This is the month of Moby Dick, Frankenstein, Blackbeard, Joe DiMaggio, Nellie Bly, football and many other hooks to get your students writing!
by James Wayne
Regular contributor to the Gazette
November 1, 2008
The character trait for November is CARING.
Treating others as you would wish to be treated
The Model T Ford went out of production, replaced by the Model A, in 1927. The Model T was inexpensive, rugged, easy to repair, but also slow, uncomfortable, and hard to start. The Model A was prettier, more comfortable and easy to drive, but cost a lost more. Some people loved the change, but others didn't. Have you ever had a product you like that was changed? How did the changes improve it? Were there parts of the changes that you did not like? Describe your reaction.
Nicholas II, last czar of Russia, was born in 1894. He was not very smart, and did not work very hard at ruling. Russia suffered many disasters, leading eventually to a revolution that led to his overthrow and death. Which do you think is more important to being a success in what you do: working hard, or being smart? What combination of the two is best?
Noted golfer Gary Player was born in 1935. He was one of the first famous golfers from South Africa. He once said, "The harder you work, the luckier you get.” What do you think he meant by that?
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes can be brought on by overweight, and can have serious effects on a person's health. What are some things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming overweight, or improve your health if you are overweight already?
Daniel Boone was born in 1734. Daniel once said he was never lost, but once had been bewildered for three days. If you were lost, what would you do? Think of three things and tell why those are important.
President Warren G. Harding was born in 1865. Although an honest man himself, he discovered that several of his friends, whom he had trusted to help him run the government, were crooks. He died of a stroke that many believed was brought on by worry and disappointment. Have you ever had a friend that let you down when you trusted him or her? How did it make you feel? What did you learn from your experience?
Rose Elizabeth Bird was born in 1936. She was the first woman to be Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. She once said, "It is easy to be popular. It is not easy to be just.” What do you think she meant by that?
In 1948, President Harry S Truman was reelected, despite the polls which showed that his opponent, Governor Thomas E. Dewey, was ahead. The Chicago Daily News even printed an edition with the headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman.” Have you, or a team you were on or rooted for, ever won a game or contest where everyone thought you would lose? How did you feel? What did you do to celebrate your victory?
In 1900, the first American car show was held in New York City. The earliest cars were simple but rather uncomfortable, loud, and unreliable. Since then, many improvements have been made. What are three things currently not available in most cars that you think would make it more comfortable, safer, or more fun to ride in them?
Today is the Feast of St. Hubert, protector of dogs (as well as several other things). There are many breeds of dogs, and they are very different in appearance. Describe the most interesting or unusual dog you have ever seen or read about.
(Refer to the event above) What is your favorite story about dogs or other pets? Why do you like it?
Will Rogers was born in 1879. He was a comedian and actor, who is famous for saying, "I never met a man I didn't like.” Who is the friendliest person you know? How does that person show his or her friendliness?
Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd in 1842. Although they had many problems and very different personalities, they were always loyal to each other. Many people find that they are good friends with people who are very different from themselves. There is even a saying, "Opposites attract," that is often used to mean that people tend to like others who are different from themselves. Think about one of your friends. List 4 ways you are alike, and 4 ways you are different.
In 1930, Sinclair Lewis became the first American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature for his novels, such as Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, and Arrowsmith, about life in the American midwest. If you were going to be a writer of novels, what would you like to write about? Why do you think that topic is interesting?
In 1895, George B. Selden got the first patent for an automobile. His design wasn't as good as some others, like Henry Ford, so no one drives a Selden today. Suppose you were going to make something to sell with your name on it. What would you make? Describe it, and how it would be different from other things of the same kind.
Cesare Lombroso was born in 1836. He studied crime and criminals, and was convinced becoming a criminal was hereditary. Others say it is a result of what happens to a person in his life, not his ancestors. What is your opinion? Give reasons for your answer.
James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was born in 1861. Although many Americans like basketball better, soccer is more popular world-wide. Which of these sports do you prefer? Why do you like that one better?
In 1869, the first city-to-city bicycle race was held from Paris to Rouen, France. An Englishman named James Moore won the 84-mile race with a speed of 8 miles per hour. Although bicycles are not as fast or powerful as cars, they do not pollute, so many people think we would be better off if more people used them. Write a paragraph about something your community could do to encourage more people to use bicycles.
Two famous singers were born on this day: opera star Joan Sutherland in 1926 and folk singer Joni Mitchell in 1943. How do you think the life of an opera singer would be different from the life of a folk singer? List three ways you think their lives would be different.
P.L Spencer, the inventor of modern cursive handwriting, was born in 1800. He greatly simplified the cursive way of writing so it would be easier to learn, although it has been made even simpler since he lived. Some people like cursive writing because it is faster than manuscript (printing), others dislike it because it is harder to read. Here's your chance to give your opinion: how do you feel about cursive handwriting? Explain your opinion.
In 1307, the Swiss began fighting for their independence from Austria. One of their early leaders was William Tell, who was forced by an Austrian tyrant to shoot an apple off his son's head with his bow. How would you feel if a member of your family was in danger? What would you do?
Election Day in the United States is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Many people who are eligible to vote do not do so, leaving the choice of the leaders for our nation, state, or community up to others. Prepare an advertising slogan or radio ad to encourage people to vote.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy became the youngest man ever elected President. He once said, "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” What do you think he meant by that?
Inventor Gail Borden was born 1801. He invented a way to make and preserve evaporated milk, which is sold in a can and does not have to be kept in a refrigerator until the can is open. Since people did not have refrigerators, he sold his invention in very small cans, so that people could use it all and not waste. How would your life be different if there were no refrigerators? List 5 ways.
In 1862, President Lincoln appointed Gen. Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Union's largest army in the Civil War. Although Burnside had been a successful general with smaller units, he was doubtful that he could command such a huge army, and asked Lincoln not to appoint him. Lincoln persuaded him to try the job anyway. If you think a person would be good in a job, but that person is reluctant to try it, should you try to persuade them? Why or why not? (Teachers: Burnside was right: he led the army to one of its worst defeats in the war at Fredricksburg, VA. After the students have finished their writing, give them this information and ask them if they would change their opinions.)
In 1989, the Berlin Wall, which symbolized the division of Germany into separate free and communist areas, was opened. Police no longer attempted to prevent free travel through it. The next day, people from all over Berlin, without any announcement, went to the wall and began to tear it down with whatever tools they could find. Families which had been separated by the wall for more than 20 years got together again. Imagine that you have been separated for many years from members of your family and were suddenly allowed to see them again. Write a paragraph about how you would feel or what you would do.
(Refer to the event above.) Imagine that your community was divided in half by a wall right down the middle. How would your life change?
Today is Hero Day in Indonesia. Who is your hero? Why did you choose that person as a hero? What do you admire about him or her?
Happy Birthday, United States Marines! Today in 1775, the Continental Congress created the Marine Corps as a part of the U.S. Navy. They were such fierce fighters that their enemies called them "Devil Dogs," a nickname they adopted. They have also brought aid to thousands of people after wars and natural disasters. Has anyone ever said anything about you that was intended as a put-down, but that you were proud of? Have you ever said anything like that about someone else? Make a list of things you can say about a person that can be either a compliment or a put-down, depending on how you take it.
Carmaker Gottlieb Daimler (co-founder of the car manufacturer Daimler-Chrysler) displayed his new invention, the motorcycle, in 1885. He intended it as a testing device for small engines for cars, but it soon became popular as a vehicle. Many motorcycle, scooter, and bicycle riders are injured by cars whose drivers pay no attention to them. What are three things that could be done to make motorcyclists, bicyclists, and scooter riders more visible or noticeable?
In 1572, astronomer Tycho Brahe reported a new star had appeared. It soon became so bright that it could be seen in the daytime, but then it faded out. It was the first supernova to be observed and recorded. People were astonished that it had appeared, and even more astonished that it disappeared. Can you think of something that was very common or popular for a time, but has since disappeared? What was it? Why do you think it isn't popular any more?
In 1939, "God Bless America" was first presented. It is a favorite patriotic song among Americans. Some people think it should be the National Anthem of the United States because it is so much easier to sing. How do you feel about this? Do you prefer "The Star-Spangled Banner" or "God Bless America?” Why do you prefer that one?
In 1975, the World Health Organization announced that smallpox had been completely eradicated among human beings. It is the first, and so far the only, major disease to be eliminated. What disease do you think should be eliminated next, if it were possible? Why that one?
In 1905, the people of Norway voted to have a king rather than a president as leader of their government. Norway still has kings and queens, rather than presidents. List three advantages of having a king, and three of having a president.
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was born in 1850. He wrote, "Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.” What do you think he meant by sharing your courage with others?
In 1789, President George Washington finished his first tour of 8 northern states of the new nation. Later, he made a similar tour of 4 southern states. US highways 13 and 17 follow the approximate route of his tours. If you could make a tour of the United States, but could only visit 8 states, which states would you visit? What would you want to see in those states?
In 1889, reporter Nelly Bly set out to go around the world in less than 80 days, and break the "record" in Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 Days. She made the trip in only 72 days, but many papers refused to report it, claiming a woman could have never made such a trip. Write a paragraph about how you would feel if you were Nelly Bly, who had done something remarkable (for 1889), but had not been given credit for it.
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville's dramatic story of the hunt for a huge white whale was first published in 1851. It is a strange story and did not sell well at first. Many famous stories and novels feature an animal in a central role. What is your favorite story featuring an animal as an important character? Why do you like that story?
In 1940, German bombers attack the city of Coventry, England. Although their new secret invention, radar, allowed the British to know in advance about the attack, no warning was sent in order to keep the new invention a secret, and more than 1000 people died. Some say the British government did right, because radar became an important tool in the fight against the Nazis. Others think the leaders should have sent warnings, even if it gave away the secret. How do you feel about this? If you were advising Winston Churchill, Britain's leader in World War II about the upcoming attack on Coventry, what would you advise? What reasons would you give for your advice?
The Articles of Confederation, setting up the first government of the new United States, were adopted in 1777. Although the government set up by the Articles accomplished many important things, including waging and winning the Revolutionary War, it proved in time to be ineffective in uniting the nation in peacetime. It was replaced by the Constitution in 1789. One of the main problems of the Articles is that they did not set up a single leader for the nation, but relied on a system of committees of Congress. Why do you think that having a single leader in charge seems to work so much better than having many leaders?
Bill Melendez, the filmmaker who animated many of the Bugs Bunny films and directed the original Peanuts film, was born in 1916. In the Peanuts films, Charlie Brown seems to have bad luck all the time, and becomes very discouraged. Have you ever felt discouraged? What might you do to make yourself feel better?
Poet Marianne Moore was born in 1887. She wrote in one of her poems, "Superior people never make long visits.” Why do you think she believed that?
Today begins the annual elephant roundup in Sarin, Thailand. If there are no elephants to round up in your neighborhood, round up some elephant jokes instead. Make up a new one, or write one you already know. Here is one to get you started: How can you tell if there is an elephant under your bed? Your nose rubs against the ceiling.
Today is International Tolerance Day. What are three things people in your class can do to show tolerance to people who are different?
In 1821, William Becknell discovered the Santa Fe Trail, a path over land smooth enough that horse-drawn wagons could follow from the Mississippi River to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thousands of settlers later followed his trail to help settle the western part of the United States. Have you ever explored something that was new, at least to you? How did you feel about your discovery?
Sugeru Miyamoto, Japanese designer of games for the Nintendo electronic games system, was born in 1952. Which electronic game system do you prefer? Why do you like that one best? If you don't like electronic games, tell why you don't like them.
In 1969, the first rocks brought back from the moon went on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Many experiments have been done to these rocks to discover facts about the moon. If you had a moon rock, what would you do with it?
The first ship sailed through the Panama Canal in 1913. Imagine you were on that ship. What do you think you would see and feel?
Queen Elizabeth I became ruler of England in 1558. She ruled until 1603. Her enjoyment of Shakespeare's plays helped to boost his popularity and made him rich. Although television and movies have wider audiences, many people still enjoy attending plays by live actors. What are three things about a live play that would be different from watching the same drama as a movie or on television?
In 1855, Dr. David Livingstone, doctor and missionary, became the first European to see Victoria Falls in Africa. He named it for his queen. If you discovered a new natural wonder, what would you name it? Why that name?
In 1789, L.J.M. Daguerre was born in France. He invented the first practical way to make photographs (daguerreotypes). Describe a photograph that you like or means a lot to you.
Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer of the U.S. Navy discovered Antarctica in 1820. Although others had spotted it from a distance, he was the first to land on it and determine that it was not another small island. Although tourists and scientists visit Antarctica, no one lives there permanently at this time. If you were offered a chance to visit Antarctica, what would you do to get ready for your trip? List 5 things you would have to do.
Indira Gandhi was born in 1917. Her father was the first Prime Minister of India, and later she was elected to the same post, becoming the first woman elected Prime Minister of a major nation. She once said, "People tend to forget their duties but remember their rights.” What do you think she meant by that? Do you agree with her? Give reasons for your answer.
Ferdinand de Lesseps was born in 1805. He led effort that built the Suez Canal. He traveled all over the world, building many projects. What man-made project have you seen that you admire, such as a bridge, dam, monument, or building? What do you admire about it?
In 1906, two carmakers, Charles Rolls and Frederick Royce merge their companies to form Rolls-Royce, perhaps the most famous luxury carmaker of all. A 2006 Rolls-Royce costs more than $328,000, more than most people's home. Each car is built to the individual specifications of the buyer. If you were buying such a car, what are some things you would order for it? Or if you had the money to buy such a car, what would you do with it instead?
The automatic traffic signal was patented in 1923. Traffic signals make traveling safer, but waiting for the light to change can be very annoying. List 5 things that annoy you, even though you know they make your life better. Can you identify any feature things on your list have in common?
In 1990, stockbroker Michael Milken was convicted of stock market fraud. Although he had made many millions honestly and become one of the world's richest men, he started a scheme to cheat other investors that led to his arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. Why do you think someone who was already rich would cheat to get even more money? Write a paragraph about your reasons.
Voltaire (pen name of Francois Marie Arouet) was born in 1694. He was famous for his passionate belief in freedom. He is reputed to have said, "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” What do you think he meant by that?
Today is the feast of St. Cecilia. She is the patron of musicians and the makers of musical instruments. What is your favorite musical instrument? Who is your favorite musician who plays that instrument? Give reasons for your answers.
In 1809, the first patent for a steel pen point was issued. People no longer had to make their pens from feathers. The new pens lasted longer and wrote more smoothly. Today we have many kinds of things to write and draw with, from dip pens to felt-tip markers. Which is your favorite writing instrument? Why do you prefer that?
The first snowmobile was patented by Carl Eliason in 1927. Snowmobiles and personal watercraft (jet skis) are very popular, but also loud and dangerous. Some people think that only people who have drivers licenses for cars should be allowed to drive them. Others think that there should be special snowmobile or jet ski licenses, and others think there should not be any license at all. How do you feel about licenses for snowmobiles and jet skis? Defend your opinion.
In 1817, the notorious pirate Edward Teach (Blackbeard) was killed in a long, bloody battle with an English naval ship. Despite movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, the life of a pirate was often brutal, frequently dangerous, and usually short. List four other professions or jobs that often seem glamorous in the movies or on TV, but usually are not as nice as they seem. For each one, tell a disadvantage of that job that makes it less pleasant.
Actor Boris Karloff was born in 1887. He was the first actor to play Frankenstein's monster, and his portrayal is still considered the best. He had a long career playing monsters and villains, although he was in fact a very kind, pleasant man. How would you like to be famous as an actor who played villains and bad people?
In 1889, the first jukebox was installed in San Francisco, CA, by Louis Glass and William Arnold. Jukeboxes are still popular in many restaurants and cafes, and some people even buy them for their homes. Make a list of ten songs you would like to have on a jukebox if you had one of your own.
In 1996, fossil bones were discovered in Antarctica, providing proof that it was once much warmer than it is today, and helping to confirm the theory of Continental Drift. Antarctica has a very cold climate, even in summer, yet people still go there as tourists. What are some things you would like to see if you were given a free trip to Antarctica?
Abigail Adams, wife of one President and mother of another, was born in 1744. Suppose you were the relative of a famous person from history. What famous person would you chose? What do you think life as a relative of that person would be like?
This is Drum Month. Design an unusual drum.
Grace Darling was born in 1815. She was the daughter of a Scottish lighthouse keeper. In 1838, she and her father used a small boat to rescue 9 people from the wreck of the SS Forfarshire during a terrible storm. She became a heroine. Despite her fame, she continued to live on the tiny island of Inner Farne until she died. How would you like to live on an island? Tell three ways it would be different from living on the mainland. If you do live on an island, tell what you think the advantages or disadvantages are.
Dutch philosopher and author Benedict Spinoza was born in 1632. He once wrote, "If you want to be different from the past, study the past.” What do you think he meant by that?
In 1948, Ed Parsons of Oregon created the first TV cable system. Prior to cable TV, people used indoor or outdoor antennas in each house. What channels you could see and how good the picture was depended on how far you were from the TV station's tower. Most people could only see two or three channels. What are some things you would miss if you could only see three channels: NBC, ABC, and CBS?
Joe DiMaggio, the famous baseball player, was born in 1914. Joe loved baseball and made it his profession by practicing it every day from the time he was a young boy. What skill do you have that you would like to use to make a living? What are you doing to increase your skill?
The American Indians called the full moon of November the Moon When Deer Shed Their Antlers. The Indians used such names to remind them of things of great importance in their lives, and they used deer antlers to make many tools and utensils. What would be a practical name for this moon for modern people?
In 1778, Captain James Cook and his ship became the first Europeans to visit the Hawaiian Islands. He charted them, and named them the Sandwich Isles, in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, the head of the British navy. Many places have two names, an older one given by earlier people who lived there, and a newer one given later. Sometimes the new name stick and replaces the old one, but sometimes the old name is preferred, as happened with the Hawaiian Islands. If you had to give a new name to something in your community, such as your school or town or one of the streets, what name would you choose to change, and what would you change it to? Tell the reason you would make that change.
Martial artist and actor Bruce Lee was born in 1940. If you were offered the chance to learn one of the martial arts, which one would you learn? Why that one?
The first Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade was held in 1924. It started out as a way to advertise a sale at Macy's Department Store, but has become an annual event marking the beginning of the Christmas season. A feature of the parade is huge balloons in the shape of cartoon characters. What cartoon character from the last two years do you think deserves to have a balloon in the parade? Why that character?
The Grand Ole Opry began broadcasting in 1925. It is the longest-running program still being broadcast. Think of some programs that have been on the air for a long time. Which of them do you like? Why do you like them?
In 1922, British aviator Cyril Turner gave the first demonstration of skywriting over New York City. If you could have a message written in the sky (by artificial smoke released from an airplane), what would you say? Remember, a skywriting message must be very short because the wind usually blows it away. Keep your message to 6 words or less. Then tell why you selected that message.
The Royal Society was founded in London in 1660. It was created to recognize and encourage scientists that do outstanding work, and is the oldest such organization in the English-speaking world. If you were going to start an organization to encourage a particular activity, what activity would you encourage? What would you name your organization? Explain your selections.
In 1890, the first Army-Navy football game was won by Navy, 24-0. Army vs. Navy is one of the most famous sport rivalries, but certainly not the only one. What sports rivalry is most interesting to you? Why are you interested in that rivalry?
Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, was born in 1918. Many of her books tell of the Murry family. Everyone in that family has some unusual trait. What unusual trait do you or some member of your family have?
Augusta Ada Byron, who later became Countess of Lovelace, was born in 1815. She was a mathematical genius who invented a kind of computer programming system despite the fact that there were no computers in those times that could actually use it. What is your favorite computer program? Why do you like that one?
Louisa May Alcott was born in 1832. She wrote Little Women, a story about her own family's life during the Civil War. Her father was gone for a long time, fighting in the war. Many families now are having the same experience. What can your class do to help families that are separated by the current war?
Winston Churchill, leader of the British people during their war against Hitler, was born in 1874. He said, "The chief end of all societies is the betterment of mankind through mutual kindness.” What did he mean by this?
The first international soccer match was played between England and Scotland in 1872. At that time, soccer was a new and not-widely-known sport. As you know, it has become popular all over the world. Can you think of any sport or game that is not widely known now, but may become popular in the future? What are three features a sport or game needs if it is to become popular?
In 1609, Galileo looks at the moon through the telescope he invented. He made the first map of the moon, and named many of its features. He thought the dark areas were seas ("mare" [MAH-ray] in Italian), and gave them sea names, like Sea of Tranquility and Ocean of Storms. These areas are not seas, but vast plains of lava. Some people think these features should be renamed in a more accurate way, while others think we should keep the old names Galileo gave. Which group do you agree with? What reasons do you have for your opinion?
Writer Jonathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver's Travels, was born in 1667. He wrote "Invention is the talent of youth, as judgment is of age.” What do you think he meant by this?
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.