National Poetry Month

Posted by lsfink Mar 25, 2013 and NCTE have a long-standing relationship with the Academy of American Poets. Together, we're gearing up for National Poetry Month. We are pleased to share with you this blog post written by Jennifer Benka, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets. Enjoy!


Ink runs from the corners of my mouth. There is no happiness like mine. I have been eating poetry.”

-- Mark Strand

Reading poems not only builds literacy skills, it lights the imagination. In April 1996, the Academy of American Poets, the largest membership-based nonprofit poetry organization, launched National Poetry Month to introduce more readers to the art form. Today National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world, reaching millions of Americans and inspiring generations of future readers and writers. April is right around the corner, but it’s not too late to get involved. Here are some simple ways to celebrate National Poetry Month 2013:

Encourage student participation in the Dear Poet Project.

This spring on, the Academy will be celebrating the role that correspondence has played in poets’ development and writing lives. Our special project for April, the Dear Poet Project, encourages students to engage with poetry by reading poems from established poets, Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, and responding to the poems by composing a hand-written letter to the poet. Select letters submitted to the Dear Poet Project will receive a direct reply from the poet and will be featured on in May. To help teachers involve their classes, we’ve created a version of the Dear Poet Project for grades 7-10 that has been prepared by a curriculum specialist and aligns with Common Core standards. Visit to get involved.

Celebrate (and tweet about) Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 18, 2013).

On a special day in April, the Academy promotes Poem in Your Pocket Day, encouraging people to carry poems and share them with others. On this day each year, many schools throughout the United States host student poetry readings, have students distribute poems throughout the school, or reward students caught with poems in their pockets. As a resource for Poem in Your Pocket Day participants, the Academy has created a page of poem PDFs ready for distribution. If you are active on social media, you might tweet about how your school is celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day using the hashtag #pocketpoem. For more information about Poem in Your Pocket Day, visit

Display the National Poetry Month poster.

Every year, in the months leading up to National Poetry Month, the Academy distributes over 150,000 complimentary poetry posters to librarians, teachers, and booksellers throughout the United States to help with their poetry celebrations. Email to request your copy of the poster for 2013, and sign-up for next year’s poster beginning in early February by visiting

Explore & sign-up to receive monthly poetry lesson plans.

Every month the Academy of American Poets works with a curriculum specialist to develop a poetry lesson plan that aligns with Common Core standards and connects to a timely theme. We send these lesson plans out in a newsletter (subscribe at and they live on the educators’ homepage at In addition to poetry lesson plans, is home to audio and video footage from poetry readings; thousands of poems and essays; and accessible, detailed biographies of poets.

For 30 ways to celebrate in April and further details about the Academy’s April programming, visit us at Also, please feel free to share your feedback and send photos and video from your celebrations to We often use these to inspire other participants. Happy National Poetry Month!   Look at the cherry blossoms!

   Their color and scent fall with them,

   Are gone forever,

   Yet mindless

   The spring comes again.

         - Japanese poet, Ikkyū (休宗純1394–1481)


Touring the Capital

Planning to visit the Capital in person this spring?  If so, there's a new official National Park Service   app for the National Mall and Memorial Parks that can be used to explore many of the most cherished cultural and historical sites in the United States—from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House. The app includes a total of 70 sites.

Not traveling this year, but interested in taking your students on a virtual tour of the Capital sites from home? Here are a few digital resources to help.  The National Park Service’s resources include Icons of the Nation’s Capital with details about visiting the National Mall and Memorial Parks including the A Gift of Beauty and Friendship and History and Culture.  A map of the National Mall and Memorial Park can be found on the NPS teachers’ page. An EDSITEment Tour of the National Mall provides additional background for armchair travelers.






The Architect of the Capitol building offers an interactive through the Architect’s Virtual Capitol where students can Discover, Explore, and Learn.  A Landmark Lesson: The United States Capitol Building asks what makes the U.S. Capitol "symbolically important" and has students investigate the Capitol's story using primary sources presented as “mysteries,” with a challenge to tie together the information through research.

While the White House in-person tours have been suspended this spring due to sequestration, students can still enjoy an interactive experience and explore: Inside the White House.  As part of President and Mrs. Obama’s commitment to open the White House to as many Americans as possible, they have partnered with the Google Art Project and allowed 360 Street View cameras to capture the rooms that are featured on the public tour. Take the virtual tour to discover the history and view the art in “the people’s house.”  Picturing First Families offers students a ticket to the National Portrait Gallery, the White House, and the Library of Congress, with a side trip to the University of Virginia. This lesson has students gather clues about America's original First Families, their lives and periods in American history. Women in the White House lesson contains activities to learn about the contributions to American society made by recent First Ladies.

From the White House of Yesterday to the White House of Today (3 Lessons) Students take a close look at the design of the White House and some of the changes it has undergone. They also reflect on how the “President's House” has been and continues to be used.
      Lesson 1: How Was the White House Designed?

Lesson 2: How and Why Has the White House Changed?

Lesson 3: A President's Home and the President's House

What Happens in the White House? (3 Lessons) Students take a close look at the White House in recent times and throughout our history.

Lesson 1: What Is the Purpose of the White House?

Lesson 2: What Has Happened in the White House?

Lesson 3: What Happens in the White House? A Timeline

Viewing Cherry Blossoms

digital file from original

Cherry trees along the Tidal Basin with Japanese Lantern placed in the park in 1954. Washington, D.C. Photographer: Carol Highsmith [between 1980 and 2006]  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA


The Japanese springtime tradition of viewing cherry blossoms (“sakura” ) has been a cultural event for over a thousand years. Wonderopolis provides a helpful resource  “Did you know?” What are Sakura? explaining that Sakura is the Japanese term for flowering cherry trees… an icon of cultural identity for Japan. The Japanese celebrate the cherry blossoms for both their innate beauty and the symbolism they contain. In the Buddhist tradition, the breathtaking beauty and brevity of the blossoms symbolizes the transient nature of life.  The form and color of the blossoms reflect the cultural values of simplicity and purity. Happily the Japanese annual tradition of hanami (picnicking under the cherry trees once they come into bloom) has been adopted in America. Each year in early spring thousands converge on the nation’s capital for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This event is a spectacle providing cultural experience of the cherry blossoms for the 1.5 million visitors who make the pilgrimage to view them.

This ritual in the nation's capital was initiated one hundred years ago with the gift of 3,020 cherry blossom trees to the United States from Japan in celebration of the nations' then-growing friendship. The National Park Service provides a timeline where students can trace the fascinating history of this cultural exchange. On March 27, 1912 the two original trees were planted by First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, on the bank of the Potomac River's Tidal Basin. The others were placed along the shoreline near the site of the future Jefferson Memorial and on the grounds of the White House. Many of these same trees have survived and may be viewed today!  In 1965, the Japanese government contributed an additional 3800 trees to the United States. On that occasion again the First Lady and wife of the Japanese ambassador (”Lady Bird” Johnson and Mrs Ryuji Takeuchi) presided over  the planting ceremony and placed the trees on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

The Library of Congress offers Selected Internet Resources — Cherry Blossoms including STEM resources along with The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration Webcast by Ann McClellan. Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers takes up the topic "Cherry Trees" with sample articles including one published 100 years ago, "Japanese Cherries Adorn Park Drive" from The Washington Times, April 6, 1913. The story describes the cherry trees along the tidal basin as “Fragrantly beautiful and riotous with spring!”  The same description could be penned today and reflects the timeless quality of the sakura: “The blossoms, however, are as beautiful now as they will be in years to come and make the observer forget the shape of the tree…In appearance the blooms are a delicate pink shading almost to white in some instances, Each cluster is made up of dozens of individual blossoms which are formed somewhat like the wild rose.”

Egg-Rolling on the White House Lawn

b&w film copy neg. Mrs. Coolidge exhibits her pet raccoon [Rebecca] to crowds of children gathered for Easter egg rolling  1927 April 18 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Another spring ritual unique to the Nation’s Capitol is the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This public event is now held every year on the South Lawn of the White House on the Monday following Easter.  The origins of this event are murky - some note that Dolley Madison originated the idea of holding a public egg roll, but there is very little evidence to support that claim. What is known is that by the early 1870s, Washingtonians began to congregate on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to celebrate on the day after Easter with picnics and children rolling dyed hard-boiled eggs down the slope. A concern for the landscape being torn up by the children's games soon led Congress to enact the “Turf Protection Law,” a bill that banned the practice.  As the story goes in 1878, the rollers who were ejected by Capitol Hill police headed up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in the hope that their egg rolling games would be permitted there.  President Hayes instructed his guards to let the youngsters through the gates and thus the official egg roll was established.  By 1880, an article in the Evening Star reported that eager egg rollers had taken “absolute possession of the grounds south of the White House.”  

Learn more about the history of this holiday event which continues to evolve with every Administration. Over the years the First Ladies as well as the White House children and pets (including "Rebecca" First-Racoon pictured above) have participated and left their unique stamp on the event. On occasion over the years the egg roll has had to be suspended due to wartime or relocated due to renovations. This year the White House is again playing host to the 136th annual Easter Egg Roll with the theme "Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!" The National Park Service provides an overview of the history of the White House Egg Roll and the White House hosts a photo gallery illustrating “An American Tradition since 1878.”



kids_tablet.jpgSTEM, mobile devices, and the Thinkfinity Community are perfect together! Learn about how to locate high-quality STEM resources for all grades. Explore free lesson plans, interactives, and activities as well as community support at Make the most of BYOD, tablets and smartphones with the fabulous STEM resources.


You’ll find everything you need in our archived video, featuring Barbara DeSantis, the In-Class Support Technology Specialist at the Sayreville School District.


For classroom materials on  other new and timely topics, just keep reading!


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

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


—Traci Gardner


[Photo: CERDEC supports STEM Career Day by CERDEC, on Flickr]

Eileen Murphy Buckley is the founder of ThinkCERCA, the author of 360 Degrees of Text: Using Poetry to Teach Close Reading and Powerful Writing (NCTE, 2011), and is a former teacher and administrator in Chicago Public Schools.

Why teach Common Core State Standards in the first place?

The Common Core Standards expect that all students will acquire extremely sophisticated literacy skills: a radical change from previous education reform measures that were driven by a very different rhetoric, which centered on words like “proficient” and “adequate.” The authors of the Common Core State Standards, however, use words like “master” and “private deliberation.” Students who attain this “mastery” are readers who “readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature.”


The CCSS goal is set well beyond college and career readiness—aiming to develop the kind of citizenry that relies upon reading not just to build knowledge but to “enlarge experience” and “broaden worldviews.” In this vision, citizens “reflexively demonstrate the cogent reasoning and use of evidence that is essential to both private deliberation and responsible citizenship in a democratic republic.” (ELA Standards, Overview). The CCSS are therefore focused not blog-logo-banner-smler.jpgonly on skills and knowledge, but also on intellectual values, challenging our school systems to develop a country of thinkers.


The Core Anchor Standards in reading clearly spell out these ambitious goals in terms of performance tasks that seem to be perfectly reasonable ways of assessing this level of sophistication. But it is puzzling to some that the grade level standards for K–12 make a distinction between two kinds of reading: one for literature and another for informational texts. The CCSS documents even quantify the suggested percentage of instruction time that should be allocated to each.


Now, many are under the impression that there is a hard and fast line between a literary approach to reading and reading for information; but others argue that this distinction is often dubious. So, in the spirit of intellectual values and bold visions for a thinking and humane citizenry, let’s see how the difference between the two types of reading holds up in real life.


Reading in real life: Picasso’s paints

One real-life source of text accessible to students required to master the standards is the New York Times. While looking for an informational text of sufficient complexity to be worthy of instruction for sixth graders in the Common Core era, I readily found one in the Science Times section of the newspaper, “Picasso’s Masterpieces Made with House Paints.”


Students asked to “analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated … (e.g., through examples or anecdotes),” as CCSS standards require, would quickly discover that the informational nugget of the text—about the Department of Energy’s nanoprobe x-ray machine, which measures the most infinitesimal particles on earth—is framed within a complex narrative that makes use of regular literary devices. The author makes a protagonist of the scientist who used sophisticated scientific equipment to end a debate regarding Picasso’s choice of paint. To generate suspense, he plays on the underlying tension between juxtaposed themes: the serious science requiring mega x-ray machines and the historical debate over whether or not Picasso was the first major painter to use house paint in his art. He employs three distinct narratives to do so: one about Picasso, the revolutionary artist; another concerning the art-historical debate about Picasso’s use of house paint; and the culminating one that tells the tale of the scientist at Argonne National Laboratories who had an interest in the Picasso controversy.


Of course! Reading in real life is complicated. Since Hammurabi’s Code, the Bible, and Homer’s Odyssey, evidence abounds that literary and informational texts have never easily been separated. Arguments are artfully presented throughout literature, from Renaissance sonnets to earth-shifting speeches of the 19th century: “Ain’t I a Woman;” the Gettysburg Address; or anything by Frederick Douglass. Even a cursory glance at literary traditions worldwide illustrates the ways in which cogent reasoning has been delivered in complex literary forms. Ground-breaking works classified as science such as Origin of the Species, The Double Helix, and A Brief History of Time, as well as contemporary works of fiction such as The Things They Carried are riddled with blurry distinctions between information and literature.


The missing literary standard

One of the most striking distinctions that the standards make in my mind is found in Reading Literature Standard Number 8: “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.”


From grades K12, this standard simply reads “not applicable to literature.”


To that I say, who remembers the book Everything is an Argument? Are there English majors who disagree with the argument in this title? Sure, but not many. Depending upon whether we are classifying a text as an argument based on the author’s intended purpose, the forum in which it was published, the audience’s reading of text, or the features of the text, examples of arguments can be found throughout the history of literature.


In American literature, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin come to mind as texts that argue as much as they tell a good story—as do more recent works of fiction, such as Tony Morrison’s Beloved.


In the end, the distinctions between literary and informational texts are somewhat trivial and their purpose utilitarian—perhaps a concession to those who demand clarity, even at the cost of risking absurdity.


I hope we forge ahead. Those of us who aspire to the goal of a thinking and humane citizenry, sharing intellectual values that are developed in thoughtful classrooms across disciplines, will help students achieve success in the standards regardless of whether or not we declare a distinction between literature and information. Great science teachers will teach while championing art history and literature teachers will reveal the literary genius of Jonathan Swift’s argument in “A Modest Proposal” by providing informational texts about the history and science of Swift’s day—because that’s what sophisticated thinkers can do.


EDSITEment Resources


Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, premiered on Broadway on this day March 11th 1959.


Never before had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen onstage.—James Baldwin

The play was as much a milestone in the nation’s social history as it was in American theater. The first play written by a black woman to debut on Broadway, it was also the first Broadway play directed by a black man, Lloyd Richards. Centering upon the aspirations of a working-class African American family in one of Chicago’s south side neighborhoods as they try to break out of the poverty that seems to be their fate, it is a play about the American Dream, about the ambition to better one’s own life and that of one’s children.

EDSITEment Lesson plan, A Raisin in the Sun; The Quest for the American Dream assists teachers in raising these essential questions with students:

  • How does the play A Raisin in the Sun mirror the social, educational, political, and economical climate of the 1950s.
  • How does the play illustrate the impact this climate had on African Americans' quest for "The American Dream"?


This presentation demonstrates how teachers can use EDSITEment resources to satisfy the expectations of the Common Core while meeting the diverse needs of students in the classroom. More insights into Analyzing the American Dream for Common Core: "A Raisin in the Sun" can be found on the Community Hub.



"Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort." So spoke Frederick  Douglass soon after he heard Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865. The abolitionist  orator/editor (and former slave) had met Lincoln only twice before, and for most  of the war was a fierce critic of the president's policies. But he praised  Lincoln's four-paragraph speech as sounding "more like a sermon than like a state paper." Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address was a surprisingly brief but profound reflection on the meaning of the Civil War that speculated on the  purposes of God to help reunite the country.


What would it be like to write an inaugural address, if you were a newly re-elected president who was presiding over the end of a Civil War that had cost

the country around 600,000 deaths during four agonizing years? What would you say to your countrymen, and to all the regions of the country involved in the conflict, that would show your understanding of what had transpired, and would give your aims and purposes for the next four years? In this lesson, students will try their hand at just such a task.



Find out more about this lesson on our new Closer Readings blog

Closer Readings: How to Write an Inaugural Address | Thinkfinity


This Women’s History Month introduce your students to Lucille Clifton a former Maryland poet laureate and National Book Award winner, whose collection Quilting: Poems 1987 – 1990 was widely acclaimed. She used “quilts as a metaphor for life - each poem is a story bound together through history and figuratively sewn with the thread of experience.” For more on this poet turn to the Poetry Foundation and the American Academy of Poets.

Clifton quilting.jpg

March 16th is National Quilting Day ~ this year’s theme is “Celebrate America”


“We Americans have adopted quilts as a symbol of what we value about ourselves and our national history,” so writes Laurel Horton in special presentation “Speaking of Quilts: Voices from the Late 20th- century” available from the American Memory Project. We refer to quilts as evidence of our nation’s ingenuity and resourcefulness. The patchwork quilt has replaced the melting pot as the metaphor for the cultural diversity of our population. However, just as our national motto, E pluribus unum, "One, from many," encompasses the collective history of individuals from many backgrounds, American quilts have many stories to tell.  Read more on Quilts and Quiltmaking in America 1978-1996 from the Library of Congress including a Gallery of Quilt photographs.


EDSITEment has resources for all grade levels using quilts as a means to tell stories. 


Geared for K - 2, Stories in Quilts |EDSITEment asks: How are quilts used to tell stories? What kinds of stories can be told through quilts? How are art and history connected through quilts that tell stories?  A second lesson, Family and Friendship in Quilts | EDSITEment, explains what a quilt is and describes some of the historic purposes and uses of quilts, such as friendship and family record quilts.


History in Quilts | EDSITEment contains activities designed for the elementary school set (though it can be adapted for use with older or younger students.) This lesson poses questions: What is a quilt? What elements make up a quilt? How are art and history connected through quilts? What are some of the purposes and uses that quilts have served in different places and cultures in the past? What function do quilts have today?


Picturing America: Quilts 19th through the 20th centuries is an NEH resource relating to image 10-B Quilts: 19th through 20th Centuries in the Picture gallery.


An NEH resource which represents A Patchwork of History” is the Quilt Index. Born out of the "explosion in quilt scholarship over several decades which highlighted the need for an independent expanding bibliography," the index features thousands of historic and contemporary quilts for research and inspiration. This resource includes lesson plans for all levels such as Be A Quilt Detective (Keeping Us in Stitches Activity) which teaches students that history can be recorded in a handmade object. Quilt Around the World has students learn about a different country of their choosing and challenges them to represent the culture of this country using geometric and organic shapes out of different fabrics.  STEM applications abound in these lessons such as Quilt Dilations which uses quilts to explore Mathematics and Dye Sample Journal which teaches the arts of dyeing fabric and the chemical process of using modern dyes to imitate colors once produced from plants. 


A theme of interest to older students may be the AIDS Memorial Quilt now made up of 48,000 panels representing more than 94,000 victims. The quilt when laid end to end would extend for 50 miles and require 33 days to view.  In late July, 2012, some 100 volunteers handled thousands of panels when laid out on the National Mall during the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C.  The AIDS Memorial Quilt has an interactive website which allows students to participate in the memorial.  Professor Anne Balsamo of the University of Southern California, starting with a grant from the NEH and then working with Microsoft Research Connections and the University of Iowa Digital Studio for the Public Humanities, has made the quilt accessible on desktop, tabletop, and mobile app.

Seven Southern Quilters from UVA American Studies includes the story of Harriet Powers born into slavery in Georgia in 1837. Harriet Powers created two quilts which are the best known and well preserved examples of Southern American quilting tradition still in existence. Using the traditional African applique techniques along with European record keeping and biblical reference traditions, Harriet's quilts render local legends, Bible stories, and astronomical phenomena into physical form.

Harriet Powers Quilt.jpg


How can you use quilts with your students to learn about American stories?



women_locomotive.jpgMarch  is National Women’s History Month. Find resources to learn more about famous women in our list of 50 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” @ California State Railroad Museum by Loco Steve, on Flickr]

womenshistory.jpgIt’s time to celebrate the great achievements and discoveries made by women. March  is National Women’s History Month. Share some of your ideas on one of these discussions and posts on the Thinkfinity Community site:



For classroom materials on  other new and timely topics, 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)

  • March 9: The Barbie doll was unveiled in 1959.Students explore body image and advertising through an activity where they bring in pictures from magazines that they read and discuss gender representations in the media. (For grades 7–12)

  • March 10: Celebrate Teen Tech Week! Students select a topic for research using a variety of technologies and practice citing media sources. They can create their report in an electronic medium such as a CD, podcast, or video. (For grades 7–12)

  • March 11: Ezra Jack Keats was born on this day in 1916. In celebration of Keats' birthday, students write stories that include some characters from Keats' books and practice using collage techniques with the Collage Machine. (For grades K–12)

  • March 12: On this date in 1901, Andrew Carnegie gave $5.2 million to New York City libraries. Students write expository and persuasive pieces with the help of the Persuasion Map and Essay Map interactives, and compare the essential features of the two modes of writing. (For grades 3–12)

  • March 15: Beware the Ides of March! Students discuss and categorize superstitions, define a superstition, and compare the similarities and difference between proverbs and superstitions. (For grades 3–12)

  • 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)

  • In March, find lesson plans and activities on World Poetry Day, Kate DiCamillo, Robert Frost, César Chávez, and more!

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


—Traci Gardner


[Photo: Women's History Month by marc.balderama, on Flickr]

drseuss-books.jpgMarch 1 is Read Across America Day, the largest reading event in the United States. People across the country celebrate the day with read-aloud, read-along, and reading marathon activities.


Sponsored by the NEA, Read Across America is always celebrated near March 2nd,  the birthday of   the author better known to most readers as Dr. Seuss, Dr. Theodor Geisel. To help you get in the mood, I’ve gathered lesson plans and family activities that use Dr. Seuss books across the grade levels, from EconEdLink, EDSITEment, ReadWriteThinkScience NetLinks, and Wonderopolis.


So grab your books and get ready to  celebrate reading and Dr. Seuss.


Focused on Books by Dr. Seuss

  • Dr. Seuss’s Sound Words: Playing with Phonics and Spelling (for grades K-2)
    Boom! Br-r-ring! Cluck! Moo!—Everywhere you turn, you find exciting sounds. Students use these sounds to write their own poems based on Dr. Seuss’s Mr. Brown Can MOO! Can You?

  • From Dr. Seuss to Jonathan Swift: Exploring the History behind the Satire (for grades 9-12)
    Use Dr. Seuss’s The Butter Battle Book as an accessible introduction to satire. Reading, discussing, and researching this picture book paves the way for a deeper understanding of Gulliver’s Travels.

  • Green Eggs and ...Economics? (for grades 9-12)
    Economic concepts are often found in places students have never considered, like children's literature. In this lesson, students will explore the various economic concepts addressed in five of Dr. Seuss’s most popular books.

  • Id, Ego, and Superego in Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat (for grades 9-12)
    Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat is used as a primer to teach students how to analyze a literary work using plot, theme, characterization, and psychoanalytical criticism.

  • If I Ran the Zoo—Economics and Literature (for grades 3-5)
    In this two-day lesson you will use Dr. Seuss’s If I Ran The Zoo book to introduce the economic concepts to your students. You will also get the chance to use actual zoo criteria to help a zoo “choose” new animals.

  • Investigating Local Ecosystems  (for grades K-2)
    Students investigate the habitats of local plants and animals and explore some of the ways animals depend on plants and each other. As an extension, they explore Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.

  • Play with Words: Rhyme & Verse (for grades K-2)
    Students  listen to poems and rhymes, clap out syllables, and sing along with familiar tunes. They will also use puppets and crafts to help recall and retell favorite poems. Finally, students will write their own original poems.

  • Reading Everywhere with Dr. Seuss (for grades K-2)
    Young readers create a classroom book modeled after Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham to celebrate all the places they can read.

  • Seuss and Silverstein: Posing Questions, Presenting Points (for grades 9-12)
    Students will enjoy this blast from the past as they read the works of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to analyze the way social issues are addressed in selected works.

  • Teaching Short-Vowel Discrimination Using Dr. Seuss Rhymes (for grades K-2)
    Through the contrast of short-vowel patterns and use of Dr. Seuss rhymes, students apply their knowledge of vowel sounds in reading and spelling new words.

Family Activities

  • Have You Seen the Movie Yet? (for grades 6-8)
    Before watching a movie based on a book by Dr. Seuss, children can learn about filmmaking and create their own scenes based on their favorite moments from the book.

  • Let’s Go on a Reading Hunt! (for grades K-2)
    In this activity, children go on a hunt for places where they can read and enjoy books: on a family road trip, at the pool, at the doctor’s office.

  • Taking a Sound Hike (for grades K-2)
    Whether taking a sound hike at the mall, a near-by park, or on a family trip, ask children to notice the sounds they hear and then use sound words as they write their own books.

  • Writing Fanfiction (for grades 6-10)
    Writing stories that imitate a certain genre or type of fiction allows children to explore a book they love by imagining new twists for their favorite characters and plot lines.

If you want even more resources, check out the Read Across America Calendar Entry.



[Photo: Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss by katerha, on Flickr]

seuss_cake.jpgTime to get your plans ready for Read Across America Day, which takes places the weekend of March 1 to 3. The day is always celebrated near March 2nd,  the birthday of   the author better known to most readers as Dr. Seuss, Dr. Theodor Geisel.


Mark his birthday with NEA’s Read Across America, the largest reading event in the United States, by celebrating with read-aloud, read-along, and reading marathon activities. For classroom materials on  other new and timely topics, just keep reading!


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

  • February 18: In 1931, Toni Morrison was born. After retelling a familiar fable, students discover the differences in one of Morrison’s retellings of a fable. (For grades 3–12)

  • February 20:  Actor Sidney Poitier was born in 1924. Students do a journal entry about barriers that have been broken–such as age, race, and gender–that might impede them in the future, and how they can break through those barriers. (For grades 3–12)

  • February 21: Humorist Erma Bombeck was born in 1927. Using lines from Bombeck’s newspaper column, students identify allusive or satirical humor. Older students can rewrite the passages for a different audience. (For grades 9–12)

  • February 23: Diarist Samuel Pepys was born. Students write diary entries and revisit the entries as if it were a hundred years from now. Students then brainstorm and write paragraphs about life in the 21st century. (For grades 3–12)

  • February 27: In 1902, John Steinbeck was born. Students brainstorm a list of the ills of society, research a topic of their choosing, and then prepare an annotated bibliography of texts that address the topic. (For grades 9–12)

  • 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: Dr Seuss’ Birthday Cake at the Vineland Library. by San José Library, on Flickr]

dld-square-300.jpgThese are great days to visit ReadWriteThink. You’ll find resources on Valentine’s Day and the 100th Day of School. Just as exciting, you will also find student activities for Digital Learning Day, which takes place Wednesday, February 6. But our celebration of Digital Learning Day isn’t limited to the classroom.


In  honor of Digital Learning Day on February 6th, join ReadWriteThink, our Thinkfinity partners, and the Verizon Foundation on Twitter for an education  technology chat (#EdTechChat) from 8-9 p.m. ET. Educators and learning  advocates from across the country will be discussing new and innovative ways to  use digital technology in the classroom. You can read more information in the Thinkfinity Community Hub.


Find other timely classroom activities and ReadWriteThink calendar entries below.


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

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


—Traci Gardner

Mardi Gras is the love of life.  It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living.  All at once. - Chris Rose, 1Dead in the Attic



Carnivals are of ancient origin and virtually all peoples in all eras have organized carnivals to mark or celebrate different events. Carnivals can be magical, political, satirical, or purely entertaining; some even poke fun at death. In the Catholic tradition, Carnaval refers to the riotous festival atmosphere and feasting that goes on during the days leading up to the beginning of Lent.  This year, Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday falls on February 12th. "Fat Tuesday" or "Pancake Tuesday" as it is sometimes called, carries a tradition of making pancakes for supper.  In this way, all the rich items in one's larder (eggs,sugar and butter) get used up before the lenten season of fasting commences.  This last hurrah of feasting and play occurs on the eve of Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter.


In many carnivals, and certainly in Mardi Gras, masks are key ingredients of the public spectacle. The prominence of masquerading devils during Carnival is understood by many as an ancient reference to the contest between good and evil. See EDSITEment K-2 Lesson The Meaning behind the Mask, where students explore the cultural significance of masks. After recalling some of the contexts in which masks are worn in the United States including Mardi Gras, students discuss the use of masks in stories. Students then investigate the role masks play in ceremonies and on special occasions in various African cultures. For older elementary and middle school students, EDSITEment offers What Masks Reveal. In this lesson, students explore the cultural significance of masks by investigating the role they play in ceremonies and on special occasions in societies from widely separated regions of the world. They then reflect on masking behavior in American society, such as Mardi Gras celebrations.


For use with older students, EDSITEment reviewed Poetry-Foundation has a number of poems with masks as a central image:


Carnival by Rebecca Lindenberg : The Poetry Foundation

We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar : The Poetry Foundation

Winter Mask by Allen Tate : The Poetry Foundation


Additional background on the history of the Mardi Gras festival is available from the History Channel.. For insight into how Mardi Gras masks figure in the traditional island culture of Puerto Rico, turn to A Vision of Puerto Rico: Carnival, an EDSITEment-reviewed site from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.


These resources from the National Endowment for the Humanities include activities and images for use in the classroom:


American Experience:


Mardi Gras Indians | Entries | KnowLA, Encyclopedia of Louisiana

NEH on the Road travelling exhibit: iCarnaval!

Museum of International Folk Art; Museum Hill, Santa Fe - iCarnaval!

Shelley, Program Specialist EDSITEment


Recently, the History News Network used crowd sourcing to find the ten most important documents in American History.  They eliminated the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution,and the Bill of Rights, as these would be on anyone's list.


We thought Thinkfinity teachers would be interested in this list.  How many of these documents do you teach?



We also want to point out that EDSITEment has lessons built around the close reading of nine out of ten of these documents.


caldecott2011.jpgBook lovers rejoice this time of year, as the best of children’s and young adult literature receive special awards. Last week, NCTE announced the winners of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.


This week the the American Library Association announces its annual book award winners. To celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, members of IRA’s Children’s Literature and Reading Special Interest Group have provided reviews of past winners in two parts: 1938–1971 and 1972–2012. Find other timely classroom activities and ReadWriteThink calendar entries below.


Featured Resources

From the Calendar

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


—Traci Gardner


[Photo: Mr. Schu Shows Off This Year's Caldecott Winner (2011) by MrSchuReads, on Flickr]

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