The Teachers.Net Gazette is a collaborative project
published by the Teachers.Net community
Kathleen Alape Carpenter
Editor in Chief
Cover Story by LaVerne Hamlin
Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Contributors this month: Dr. Marvin Marshall; Cheryl Sigmon; Barbara & Sue Gruber; Marjan Glavac; Dr. Rob Reilly; Barb S. HS/MI; Ron Victoria; Brian Hill; Leah Davies; Hal Portner; Tim Newlin; Barb Gilman; James Wayne; P.R. Guruprasad; Todd Nelson; Addies Gaines; Pat Hensley; Alan Haskvitz; Joy Jones; and YENDOR.
James Wayne offers a writing prompt for each day of the month. These aren't ordinary writing prompts! They're based upon historical events and positive character traits - sure to educate and motivate elementary and middle school students to get writing!
by James Wayne
Regular contributor to the Gazette
March 1, 2008
The character trait for March is CITIZENSHIP.
Respect for law
Love of country
Contribution to laws, policies, and human rights
Service to others
By tradition, all the towns in Vermont have their annual town meetings. At these meetings, local officials are elected and local matters discussed. If your community had a meeting, what one thing would you like to tell them about?
March is National Frozen Foods Month. Thanks to frozen food, we can enjoy many foods outside their regular season. What are three foods that you enjoy all year long? List your favorite meals with those foods.
In 1469, William Caxton published the first book ever printed on the printing press in the English. If you were asked to write a book that would be published for everyone to read, what would you choose to write about? Briefly state what your book would be about.
In 1638, a group from Sweden set up a colony in what is now Delaware. They called it New Sweden. One permanent contribution they made to American culture was the building of houses out of whole logs, rather than cutting them into boards, making it much easier to build a shelter in the wilderness quickly. If you lived in the wilderness, far from stores, towns, or neighbors, what would be the thing you missed the most?
In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain became the first player in the NBA to score 100 points in a single game. Suppose you were at an event where some kind of record was set. What would be some things you might do to celebrate the record?
Today is Seussday! Theodore Geisel, who wrote under the name of Dr. Seuss, was born in 1904. Dr. Seuss once wrote, "You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room." What do you think he meant by that?
Two famous popular musicians were born today: Karen Carpenter in 1950 and Jon Bon Jovi in 1962. Although their styles of music were very different, there are many people who enjoy songs by both of them. Think of two singers, writers, actors, or other performers you know that are very different, but that you enjoy. Tell three ways they are different, and three ways they are alike.
Jean Harlow, a glamorous and talented actress who specialized in comedies, was born in 1911. She died as a result of scarlet fever, which damaged her kidneys as a child, in 1937. The actor Clark Gable once said of her, "She didn't want to be famous; she wanted to be happy." Do you think that being famous makes it easier or harder to be happy? Give some examples that support your opinion.
Helen Keller, the deaf and blind woman who became a famous lecturer and author with the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan, once wrote, "We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world." What do you think she meant by that?
Today is Firemen's Day in Louisiana. Write a thank you note to a fireman. Why is their work so important? Be sure to tell them.
John van der Heyden was born in 1637. He was a painter, but is more famous for inventing the first fire extinguisher. Does your family have a plan for what each person should do if your house catches on fire? If you do, describe your plan. If not, make a plan to show to your parents.
In 1770, a group of apprentices threw stones and snowballs at some British soldiers in Boston, Mass. The soldiers fired back at them with their muskets and killed 5 of them. This was the famous Boston Massacre. Some people think this should be considered the first battle of the Revolutionary War, rather than the Battle of Lexington in 1775. Do you agree with them? Why or why not?
In 1750, the first Shakespeare play ever performed in America was presented in New York City. If you could act in a play, what part would you like to have? Why that part?
In 1912, aviators proposed that "aeroplanes" be used to carry mail, but the Congress refused, saying the new machines were too unsafe and unreliable. Later, they changed their minds. Have you ever made a decision that you had to change? Tell what it was, and why you changed your mind.
In 1861, King Charles II of Great Britain gave a grant of land to William Penn which was to serve as a home for Quakers, who were unpopular in England. This land grant is now the state of Pennsylvania. If you were to take a tour of Pennsylvania, what are five places you would like to see? Why those places?
Lorin Maazel, violinist and conductor was born in 1930. A brilliant musician, he began conducting orchestras at the age of 8, and has conducted many famous American and foreign orchestras. Being a conductor means that a person must be able to work with many other highly talented musicians. What are some traits a person should have to work successfully with other people? List 4 traits, and tell why they are important.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell got a patent for the telephone. Suppose you could only make one phone call for the rest of the year, but it could be to anyone. Who would you call? What would you say?
Luther Burbank was born in 1849. He became famous for developing new varieties of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and for selling seeds by mail all over the country. He combined many vegetables and fruits, creating the tangelo, the plumcot, the white blackberry, and the variety of potato used to make french fries in McDonald's. If you could combine two vegetables or fruits to make a new kind of food, what do you combine? How do you think the combination would taste?
In 1820, the Royal Astronomical Society was founded in Britain to encourage the study of the heavens. Today, there are men and women who have gone into space. What are 5 qualities a person who wants to be an astronaut must have? Give reasons for each of your answers.
The game of Monopoly was patented in 2005 by Charles Darrow. He lived in Atlantic City, and named the streets in his game for the streets of his home town. What is your favorite board game? Why do you like it?
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. , was born in 1841. Justice Holmes was called the "Great Dissenter" because he so often disagreed with the opinions of the other justices in the Supreme Court, yet he was popular with them because of his friendly, polite manner. What is one way to disagree with your friends without having an argument?
Today is the birthday of Kenneth Grahame, the author of The Wind in the Willows, in which Mr. Toad gets into a lot of trouble for driving too fast. Some people think that a person who drives too fast repeatedly should not only lose his driver's license, but have his car taken away and sold. What do you think of this idea?
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was born in 1841. He was famous for his writings on behalf of freedom. He once wrote, "We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe." What do you think he meant by that?
Joseph Lee was born in 1862. A wealthy philanthropist, he started a movement to build public playgrounds for children in the middle of big cities, so they would have safe places to play. What are three things you think every playground should have? Why those things?
Yuri Gagarin, the first human being to orbit the earth in a spacecraft, the Vostok I, was born in 2007 on a farm near Moscow, in what was then the USSR. Imagine how you would feel if you were in space. Write a paragraph about what you think the experience might be like.
In 1822, Charles Graham patented a new way of making false teeth based on making molds of the patient's gums. Although false teeth are useful, they are far more troublesome and uncomfortable than real teeth. List five things you can do to take care of your teeth.
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." What do you think this means?
Martial arts movie star Chuck Norris was born in 1940. He was the first martial artist to become a famous movie actor. Some people think martial arts movies and television shows encourage young people to become violent. Do you agree? Why or why not?
The first celebration of Mother's Day is held in Grafton, West Virginia, in 1908. There are days for mothers, fathers, grandparents, and even for children. What group that does not already have a day needs one? Tell why you think that group needs a day of recognition, and some ways you think it should be celebrated.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, paper was invented in China by Xai Lun. The year was 105 AD. How would your life be different if there was no paper, and the only thing you could write on was expensive stuff like parchment or papyrus?
In 1918, the Spanish Flu appeared in the US. Nearly 600,000 Americans, and many millions in other countries, died. Schools, businesses, stores, factories, public buildings, and churches were closed to encourage people to stay home. Suppose a disease like that happened today, and everyone was supposed to stay home, with everything shut down. What are 3 problems your family might have? What are 3 things you would do to pass the time.
In 1907, wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gave the City of New York money to build and equip 65 branch public libraries, one of many gifts for libraries he gave over the course of his life. Why do you think a wealthy person would give money to build public libraries? Tell three ways public libraries benefit a community.
The first bottles of Coca-Cola were sold in 1894. What are your 5 favorite soft drinks? List them in order and tell why you put them in that order.
In 1938, the CBS radio network began its first news program to feature news from outside the United States. List all the places you can get news today, then decide which one you find the most reliable and complete. Defend your choice.
Astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. It was the first planet discovered since ancient times, and the first one that cannot be seen without a telescope. Many people have objected to the pattern of naming planets of our sun only for Roman gods. They think that wider sources should be used. In the last few years, new objects the size of planets have been found orbiting the sun, and the name of Roman gods and goddesses is running out. What names would you suggest for new planets that may be discovered? Defend your suggestions.
Famous scientist Albert Einstein was born in 1789. He once said, "If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y plus Z. X is work; Y is play. Z is keeping your mouth shut." Do you agree with him? If so, tell why. If not, tell your own formula for success.
Hank Ketcham, the cartoonist who draws the Dennis the Menace cartoons, was born in 1920. What is your favorite comic strip character? Why do you like that one?
In 1918, the first ship ever made of concrete was launched. Concrete is less expensive than metal for ships, but also more brittle. Think of something else usually made of metal that could be made of concrete. What would be the advantages of using concrete? What would be the disadvantages?
In 1812, a group of Russian set up a settlement on the banks of the Russian River in California. Suppose the state of California had been settled by Russians. How do you think life there would be different from life today? List at least 3 ways.
In 1911, Gustave Otto started a factory to make modern gasoline engines, which he had invented several years before. Gasoline engines are lightweight and powerful, and are used for cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, lawnmowers, snow blowers, and many other useful machines. List five ways your life would change if Otto had not invented the gasoline engine.
According to tradition, migrating turkey buzzards arrive in Hinckley, Ohio, every year on this date. The people of Hinckley have a huge celebration, and people come from all over the US to attend it. Write an advertisement or poem for Buzzard Day in Hinckley.
Today is St. Urho Day in Finland. St. Urho didn't really exist, but was made up by a department store manager as an excuse to have a sale (and a party). It is said he chose today for his saint to get ahead of the Irish and St. Patrick's Day. He made up a story about St. Urho's holy chanting driving away the grasshoppers that threatened to ravage the wild grape vines of Finland. Since grapes have never grown wild in Finland, the story is way bogus. The Finns know it, but they celebrate the holiday anyway. A fake saint deserves some fake traditions to go with his holiday. Invent a tradition about how St. Urho's Day should be celebrated.
The US Military Academy was founded in 1802 at West Point, New York, to train officers for the army. What are four qualities a good officer must have? Explain your choices.
Henny Youngman, a comic famous for his many corny jokes, was born in 1906. Write down the corniest joke you can remember or invent. Share your corny joke with your classmates.
Ferdinand Porsche produces the first Porsche car in 1949. Porsche cars are famous for being fast and agile. What are 2 qualities a good car must have, in your opinion? Why do you think those qualities are most important?
Shemp Howard, one of the original Three Stooges, was born in 1895. Some people love the Stooges, other people don't like them. How do you feel about them and the kind of comedy they do (called slapstick).
What signs of spring have you been able to observe so far? What natural event do you consider proves that winter is over?
Novelist John Updike was born in 1932. He once wrote, "Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them." What do you think he meant by that?
Daylight Savings Time was first used in 1918 as a way to cut down the used of electricity during World War 1. Do you like Daylight Savings Time? Why or why not?
Electric eels were first described in science publications by Alexander von Humboldt in 1800. Until his experiments, it was not known that animals could use electric current as a defense, and many people at first thought the report a hoax or mistake. Electric eels are very strange animals, but there are many others. What do you think is the strangest animal you have ever heard of or read about? Write a brief description of the animal, stressing its strangeness.
This is the official First Day of Spring on most years. Make a list of the springtime activities you like the best. Tell why you like them.
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was published in 1852. This harrowing story of slave life was the first big international best seller published by an American. Its plot, based on real events, changed many people's mind about slavery. Have you ever read a book that changed your mind, or the mind of someone you know, about something? What was the book, and what did it change your mind about?
Psychologist B.F. Skinner was born in 1904. When asked about the future of computers, he said, "The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do." What do think he meant by that?
In 1942, two American scientists describe element 94, which they named "plutonium," after the newly discovered planet. If you discovered a new element, what would you name it? Describe what a new element might be like, and why you chose the name you did.
French scientist Louis Pasteur began work on a vaccine against anthrax in 1877. Pasteur had already proved that microorganisms cause disease, and had invented a way to purify milk and other liquids that cannot be boiled. This process was named pasteurization, after him. If something was to be named after you, what would you like it to be, or to do?
Today is Bird Day in Iowa, to encourage the appreciation of songbirds. What is your favorite songbird?
If you move to the United States from another country, it will take you seven years (at least) to become an American citizen. You will have to take and pass a test about American history, government, and laws. Some people think seven years is too long, others that it is too short. How long do you think it should take to become an American citizen? Give reasons for your answer.
In 1861, the first nursing school in America was chartered. If you were to decide to go into health care as a career, which kind of health care career would you choose, and why?
William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk on the original Star Trek programs, was born in 1931. If you could "boldly go" anywhere in outer space, where would you go? What would you hope to find, see, or do there?
The laser is patented by Americans Arthur Schawlaw and Charles Townes. Laser is a made-up word called an initialism, whose letters stand for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation." Think up a new name for something you use that is made of initials from letters of words that describe it. Example "Two-Wheeled One-Seat Pedaled Exercise Machine" (TWOSPEM) might be a new name for a stationary bicycle.
Songwriter and theatrical producer Andrew Lloyd Webber was born in 1948. Some of his hits include the musicals Cats and Phantom of the Opera. Webber has said that he does not believe musical movies and plays should not be too realistic. Do you agree? Why or why not?
G.F. Handel's oratorio Messiah was first performed in London in 1743. One part of it, the "Hallelujah!" chorus was so beautiful and inspiring that the King, who was attending the performance, stood up as a mark of respect. Ever since then, audiences have stood during this part of this work. What is the most beautiful piece of music you have heard? Describe how that music makes you feel, and why you like it.
In 1786, George Washington planted 4,000 chestnut trees on land that had been farmed too much and was worn out. This is considered one of the first examples of reforesting in the United States. Think of three other ways to use land that has been worn out. Write a paragraph about one of them.
In 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition left the Pacific coast and began its return journey to St. Louis. The trip to the Pacific had been over 2000 miles long, and they had walked most of the way. They would have to walk most of the way back. Imagine that you were part of the expedition. Tell how you think you would feel to be starting back after your long adventure.
Harry Houdini, magician and escape artist, was born in 1874. He once said, "My brain is the key that sets me free." What do you think he meant by that?
John Harrison died in 1776. He invented the chronometer, an extremely accurate clock that allowed ships to accurately determine how far east or west of the Prime Meridian they were. Today, chronometers are small enough to be made as wristwatches, although the ones Harrison invented were much larger (about the size of a regular 3-layer cake). What is some device you use that you wish might be made much smaller? Why would having a smaller version of that device be helpful to you?
In 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed. It was the beginning of the movement to unify the many nations of Europe into one economic unit. Do you think the US and other countries should try to work together more, or leave each other alone to solve their own problems? Explain your answer.
Today is Waffle Day in Sweden. Design the most delicious waffle that you can imagine.
Author Erica Jong was born in 1942. She once wrote, "Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't." What do you think she meant by that? Do you think it is true? Why do you think as you do?
In 1875, poet Robert Frost was born. One of his most famous poems, "The Road Not Taken," tells of a man who makes a seemingly minor decision that completely changes his life. What decision have you made that has made a big difference in your life? Here is the poem:
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Today is the Monkey Festival in Singapore. What animal do you think most deserves a festival in the place you live?
Happy birthday, Florida! Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in 1513, while on an expedition to find the fountain of youth. If you were put in charge of planning a birthday party for Florida, what interesting things about that state would you want to celebrate? List 5 of them.
In 1841, firefighters in New York City tested a new, steam-powered fire engine that could shoot water farther than any hand-powered engine then available. Unfortunately, sparks from the engine started new fires, so the engine was not accepted for use. Being a firefighter is hard work, but very important for the safety of every community. Make a list of 5 qualities a good firefighter must have.
In 1930, the city of Constantinople had its name changed to Istanbul. If you could change the name of any place, what place would you rename? What is the new name you would give it? Why?
The first Spanish settlement in San Francisco Bay was begun in 1776 by Juan Bautista de Anza. Suppose you were selecting people to set up a new colony in a far-away place. What skills do you think such colonists should have. List 10 skills, then decide whether each skill is necessary for every colonist, or is only needed by a few of them.
In 1797, the United States patent office granted a patent for a cloths-washing machine that worked with a hand crank. Although cranking it was still a lot of work, it was better than having to scrub all the clothes by hand. How would your life be different if you still had to turn your washing machine by a hand crank? List 4 ways.
Country music singer Reba McEntire was born in 1955. Do you like country music? Why or why not?
John Tyler was born in 1790. He was the first Vice President to become President by succession, when President William Henry Harrison died. He was unprepared for the job, but took over and made several important decisions. What is a job you did not expect to have but ended up with anyway? How well did you do it?
Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, was born in 1918. Some people like big stores; others like small stores. Which do you like? Why?
In 1848, a prolonged cold snap caused ice to block the Niagara River, cutting off water from Niagara Falls for a day. When the falls stopped flowing, many people who lived near them couldn't get to sleep because they were so used to the noise. Stop for a minute and listen very carefully to the sounds going on around you. Make a list of those sounds that you usually ignore.
Former British Prime Minister John Major was born in 1943. He has said, "The politician who never made a mistake never made a decision." What do you think he meant by that? Do you think that it is true for people who are not politicians?
In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward signed the treaty with Russia that sold Alaska to the United States for 7 million dollars, or 2 cents an acre. If you were going to take a tour of Alaska, what are 7 things you would want to see? (If you are an Alaskan, what 7 things would you want to see if you were to take a tour of the Lower 48 states.
"Beau" Brummel, the first man to become famous for the style of his clothes, died in 1840. In his time, many young men imitated his clothing, rather than that of the king (who was very fat and dumpy-looking). Who are some of the people today whose style in clothes you admire? Why do you admire them?
Today is Doctor's Day. There are many kinds of doctors. If you were to become a doctor, in what kind of medicine would you specialize? Why that kind?
Rene Descartes, French mathematician who invented coordinate geometry was born 1596. One of the most brilliant people who ever lived, he also set a record for the smallest brain ever measured for an adult man (after he died, he willed his brain to science for study). What lesson do you think we can learn from this?
Rene Descartes once said, "It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well." What do you think he meant by that?
James Wayne has taught third grade and every grade from fifth to twelfth during a full-time career of 34 years, either in regular classrooms or in AG or AP classes. He began his writing prompts as a way to help teachers improve writing scores in his district. A native of North Carolina, James is a graduate of Duke University and a Vietnam Veteran, having served with the 101st Airborne Division. He continues to work part time for Onslow County Schools as a coordinator of the Academic Derby, a televised scholastic competition serving elementary, middle, and high schools. James resides in Jacksonville, North Carolina.