For each of the 31 days of May, thought-provoking prompts that will motivate your students to react in writing.
by James Wayne
Regular contributor to the Gazette
May 1, 2009
The character trait for May is; TEMPERANCE.
Appropriate reactions to events in our lives
Avoidance of extremes
Joseph Addison was born in 1672. He and Sir Richard Steele are credited with the invention of the personal essay in magazines they published. Essays are considered non-fiction, as are biographies, editorials, and articles in books, magazines, or newspapers. What kind of non-fiction do you prefer to read? Why do you like that kind?
Today is Loyalty Day in the United States. People are supposed to think about what loyalty means, and what they are loyal to. In your opinion, what three qualities would you look for in a loyal friend? Do you have those qualities?
In many parts of the world, today is the equivalent of Labor Day in the US. Would you prefer to have Labor Day in the spring (as in Europe) or in the fall (as we do in America)? What reasons do you have for your preference?
Today is World Law Day, which is dedicated to respect for the law and the people that enforce the law. What characteristics and strengths do you think people need to be a good law enforcement official?
Manfred von Richthofen was born in 1892. A brave and daring pilot in the German air force in World War I, he invented many of the tactics used by modern fighter pilots. He was called the Red Baron because he had his plane painted bright red. If you could meet a hero of the army, navy, air force, or Marine Corps, what would you ask them? List 5 questions.
The first trans-Atlantic picture fax was sent between Britain and the United States. If you could get a fax picture from a foreign place, where would you like to get one from, and what would you like it to show?
In 1859, Jerome K. Jerome was born. He was the author of Three Men in a Boat, the story of a trip he and two friends made down the rivers and canals of England in a small rowboat. His book helped to make the idea of camping out for fun popular. Do you like to camp out on your vacation. Give three reasons you either like or dislike camping out. (If you have never done it, tell three reasons you would or would not like to try it.)
In 1927, Alaska adopted its state flag, designed by a school student and based on the stars of the Big Dipper. Suppose you were asked to design a new flag for our state. Describe or draw your idea for the new flag.
Dr. Benjamin Spock was born in 1903. Dr. Spock wrote a popular book on how to take care of babies and children. What do you think are the three most important things to remember if you are babysitting a small child?
West Virginia became the first American state to impose a sales tax in 1921. Some people think sales taxes are fairer that other kinds of taxes. Others think other kinds of taxes are fairer. Since taxes are necessary if we are to have public services, what kind of taxes do you think are the fairest: sales taxes, income taxes, or property taxes? Give reasons for your choice.
Today is the beginning of three days of kite fighting in Japan. Describe or draw the most interesting or unusual kite you have seen.
Today is Airline Passenger Day. The first passenger was carried by an airplane in 1919, and the first jet passenger plane started service in 1952. A long trip on an airplane can be very boring, especially if you cannot see out of a window. What are some things that you would do if you were taking a trip of several hours alone on an airplane and had to stay in your seat?
Dodie Smith, who wrote 101 Dalmations, was born in 1896. What is your favorite breed of dog? Why do you prefer that breed? (If you don't like dogs, give reasons you prefer some other pet.)
The first medical school in the United States was begun in 1765. In your opinion, what is the most important medical problem facing the United States today? Why is that problem more important that the others?
The first horserace to be called a Derby was held in 1780. The race was named for one of the two men who put up the prize money for it. Some people like horse races. Would you like to ride a horse? Imagine riding a horse on a short trip. Where would you like to ride? Where would you go? What would you do on your trip?
In 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was founded. The Academy gives out the Oscars (Academy Awards) every year. What is the WORST movie you ever saw? What are three things about that movie that were bad?
Horace Mann was born in 1796. He was a famous educator, and worked to make free schooling available to everyone. He once said, "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." What do you think he meant by that?
In 1959, the first Grammy Awards were given for recording artists. In your opinion, what person or group should win the Grammy for the best popular song? Defend your choice.
In China, Japan, and Korea, today is Boys' Day, when families honor boys with parties and displays. (Girls' Day is March 3) In all three countries, special foods are served. If you were planning a Boys' or Girls' Day celebration for your family, what special foods would you serve? Why those foods?
In 1806, Mary Kies of Connecticut became the first American woman to get a patent in her own name. She invented a way of weaving straw and thread to make mats and other articles. Many common household articles we use today were once unknown until someone like Mary Kies invented them. Make a list of three things you use every day. Use an encyclopedia or other sources to see if you can find out who invented them, or who first discovered a way to make them easily and cheaply. For instance: who invented the machine that makes pencils? (Teachers: Eberhart Faber invented the pencil-making machine and founded the pencil company that bears his name.)
Ann B. Davis, who played Alice the housekeeper in The Brady Bunch, was born in 1926. Is it better to have lots of brothers and sisters, only a few, or to be an only child? Give two reasons for your choice.
Today is International Children’s Day. It is supposed to be a day to think about the problems children have in many parts of the world. What problems do you think are the worst for children in other parts of the world? List three important problems they have.
In 1889, the Eiffel Tower was officially opened in Paris. Many people at the time thought it was ugly, but later changed their minds. What is something you have changed your mind about? Why did you change it?
Orson Wells, writer, actor, and producer, was born in 1915. He was very fat. He once said, "My doctor told me to stop having dinners for four, unless there were three other people there." What are five things you can snack on that will not make you fat? Which one of them do you like to snack on?
Today is the birthday of the first postage stamp, in 1840. Design a stamp celebrating someone or something you think is important. Describe or draw your stamp.
In 1966, "Monday, Monday" became the first number one song recorded by a group consisting of equal numbers of men and women. The Mamas and the Papas had two men and two women; earlier groups had been either all one sex, or only one person of the other sex. Would you like to participate in a successful singing group? What are some problems people in such groups might have that a single singer would not have? List as many as you can.
May is National Book Month. What is your favorite place to read? Why is that place your favorite?
The Germans surrendered in 1945, bringing an end to the European part of World War II. Suppose you were living in a place where there had been a terrible war. Describe how you might feel if you heard that the war was over.
In 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person who ran a mile in less than four minutes. Today the record is one mile in less than three minutes and 44 seconds. What do you think the record for the mile run will be in twenty years? Defend your answer.
The first glass of Coca-Cola was sold in Atlanta, GA, in 1886. Which kind of soft drink do you prefer? Why do you like that drink more than others?
In 1980, the World Health Agency announced that smallpox, a deadly and very contagious disease, had been wiped out in humans. Since humans can only catch smallpox from each other, it is the only disease we have ever been able to end completely. Since then, efforts have been made to wipe out several other deadly diseases, but none have been successful so far. Think about the other diseases caused by germs (cancer and heart disease aren't usually caused by germs) and tell which one you think the World Health Organization should work on next. Why that one?
Harry Truman was born in 1884. He was the last President who had not attended college full time, although he got a law degree in night school. Suppose you had to work all day and go to school at night. What are four problems you might have? Which one would be the hardest to solve?
Today is World Red Cross day, the birthday of its founder, Jean Henri Dunant. What are some ways students in your school could help raise money for the Red Cross?
In 1926, Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett became the first to fly an airplane over the North Pole. Admiral Byrd once said, "A static hero is a public liability. Progress grows out of motion. " What do you think he meant by that?
President Wilson proclaimed the first Mothers Day holiday in 1914. Why do you think it took until 1914 to think of the idea of a day to honor all mothers?
Archeologist Howard Carter, co-discoverer of the tomb of the boy Pharaoh Tutankhamen (King Tut) was born in 1874. Archeology is a fascinating subject, but being an archeologist requires great patience. Name 4 situations in your life that have required patience (or might require it in the future). What can you do to help you learn to be patient?
In 1933, Nazi mobs burn school and library books which contain ideas they disagree with. Thousands of books were burned in huge public bonfires. Many authors used the burning of their books to sell thousands of additional copies to people who were curious about what the Nazis disliked. If you were going to write a book, what would your write about?
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.