What do Mother Teresa, Raquel Welch and the Pledge of Allegiance have in common? They all have roots in September's fascinating writing prompts!
by James Wayne
Regular contributor to the Gazette
September 1, 2008
The character trait for September is RESPECT.
Respect for others and their ideas
High regard for other people, property, self, and country
Value of people as human beings
Walter Reuther, who served as president of the United Auto Workers for many years, was born in 1907. He once said, "If you're not big enough to lose, you're not big enough to win." What do you think he meant by that?
Phillis Wheatley, an African-American slave living in Boston had her first book of poetry published in London in 1773. She was the first American poet to become well known in English literary society. She earned enough money from her poetry to purchase her freedom. Here is a verse from one of her poems:
Hail, smiling morn, that from the orient main
Ascending dost adorn the heav'nly plain!
So rich, so various are thy beauteous dyes,
That spread through all the circuit of the skies,
That, full of thee, my soul in rapture soars,
And thy great God, the cause of all adores.
From "Thoughts on the WORKS of PROVIDENCE" in Poems on Various Subjects, by Phillis Wheatley, published in 1773. This kind of very wordy, complex poetry was popular at that time. What kind of poetry do you like? Tell about a poem you like, or write a poem about yourself or your friends.
Today in 1939, World War II began, and in 1945, it ended (going by American time). Most of the nations that fought each other in World War II are now friends. What are some things people can do to make friends with other people they once disliked?
Today is Watermelon Day in Rocky Ford, Colorado. Many fruits and vegetables have special days in different places. Is there a food you think should NOT have a day to celebrate it? Why not?
In 490 BC, the Greeks defeated a Persian invading army at Marathon. Pheiddipides, a young Greek runner, ran all the way from the battlefield back to the city of Athens to bring the good news, a distance of 26 miles. This was the beginning of the race known as the Marathon. Racing on foot, on skates, on bicycles, on motorcycles, in cars, on boats, and even in aircraft is very popular. What kind of racing do you like to do, or watch, or learn about?
Richard the Lion-Heart was crowned king of England in 1189. It was common in the Middle Ages for people to be given a cognomen, or popular name, like Lion-Heart, because of some important trait they displayed. If you were to be given a cognomen, what would you like to be called? Why do you think that cognomen would fit you?
In 1856, Louis Sullivan, a famous American architect was born. He invented a new way of building tall buildings using steel, which allowed them to go very high but not have massively thick walls, so he is considered the inventor of the skyscraper. Imagine that you lived in a skyscraper (or perhaps you really do). How would your life be different from a person who lived in a regular house?
In 476, the last Western Roman Emperor, a 12-year-old boy named Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Odacer, a general of the Lombard people. He proclaimed himself King of Lombardy rather than Emperor of Rome. This date is therefore considered the end of the Roman Empire in western Europe, although the eastern part (more Greek than Roman) continued to exist for a thousand more years. Suppose the Roman Empire had not fallen, and all of Europe had remained united in one empire. How do you think the way we live today would be different? List 5 ways.
George Eastman patented the first Kodak camera in 1888. It was the first camera to use flexible film instead of heavy, fragile glass plates. Cameras became light, simple, and cheap enough for ordinary people to use. If you were assigned to make pictures of a place you thought was interesting and beautiful, where would you take them? Why that place?
Actress Raquel Welch was born in 1940. She once said, "You can't fake listening. It shows." Have you ever seen anyone fake listening or paying attention? How could you tell they were faking?
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in New York City in 2006. It was the first holiday designed to give people a long weekend, by always being celebrated on Monday. Since then many other celebrations have been moved to Mondays or Fridays, such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Some people think Christmas should be moved to Monday or Friday. What is your opinion of moving the date of Christmas? Give reasons for your opinion.
In 1997, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who worked for many years to help the homeless poor people of India and other countries, died in 1997. She once wrote, "The good you do will often be forgotten. Do good anyway." What do you think she meant by that?
In 1844, explorer John C. Fremont arrived on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. Although many Indians and trappers had seen it, his description of it was the first to be published, and he gave it the name Great Salt Lake. It is a very logical name, but not very exciting. If the people of Utah ever decided to rename the Great Salt Lake, what do you thing would be a good name for it instead? Defend your choice.
In 1943, Carl Scheib, at age 16, became the youngest player ever to play in a American League baseball game, pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics. He was selected to pitch because most of the older pitchers were in the armed forces, fighting in World War II. Imagine that you were going to play on a major sports team at your present age. How would you feel? How would you prepare?
The first tank got its test drive today in Great Britain in 1915. It was thought up and built on the orders of Winston Churchill, the political leader of the British navy. He tried to get the army to do it, but the generals weren't interested until he was able to show them it worked at the Battle of the Somme, in France. Have you ever had a good idea that people wouldn't listen to? How did it make you feel? What did you do to try to convince them?
In 1666, the Great Fire of London was finally put out. Much of the city had to be rebuilt. The king had a huge contest to see who could plan the most beautiful city. What are five things you think such a city should have? (In the end, the contest took so long that everyone just rebuilt most of London like it was to begin with while the king was waiting.)
In 1502, Amerigo Vespucci returned to Europe after his first (and only) visit to the land Columbus thought was India. Vespucci had actually been to India, and knew Columbus was wrong. He wrote a book to prove his idea, so the new world was named for him, not Columbus (who never admitted that he was wrong, and died believing he had been to India). Was this fair? Defend your answer.
Bishop Desmond Tutu became the first black person to become head of the South African Anglican Church in 1986. He said, "A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons." How do you show that you recognize others as persons?
The cartoon symbol of the United States, Uncle Sam, first appeared in 1813. A very tall, thin man with a small beard wearing red, white, and blue clothes, Uncle Sam is still used to stand for the United States in cartoons and posters. Some people think he isn't a very good symbol, since he doesn't look or dress like most Americans today. If you were designing a poster or cartoon about the United States, what kind of person would you use as a symbol? How would they be dressed?
In 1940, the German Blitz, or bombing campaign against London began. German bombers would return and bomb the city every night for the next 57 consecutive days, and continue to bomb it until May of 1941. Many people sent their children out of London for safety during the Blitz (as depicted in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), but other parents did not. Which do you think would be better: to send the children away from their parents for safety, or to keep the family together despite the danger? Give reasons for your opinion.
Antonin Dvorak (pronounced duh-VOR-zhak) was born in 1841. He was a famous composer of classical music who visited the United States and was inspired by American folk music and the magnificent scenery. He wrote the famous symphony From the New World, the first major piece of classical music written and inspired by America. Have you ever heard a piece of music that made you think of a particular place or person? What piece of music, and what did it remind you of?
A British fleet commanded by the Duke of York captured the city of New Amsterdam from the Dutch. It was renamed New York, in honor of the victor. Suppose the British had lost and the city had remained Dutch. How might life in the United States have been different if its largest city spoke a different language?
Today is the birthday of the Pledge of Allegiance, which was first published in 1892. Find out what "allegiance" means (if you don't already know). How can you show your allegiance to your country, your family, or your community?
Today is Panda Day, marking the anniversary of the first baby panda born in captivity. If you could see one strange or unusual or rare animal, like the panda, which one would you choose to see? Why?
The first long distance car race took place in 1901. It ran from New York City to Buffalo, NY. The average speed of the winner was 15 miles an hour. Part of the reason the race was so slow what that there were almost no paved roads outside of large towns in 1901. How would your life be different if very few roads were paved?
In 1942, gasoline rationing began in the United States. Because of World War II, so much of America's gas was needed for the armed forces that little was left for civilians. To share it fairly, the government gave out rationing tickets, which allowed a driver to buy so many gallons a week. People with jobs that required a lot of traveling were allowed more than others. People were encouraged to walk or use a bicycle for short trips. Many young people earned money by running errands for adults on their bicycles. Because of the high price of gas today, some people have suggested that rationing might be a way to bring prices down. Does this sound like a good idea to you? What are some other ways that you think would help cut down on the use of gas?
"The only way to get respect is to give it." What does this proverb mean?
In 1609, explorer Henry Hudson discovered that Manhattan was an island. Here is a poem about islands written by Rachel Field:
If Once You Have Slept On An Island
If once you have slept on an island
You'll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you'll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you'll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won't know why and you can't say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You'll never be quite the same.
Do you agree with Rachel Field? Are people who live on islands different from other people? Explain your answer.
In 1789, President Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton to be the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. Hamilton designed our money system, named our unit of money the dollar, and said that the dollar should be divided into 100 cents. Suppose you were asked to design a new money system for your country. If you could not use the old name, what would you call your new money? How many of what units would it be divided? Explain your choices.
In 1940, four teenagers exploring a cave near Lascaux, France found a series of paintings on the cave walls that were made by cave people living 15,000 to 17,000 years before. Some people still live in caves--by choice. What are some advantages and disadvantages of living in a cave?
In 1918, Erwin "Cannonball" Baker completed a tour of all the state capitals of the United States on a motorcycle. There were few paved roads in that time, so this was a very difficult trip. Many young people like minibikes, motorcycles, and four-wheelers, but they can be dangerous. What are some things that make these vehicles dangerous? What are some precautions their riders should take?
American critic and journalist H.L. Mencken was born in 1880. He once said, "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone may be looking." What do you think he meant by that?
The first known casualty of a car accident was recorded in 1899. A car struck and killed a pedestrian in New York City near Central Park. Although safer cars have decreased the number of people killed in car accidents, many pedestrians are still killed. List 4 safety rules a walker or bike rider should follow.
The first rhinoceros ever seen in the United States was shown in New York City in 1826. Many people thought the rhino was a mythical animal until they saw one. Suppose a mythical animal was discovered to be real: which mythical animal you have read about or seen on TV or in the movies would you like to see? Why that one?
In 1847, Milton Hershey founded the candy company that bears his name. Many people say that some American children eat too much candy, and are getting fat. What are some things people like to eat as snacks that won't make you fat?
Roald Dahl was born in 1916. He wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. In his books, he often portrayed people he disliked, and imagined a horrible fate for them, but he gave them different, often very strange names. Invent a character with a strange name and write about his or her horrible fate. (You can imagine it is someone you dislike, but don't tell anyone.)
In 1886, a group of stamp collectors formed the American Philatelic (fill uh TELL ik) Society to help popularize their hobby. The United States Postal Service accepts suggestions for new designs for stamps, although very few designs are accepted. What would be a good design for a new stamp? Draw or describe it.
In 1716, the first American lighthouse started working. The Boston Light, on Little Brewster Island, marks the entrance to Boston Harbor. Most lighthouses are located in remote, lonely locations. How would you like to live in a lighthouse keeper's cottage? What would be some good things, and some bad things, about living there?
In 1781, General George Washington's army arrived at Yorktown, VA, surrounding the British army commanded by General Cornwallis. After a siege, the British were forced to surrender, ending the fighting of the American Revolution. If you could ask George Washington three questions, what would you ask? Why those questions?
In 1905, the first Isle of Man car race was held on that island in the Irish Sea. Important races for both cars and motorcycles are held every year on that island. Races of all kinds are held in many places in the world. If you could visit a race held in another place, where would you like to go, and what race would you like to watch? Why that place and race?
Agatha Christie was born in 1890. She wrote dozens of popular murder mystery stories. Murder and crime stories are very popular, even though most people don't want to be involved in an actual murder or crime. Why do you think people like to read about things they wouldn't like in real life?
The first license for a radio station was issued to WBZ in Boston, in 1921. What is your favorite radio station? Why do you like it?
In 1856, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born. He was a famous engineer and designed the first bridge ever made entirely from metal (it is still in use in England). Describe the longest or most unusual bridge you have ever crossed.
In 1908, Clark University began teaching classes in Esperanto, an entirely made-up language designed to be easy to learn. Espranto is still used, but has never become popular. What are four of the problems a person making up an entirely new language might have?
At this time of year, the Japanese celebrate Yabwasame, archery on horseback. This is considered one of the most difficult of all the martial arts. Modern soldiers no longer use this skill, but many Japanese still practice it. Do you know anyone who practices an old-fashioned skill, such as quilting, woodcarving by hand, or archery? Why do you think they like to do these things?
In 1683, Dutch lens maker Anton van Leeuwenhoek created a microscope and first observed live bacteria. Thanks to his discovery, human beings have been able to cure or prevent many dangerous diseases, but many other diseases afflict people still. If you were in charge of medical research, on which disease would you focus your efforts? Why that one?
Today is the beginning of Clownfest in Seaside Heights, NJ, when clowns from all over the world come and perform and teach each other new tricks. Every clown is supposed to have his or her own special clown-face makeup design. Make up a clown face design for yourself. Describe or draw it.
Today is the birthday of the U.S. Capitol Building. President George Washington laid its cornerstone, which had been plated with silver, in 1793. The central feature of the Capitol is its dome, which has been copied or imitated by many state capitol buildings. If you were designing a new capitol for a state, would you put a dome on it? Why or why not?
In 1778, a committee of the Continental Congress presented the first budget for the American government. Budgets are hard to make, and sometimes very hard to stick to. Have you, or someone you know, ever tried to live on a budget? How did that work out? Describe the experience.
In 1796, George Washington made his farewell address, a letter of advice to Americans about their duties and problems in their new nation. If you were to write a letter about the problems the students in your class will face in the future, what three pieces of advice would you give them?
"The greatest rule of manners is, first to respect others, then to respect time." How do you respect time?
Actress Sophia Loren was born in 1934. She said, "Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." What do you think she meant by this?
In 1853, Elisha Otis sold the first modern elevator, with a safety brake that prevented the elevator from falling if the cable that held it was broken. If you were in charge of planning a celebration of Elevator Day, to remind people of the importance of elevators and escalators, what would you do to celebrate?
Poet and novelist Stevie Smith was born in 1902. Here is a poem she wrote:
Happiness is silent, or speaks equivocally for friends,
Grief is explicit and her song never ends,
Happiness is like England, and will not state a case,
Grief, like Guilt, rushes in and talks apace.
What do you think the she meant by this poem?
Teichi Igarashi was born in 1886. He was a mountain climber, and climbed to the top of Mount Everest when he was 99 years old. When you are 99 years old, what do you think you might do to celebrate?
In 1792, the government of France abolished the monarchy, setting up the First French Republic. Today most nations do not have kings, emperors, or other hereditary rulers, but some still do. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a leader who gets his or her job by inheriting it, rather than by voting? List two advantages, and two disadvantages.
Bill Murray, comedian and actor, was born in 1950. He starred in Groundhog Day, a film about a man who experiences the same day over and over again. Have you ever wanted to experience the same day all over again? What day would you like? Why that day?
In 490 BC, the Battle of Marathon took place. The Greeks defeated an invading Persian army. After the battle, a Greek warrior ran all the way back to Athens, 24 miles away, to be the first person to bring the news of the victory. This established the race that is still run in many places. How would you reward someone who went to a lot of trouble to bring you some very good news?
In 1903, the machine that molds edible ice cream cones was patented by Italo Marchiony. (Before that, the cones were made out of paper.) Describe your favorite place and time to eat an ice-cream cone.
In 1959, the first baby gorilla born in captivity was born in the Basel, Switzerland, zoo. Gorillas and many other animals are becoming rare in their own homelands. Some naturalists suggest that these animals be released in the wild in new areas. Are there some rare animals you would like to see released in your area? Which ones? What are some problems those animals might face in the wild in your area?
In 1927, the African nation of Sierra Leone abolished slavery. Why do you think they took so long to do so?
In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition finally arrived back to St. Louis after 2 years of exploring. If someone you knew had gone on a long and difficult journey and finally gotten back, how would you celebrate their return?
In 1846, the planet Neptune was discovered by J.G. Gaulle. The planet is a pale blue color, but has a large pink spot and several thin rings. What would it be like to live in a pale blue and pink world?
Today is National Native American Day, to celebrate the many cultures of the Native Americans. List six ways to celebrate this day, based on what you know about Native American cultures.
Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, was born in 1936. Which of the Muppet characters is your favorite? Why do you like that character?
In 1789, Congress approved the proposed constitutional amendments that later became known as the Bill of Rights and sent them to the states for approval. The Bill of Rights requires the government to respect the rights of Americans. List 5 rights that you have, and tell which one you think is the most important, and why.
Sandra Day O'Connor was sworn in as the first woman to serve as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1981. Being a judge or justice of the Supreme Court is a hard job. What are four qualities you think a good judge would need. Tell why you think each of them is important.
In 1934, the ocean liner Queen Mary was launched by Queen Mary (of course) in Scotland. The builders named it to thank the British government for financial help in building the ship during the Depression. If you were in charge of naming a huge ship, what would you name it? Why that name?
George Gershwin was born in 1898. He was a songwriter and composer. He wrote the first opera to use only jazz music rather than classical music. It is a famous opera named Porgy and Bess, and is still performed today. Although several attempts have been made to make an opera with rock-and-roll music, none of them have been very popular. Why do you think rock-and-roll operas have not been successful?
In 1871, the method for making Portland cement was introduced to the USA by David Oliver Saylor. When mixed with sand and water, Portland cement forms a pasty mixture which slowly hardens into concrete. Before it hardens, it can be formed into many useful shapes. Although it has been used for many other kinds of buildings, very few homes are made of concrete. Give some advantages and disadvantages of a home made from concrete.
In 1825, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in England begin passenger service. 450 people beaome the first passengers to make a scheduled trip on a railway. Railroads, buses, cars, ships, and airplanes are all common means of transporting people long distance. If you had to make a long trip, which would be your preferred way of travel? Why that way?
General Douglas MacArthur, leader of American armed forces in World War II and the Korean War, once said, "There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity." What do you think he meant by that?
Marvin Lee Aday was born in 1947. He became famous as the singer Meatloaf. If you had to choose a strange name so you could become famous, as Marvin did, what name would you choose? Why that name?
In 1965, Mount Taal erupted in the Philippines, the first of several eruptions that have created much hardship in that nation. Suppose a volcano began erupting near where you live, and you had to flee from the lava with only a few hours warning. What would be the most important things you would pack?
In 1924, two American army seaplanes became the first to fly all the way around the world (with many stops along the way for fuel, supplies, and repairs to the planes). Seaplanes were used because there were very few airports in 1924. How do you think traveling in 1924 would be different from traveling today? List four ways.
In 1865, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became the first woman to get a license to practice medicine in Great Britain. She later became the first elected woman mayor in Britain. If you could become mayor of a city, which city would you choose? What would be your goal as mayor?
The two-day Battle of Salamis began in 480 BC. The Greek navy defeated the Persian navy, forcing the Persians to retreat from Greece because their supply lines were cut. It was the first great naval battle of history. If you had to work on a ship, would you prefer a passenger ship, a cargo ship, a fishing boat, or a warship? Give reasons for your answer.
Seymour Cray, inventor of the world's first supercomputer, was born in 1925. Supercomputers are extremely powerful, and used for solving very large, complex problems, such as worldwide weather predictions several months in advance. What are 5 ways you or people you know use computers? Which of these do you think is the most important?
In 1930, the first movie of the famous horror novel Dracula began shooting. It starred Bela Lugosi, who was able to terrify as Dracula without special makeup. Do you like scary stories? What is the scariest story you have read or seen as a movie or TV program? What part was the scariest?
Today is the Feast of St. Michael, or Michaelmas. There is a tradition in some parts of England that eating roast goose on Michaelmas brings good luck. If there were an annual feast in your honor, what food would you like to be eaten for good luck?
Today is the Feast of St. Jerome, patron saint of students. Holly is a symbol of Christmas, and eggs are a symbol of Easter. What would be an appropriate symbol for a feast for the patron saint of students? Why that symbol?
Louisa May Alcott's Little Women was published in 1868. Her story told about life in a family where the father was away during the Civil War. Many students today have parents away at war today. What are some ways you and your friends can help those students feel less lonely?
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.