument, supported by the whole strength of the English-speaking world and all its connections. There is the solution which I respectfully offer to you in this Address to which I have given the title “The Sinews of Peace.”


As private citizen Churchill could go out on a limb, denouncing Russian aggression and calling for an Anglo-American alliance to confront Stalin. At first, much but by no means all American and British reaction was hostile to this “warmongering” but as events moved on it came to seem necessary and Churchill as both brave and prophetic.


The wide support that the speech ultimately garnered paved the way for Truman’s own tough policy of “containment” and  the Marshall plan for rebuilding war-ruined Europe.


The theme of Anglo-American cooperation carrying into peacetime the "special partnership" that had worked so well in the war was a theme to which Churchill returned again and again in the last ten years of his political life. This was the one great issue that he cared about above all others: the need for the English-speaking people with their common heritage of language, literature, law, and constitutional government to stand together as defenders of freedom. As he said in the “Sinews” speech:


[W]e must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.


For teachers who want to do a careful reading of the main points of the speech, we suggest the lesson plan on the Churchill Centre website,developed during an NEH Summer Institute on Winston Churchill.


We also recommend the following EDSITEment lesson plans which cover some of the key stages in the Cold


Image courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

musicinourschools.jpgIn addition to Women’s History Month, March also marks Music in Our Schools Month. Whether you want to talk about the literary elements in pop music or explore  history with some ballads, students are bound to be engaged as you combine the standard strategies of the language arts classroom with a melodic soundtrack.


Watch our social network updates on Facebook page or Twitter timeline all day  Tuesday and Wednesday for links to lesson plans and other resources that focus on music in the classroom. For other timely ReadWriteThink calendar entries, lesson plans, and other classroom materials just keep reading!


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

  • March 1: March is National Women’s History Month. A scrapbook highlighting the accomplishments of famous American women is created as a class using the Alphabet Organizer and Bio-Cube.  (For grades 3–12)

  • March 1:  Read Across America Day celebrates Dr. Seuss. After sharing The Cat in the Hat and other patterned books with students, groups brainstorm sets of rhyming words and create a story using these words. (For grades K–2)

  • March 3: Music in Our Schools Month is in March. Students explore the effects of music on a story by reading a story, novel, or play, viewing the musical version, and comparing the two. Students can then select a text read in class and create a musical adaptation. (For grades 3–12)

  • March 5: Today is Native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko’s birthday. Students revive elements of the oral tradition by writing about something funny that happened to them recently, sharing with classmates, and discussing the changes that occur during the retelling of the stories. (For grades 3–12)

  • March 6: Author Gabriel García Márquez was born on this day. Students take place in a collaborative creative writing activity to begin to understand the hallmarks of the literary style known as magical realism. (For grades 7–12)

  • March 6: Today is World Read Aloud Day. Students celebrate the power of words by reading aloud to their classmates and spreading the word of global literacy to their friends and family. (For grades 4–12)

  • In March, find lesson plans and activities on Teen Tech Week, the Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, author birthdays, and more!

If you have feedback or questions about ReadWriteThink, please contact us.


—Traci Gardner


[Photo: Middle School Chorus and combined Band performance by USAG-Humphreys, on Flickr]

For anyone who thinks that they know slavery—you read that book and you do a double take. It was just stunning to me that I'd never known about it. In fact, the majority of the people who I spoke to about the story had no idea about it. I was like, How did I not know about this book?
— Interview with filmmaker Steve McQueen

Title-Page-from-1856-edition-altered02.jpgOn Sunday night, March 2, the world will see whether the most painfully honest film ever made about American slavery wins the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year. Whatever happens, the critical and commercial success of this cinematic portrait of America’s “peculiar institution” has shed a brilliant spotlight on one of the ugliest periods in our history. Yet the “rediscovery” of a classic informational text and of the literary and civic tradition to which it belongs should be cause for rejoicing.

If across the nation, middle school students are asking teachers about the meaning of the word "abolitionist", and high school students are searching for information about the Fugitive Slave law, that is good news. As in the case of Lincoln, Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, the movie industry has fired up the imagination and whetted the appetite of young people for serious lessons in political history and civic responsibility, which they surely need.

blog-logo-banner-sml.jpgWe asked a distinguished expert in the field of 19th-century American literature to write about this and the result is “Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave and the Slave Narrative Tradition,” newly published on EDSITEment. In his feature article, William L. Andrews begins with a bold claim:


Human bondage, the right to own another person as one would own a horse or  a table was one of the five defining institutions of the United States from its  colonial beginnings to the abolition of slavery in 1865.


Chattel slavery and American life


Andrews argues that the American way of life as it was constituted in the 19th century consisted of four distinctive institutions:


  • representative democracy
  • protestant Christianity
  • capitalism
  • marriage and the family

Taken together, the interplay of forces on this list was vital to the harmonious growth of the American republic. Andrews, however, notes a fifth and key institution that worked in antagonism to the health of these institutions:  chattel slavery.Why was that so? Andrews’ answer:  Slavery was so powerful that it threatened to corrupt the nation’s dedication to the other four defining institutions.


From their beginnings, slave narratives were meant to change white people’s attitudes by appealing to their Christian moral conscience as well as their sense of civic responsibility. The mission of the “vigorous and uncompromising” antislavery movement that emerged in America in the 1830’s was to highlight the harsh realities of slavery as it really was. Antislavery adherents believed that these accurate eye-witness accounts of former slaves would touch the minds and hearts of Northerners who were either ignorant or indifferent.Andrews takes us through the key narratives in this tradition:

  • Olaudah Equiano (the first great 18th-century witness to the slave trade and the dreaded Middle Passage)
  • Moses Roper
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Northup, and
  • Harriet Jacobs


The last three especially “testified to a strong sense of obligation to use their talents and hard-earned experience to witness publicly against the institution that still remained, when they penned their autobiographies, the law of the land.”


Twelve Years a Slave in English and Social Studies classrooms… and more

Andrews also shows how Northup’s book can be used by an English teacher to illuminate the two most widely read American novels written by 19th century white writers: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Huckleberry Finn. The long chains of influence that stretch from this narrative to the fiction of Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and Ernest Gaines, as well as the nonfiction of Malcom X and Maya Angelou can also be traced, demonstrating Northup’s relevance throughout the history of American letters.

Social Studies teachers can point to the frontispiece of Twelve Years, where Solomon Northup identifies himself as a citizen of New York and to his opening sentence where he gives thanks for  ‘the blessings of liberty” he has enjoyed. The central teaching of the book and of its contribution to literary tradition is civic responsibility in the broadest sense. No one, least of all an American, should take these “blessings” for granted.



Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave and the Slave Narrative Tradition

Solomon Northup and Twelve Years a Slave: How to Analyze a Slave Narrative (PDF PowerPoint Presentation for teachers and students)

Lesson 1.Twelve Years a Slave: Analyzing the Slave Narrative Tradition (to come)

rosietheriveter.jpgMarch  is National Women’s History Month, and back by popular demand we have our collection of resources on 50 famous women, all of whom are featured on the ReadWriteThink calendar.


The link for  each famous woman listed below  takes you to a calendar entry with lesson plans, a classroom activity, and links to related resources. So click through, and learn about activists, authors, poets, and other women who have left their mark on America and the world:


  1. Joy Adamson, animal rights activist
  2. Louisa May Alcott, novelist
  3. Laurie Halse Anderson, novelist
  4. Marian Anderson, opera contralto
  5. Maya Angelou, poet, author
  6. Susan B. Anthony, civil rights activist
  7. Mary Azarian, picture book illustrator
  8. Natalie Babbitt, author
  9. Elizabeth Blackwell, first American woman to earn a medical degree
  10. Erma Bombeck, humorist
  11. Judy Blume, novelist
  12. Gwendolyn Brooks, poet
  13. Eve Bunting, author
  14. Virginia Lee Burton, picture book author
  15. Rachel Carson, naturalist
  16. Janell Cannon, picture book author
  17. Kate DiCamillo, novelist
  18. Emily Dickinson, poet
  19. Lois Duncan, suspense novelist
  20. Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer
  21. Gertrude Ederle, first woman to swim the English Channel
  22. Nancy Farmer, novelist
  23. Esther Forbes, author
  24. Anne Frank, diary writer and Holocaust victim
  25. Nikki Giovanni, poet, picture book author
  26. Karen Hesse, novelist
  27. Mary Hoffman, author
  28. Billie Holiday, jazz and blues singer
  29. Helen Keller, author, political activist
  30. Coretta Scott King, civil rights activist
  31. Ursula K. LeGuin, sci-fi and fantasy author
  32. Annie Moore,  first immigrant to enter Ellis Island
  33. Pat Mora, poet, author
  34. Toni Morrison, novelist, picture book author
  35. Joan Lowery Nixon, mystery novelist
  36. Laura Joffe Numeroff, picture book author
  37. Barbara Park, chapter book author
  38. Rosa Parks, civil rights activist
  39. Pocahontas, ambassador
  40. Patricia Polacco, picture book author
  41. Sally Ride, first American woman in space
  42. Faith Ringgold, author, quilter
  43. J.K. Rowling, novelist
  44. Cynthia Rylant, author
  45. Anna Sewell, novelist
  46. Leslie Marmon Silko, novelist
  47. Alice Walker, novelist
  48. Ida B. Wells, African American journalist
  49. Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, author, producer
  50. Jane Yolen, author


If you want even more resources, check out the National Women’s History Month calendar entry as well as Science NetLinks' Women's History Collection and EDSITEment's Women's History Resources.

—Traci Gardner


[Photo: Rosie The Riveter Built Me by Dawn Endico, on Flickr]

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