Flower

There is a Cure for the Summertime Blues

School's Out!

School’s Out Photo via Pixabay [CCO Public Domain]

It’s Summer, and teachers all over the United States are relaxing, going on vacations and otherwise enjoying some much-needed time away. But, sooner or later, educators realize that they need to start preparing for the next semester’s classes. When rockabilly artist Eddie Cochran sang “there ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues” back in 1958, he had high-school students in mind. Teachers, however, can also experience some blues of their own during the summer months when they begin planning for the coming school year.

Here is how one teacher is preparing for the Fall semester.

Tammy Rastoder is a high-school teacher of Language Arts electives (Yearbook, Journalism and Creative Writing) at South Warren High School in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This coming Fall she will begin her 6th year of teaching.

She began her summer vacation in early June by attending a 2-day workshop at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, sponsored by the school’s yearbook company, Jostens. The workshop is for both faculty advisers and students. With assistance from Jostens’ journalism, photography and design instructors, attendees are shown how to plan their book’s theme, ladder (what appears on each page) and cover. The workshop features break-out sessions specifically for advisers, student editors, and photographers. Tammy says it is “well worth it to put in those couple of days at the beginning of the summer to get a head-start on yearbook planning” so she can “hit the ground running when school starts.” She attended the workshop with two of her student yearbook staffers.

Jostens' Yearbook Workshop in Nashville (2017)

Yearbook Workshop. Jostens Workshop leader Lauren Logsdon with South Warren design editor Eve Baughman and editor-in-chief Kylee Eilers. Photo Courtesy Tammy Rastoder

This summer, Tammy’s school district is also participating in SCK-LAUNCH: Educator Externship. Educator Externships are work-based learning and professional development opportunities that provide teachers with exposure to local businesses and the types of careers students may want to pursue. This involves teachers visiting various workplaces to “gain a perspective of the talent pipeline and skills students will need to be successful” and to “link those skills into the classroom and when mentoring students.”

For the most part, though, Tammy says that she finds new ideas for her classes and ways to improve her teaching methods through reading, watching documentaries, traveling and various art activities that she does for fun during the summer. She is always thinking of ways to incorporate Summertime experiences into her classroom.

Tammy and her fellow educators have access to professional development materials and videos at the Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System (CIITS) website, which is provided to all Kentucky public schools. Your state no doubt has similar development resources that are available for teachers to use.

The Warren County school district also provides two days of professional development on various topics for teachers during the summer.

Like Tammy, hopefully, all of you teachers will find time to have fun and relax this summer, but when you start planning this Fall’s lessons, take some time to search eLibrary’s many educator resources, including our huge list of Research Topics.

Tammy Rastoder

Tammy Rastoder [Photo Courtesy Tammy Rastoder]

Speaking of Summertime Blues, during her time off, Tammy and her husband Samir are heading first to Memphis and then will take the Mississippi Blues Trail down to New Orleans.

Have a great summer!

If you have some ideas about preparing for classes during the summer months, you can share them by tweeting us using #ProQuest.

 

Here are just a few eLibrary educator resources:

Research Topics

Teacher Resources (eLibrary Topic Browse)

Managing Your Classroom (eLibrary Topic Browse)

Subject Support (eLibrary Topic Browse)

Teachers’ Professional Resources (eLibrary Topic Browse)

Curriculum Design, featuring Assessment Strategies, Lesson Plan Aids and National Education Standards (eLibrary Topic Browse)

Fun & Educational Travel in Florida (with Hernando de Soto)

Hernando de Soto knew a good vacation spot when he saw one.

It is almost June, and that means that the school year is winding down, and many teachers and librarians are looking forward to a much-needed vacation! And, like de Soto, many of you, with families in tow, will be heading for sunny Florida to rest and relax on the beach. But just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean the learning has to stop. There are many fun and educational things to do and places to see while in the Sunshine State.

Hernando de Soto Research Topic

Hernando de Soto Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Florida Beach Towns Research Topic

Florida Beach Towns Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike Hernando, most of you will be either flying or driving the interstate to your destination. After sailing for over 30 days, in late May 1539, Spanish conquistador de Soto landed nine ships with over 620 men and 220 horses in an area generally identified as south Tampa Bay, Florida. You must admit…travel is so much easier today. How would you like to take care of 200 sea-sick horses for a month?

After hitting the beach, wearing yourself to a frazzle at Disney or taking the kids to see Harry Potter at Universal, it will be time to check out some of the slower-paced sites Florida has to offer…like the Kennedy Space Center, a STEM teacher’s dream.

Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden

Kennedy Space Center Rocket Garden [Photo by Tom Mason]

Atlantis Exhibit, Kennedy Space Center

Josh at the Atlantis Exhibit, KSC [Photo by Tom Mason]

 

 

My son Josh and I geeked out at Kennedy. Plan on spending an entire day there.

Besides seeing the awesome Rocket Garden, you can go to the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and don’t forget to take the bus tour where you will pass by the Vehicle Assembly Building (one of the largest buildings in the world) and stop at the Explore the Moon exhibit which is a massive display of the technology that sent humans to the moon.

 

 

One of the highlights is the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit which takes you past two solid rocket boosters and orange external tank to see Atlantis close-up.

Space Shuttle Atlantis, KSC

Space Shuttle Atlantis, KSC [Photo by Tom Mason]

Moving up the “Space Coast,” you’ll arrive at St. Augustine. Besides being the oldest city in the United States, it also lays claim to having the oldest wooden school house in America. It is located in the Old City on St. George Street near the City Gate. Tax records show that the tiny school was around in 1716 and possibly before then. You will notice a huge chain wrapped around the building; it was placed there in 1937 to hold the house in place during hurricanes. I might also recommend going on one of the Ghost Walks in the Old City (which will take you past the school house). They are entertaining, educational and not too scary for the kids. History teachers (and history buffs) will enjoy the many sites in Old St. Augustine.

Oldest Wood School House in America

Oldest Wood School House in the USA [Photo by Debra Mason]

For you ELA teachers, I would recommend the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West. It was Hemingway’s home from 1931 to 1939 and is now open to the public. It is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Now, getting back to de Soto…

While Hernando might get a failing grade for his relations with the Native Americans he encountered, you certainly have to give him an “A” for chutzpah. Hernando de Soto led the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas), and he was the first documented European to have crossed the Mississippi River. He encouraged the local natives to believe that he was a type of sun god, but, uncharacteristic of a deity, died of a fever on May 21, 1542.

Hopefully, that will not happen to you while on vacation this summer.

Here are just a few eLibrary Research Topics and Websites to look at before you head out on your Florida vacation:

Everglades National Park (Research Topic)

Florida Forests and Parks (Research Topic)

Florida History (Research Topic)

Florida Keys (Research Topic)

Fun Florida Field Trips (FL Dept. of Education Website)

Key West (Research Topic)

Let others know about some of your educational travel ideas. You can tweet us using #ProQuest

May 11, 330 AD – The Naming of Constantinople…And Why You Should Care!

Byzantine Empire Research Topic

Byzantine Empire Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Byzantium. Constantinople. Istanbul.  Three names for one city – one of the most important cities in the history of civilization.

The year 324 marked a turning point for western civilization, for it was then that Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed Byzantium the new capital of the Roman Empire. On May 11, 330, he officially changed the city’s name to Constantinople to reflect the importance of the city to the world.

It is believed that Byzantium was founded by the Greeks around the year 657 B.C. The meaning of the name Byzantium is unknown, but it likely comes from an ancient Greek legend of a King Byzas.

Constantine the Great Research Topic

Constantine the Great Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Constantine chose his new capital wisely. The city is located on the European side of the Strait of Bosporus. The Bosporus (in northwestern Turkey) is significant because it is the passage linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, forming part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia. Due to its natural and man-made defenses, the “City of Constantine” was able to withstand the barbarian invasions that devastated Rome and the Western Empire in 476.

Constantine referred to his newly-named city as “Nova Roma,” or, the New Rome. After the fall of Rome, the Eastern Empire, referred to as the Byzantine Empire, lasted for more than a thousand years. From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe. The city spawned a rich tradition of art, literature and architecture, as well as serving as a buffer between Europe and threats of invasion from Asia.

Constantinople was especially important for preserving in its libraries manuscripts of Greek and Latin authors during a period when violence and chaos resulted in the mass-destruction of books and art in western Europe and north Africa. When the city finally did fall, thousands of these ancient manuscripts were taken by refugees to Italy, where they played a key part in stimulating the transition to the Renaissance and then to the modern world. In addition, moving the capital of the Empire to the East gave prestige to the Bishop of Constantinople (Ecumenical Patriarch) and made the city a dual center of Christianity, alongside Rome. This eventually led to the Great Schism that divided Western Catholicism from Eastern Orthodoxy in 1054.

Ottoman Empire Research Topic

Ottoman Empire Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Turkey Research Topic

Turkey Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The month of May is important in the history of Constantinople for another reason: on May 29, 1453, after Sultan Mehmed’s Ottoman army stormed the city, Emperor Constantine XI was killed in battle, ensuring that the fall of the Byzantine Empire was complete. The city was then under Ottoman control and was the capital of the Ottoman Empire until its demise in 1922.

It is not an overstatement to say that the military, political, religious and artistic influence of the city on the Western world, over the many centuries of its existence, is incalculable.

Teachers: You can help your students learn more about this culturally significant city by pointing them to the great History and Geography resources in eLibrary.

Trivia Time!

  • From the date of its construction in 537 AD until 1453, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum in 1935.
  • Constantinople was renamed Istanbul in 1930.
  • The name Instanbul (which means “in the city”) likely comes from the word Stamboul which refers to the older, ancient Byzantium part of the city.
  • It is said that on the day when the city fell to Mehmed, a crescent moon hung in the sky. Today, many Islamic nations around the world commemorate the military victory of 1453 with crescent moons on their flags.
  • France and Britain promised Constantinople to the Russians if the Entente won World War I. (Didn’t happen due to the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917).
  • The song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” was released in 1953 by The Four Lads, and later recorded in 1990 by They Might Be Giants.
  • The Byzantine Empire was the only organized state west of China to survive without interruption from ancient times until the beginning of the modern age.

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May 5th and May 6th: Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day!

Cinco de Mayo Research Topic

Cinco de Mayo Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Teachers! Don’t miss a unique opportunity to have a multicultural celebration in your classrooms on Friday, May 5th. Friday is Cinco de Mayo, while Saturday, May 6th, will be Derby Day, a celebration of the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” at the Kentucky Derby!

First things first:  As most of you know, Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. That will be September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is the anniversary of the Mexican Army’s defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It seems that Cinco de Mayo is perhaps observed more in the United States than in Mexico because it has turned into a celebration of Mexican culture instead of a great military victory. The roots of Cinco de Mayo go back to the French occupation of Mexico which occurred after the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the so-called Reform War of 1858-1861. Cinco de Mayo celebrations probably began in the 1860s in California where Mexicans living there opposed French rule in Mexico.

Kentucky Derby Research Topic

Kentucky Derby Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

On Saturday, May 6th, Louisville will showcase the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. The history of the Derby dates way back to 1862. After seeing horse races in both England and France, Meriwether Lewis Clark, grandson of William Clark of the Corps of Discovery explorers Lewis and Clark, decided to stage a racing event in the States. With help from his uncles John and Henry Churchill, Clark developed a racetrack called the Louisville Jockey Club. The first “run for the roses” was held on May 17, 1875. (FYI: the race was won by Aristides). In 1883, the name Churchill Downs was first used for the track that hosts the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the famed Triple Crown of horse racing.

Educators should take time out this Friday to have some fun in the classroom learning about and celebrating these two unique cultural events.

Mexico Research Topic

Mexico Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Louisville Research Topic

Louisville Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Let Us Celebrate – Cinco de Mayo” is a fine collection of resources from the Library of Congress that features links to several Primary Sources relating to Hispanic Americans, Hispanic Exploration in America, France in America, a Guide to the Mexican War and Mexican Immigration, among other topics. Today in History: May 5 is a nice website, also from the Library of Congress, that explains Cinco de Mayo and provides links to other resources. A very nice collection of curricular materials to help teach students about Cinco de Mayo can be found at the New York University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

As far as learning about the Derby, the Kentucky Derby Museum provides several downloadable materials that educators can use in the classroom, including Derby Trivia and Fun Facts, Coloring Sheets, Kentucky Derby Seek and Find and a Suggested Reading list. If you care to have a sing-a-long of “My Old Kentucky Home,” you can find the lyrics here! And feel free to make up your own activities, such as having a Derby Hat contest.

eLibrary has many resources to help you have fun (and learn a little) about these two annual festivals.

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100 Years Ago This Week: “It’s War!”

America in WWI Research Topic

America in World War I Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Calling all History teachers!  Don’t let this week go by without talking to your students about World War I. This Thursday, April 6, marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ declaration of war on Germany. On April 2nd, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson had asked Congress for the declaration, stating that it would be a “war to end all wars” and that it would “make the world safe for democracy.” All-out war had been raging in Europe since August 1914. Wilson had kept America out of the fighting, even after the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, which had 128 Americans on board. Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine (U-Boat) warfare on all commercial ships heading toward Britain.  In addition, British Intelligence intercepted a secret German diplomatic communication, called the Zimmermann Telegram, which proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico. These events, plus the fact that the United States had loaned massive amounts of money to the allies and feared it would not get that money back if the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) won, tipped the scales in favor of war.

Tom Young Mason Draft Card

Thomas Young Mason Draft Registration Card [Ancestry Library via ProQuest]

The Selective Service Act was signed May 18, 1917. In the United States, over 9-and-a half million men, ages 21 to 31, signed up at their local draft boards. One of those men was my grandfather, Thomas Young Mason. Tom was a 30-year-old farmer from Logan County, Kentucky, when he signed his draft card on June 5, 1917. The reason I know this is because I found a copy of his draft card while searching AncestryLibrary.com, available via ProQuest. I was surprised at how easy it was to find information about my grandfather. I can’t say that I know a lot about his time during the Great War. He died years before I was born, and my family never was much for telling war stories. I do, however, have some nice photographs of him in his WWI uniform. I also have, at home in my basement, the very hat he was wearing in those photos.

Thomas Young Mason (1886-1953)

WWI Photo of Thomas Young Mason [Image Courtesy Blog Author]

Grandma & Grandpa Mason

Grandma & Grandpa Mason [Photo Courtesy Blog Author]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who made it home from the War. Europeans bore the brunt of the casualties with 9 million military men killed and over 30 million wounded. World War I was one of the most tragic events in modern world history, and the “peace” that was reached at its end led directly to the Second World War.

eLibrary has many resources teachers can use to explain this momentous time in world History. A really good high school lesson plan called “Wilson & American Entry into World War I” can be found at EDSITEment!, a National Endowment for the Humanities website.  While you and your students are conducting research on this topic, don’t forget to check out ProQuest’s awesome Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War, a digital collection of writings produced near the trenches and on the home front.  During this 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I, it might be a good idea to take some time out from your regular class assignments and get your students involved in a discussion on this timely topic. One idea would be to have your class watch the American Experience documentary The Great War,” which premieres on PBS April 10.

Factoids:

While Woodrow Wilson often gets credit for the phrase “the war to end all wars,” delivered during his April 1917 speech before Congress, many historians assume that he got the idea from a 1914 book by H.G. Wells entitled “The War That Will End War.”

The United States officially declared war on Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917. Twenty-four years later, on December 7, 1941, FDR asked Congress for a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan, marking America’s entry into World War II.

 

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March Madness!

March Madness Research Topic

March Madness Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

It’s that time of year again when the grass is greening, leaves are sprouting, tornado sirens are wailing, and all are wondering who will be cutting down the nets in college hoops! In 2017, the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four will be held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, while the women’s Final Four will be decided at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. A little history: The University of Oregon defeated Ohio State University 46-33 on March 27, 1939 in the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. For the first 12 years of the tourney, only 8 teams were invited to play. Today, 65 teams participate. The 2017 men’s Final Four will begin April 1 with the championship game on Monday, April 3rd.

The most successful team in NCAA men’s history is UCLA, with a record 11 titles, 10 of those under head coach John Wooden. The University of Kentucky is 2nd with 8 banners, followed by Indiana, Duke and North Carolina, each with 5 championships. The NCAA held the first women’s basketball tourney in 1982. The Connecticut Huskies are the most dominant team in the women’s tournament with 11 titles under coach Geno Auriemma. The Tennessee Volunteers are a close second with 8 championships under legendary coach Pat Summitt.

Pat Summitt Research Topic

Pat Summitt Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

John Wooden Research Topic

John Wooden Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have Illinois basketball players to thank for the nickname “March Madness.” The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) began a boy’s tournament of 8 teams in March 1908 (Peoria High soundly beat Rock Island 48-29). The actual name “March Madness” probably comes from a 1939 article by IHSA executive secretary Henry V. Porter. In that article, entitled “March Madness,” Porter writes of the fans’ obsession with the thud of the ball on the court and the swish of the ball through the net.

Teachers can use students’ enthusiasm for March Madness in the classroom. Brian Sztabnik, an AP Literature teacher in Miller Place, New York, uses AP Lit March Madness, a method to determine the best work of literature that students have read during the year. Sztabnik has his students create brackets, form committees and vote on books they have read. Here is a link describing Brian’s neat idea: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/march-madness-meets-ap-lit-brian-sztabnik.

So, no matter which team you are rooting for (or against), don’t forget to fill out your brackets, and may the best team win!

NCAA March Madness BONUS

WKU Hilltoppers

The WKU Hilltoppers Photo by J. Glover [CC BY-SA 2.5]

 

 

 

The best mascot in all of sports: Western Kentucky University’s Big Red.  (Now you know who I am rooting for!)

75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

Executive Order 9066

Executive Order 9066 Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military conducted a bombing raid on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In the wake of that attack, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on February 19, 1942, signed a document that would itself live in infamy and have lasting consequences for Japanese Americans. Executive Order 9066 authorized the Secretary of War to prescribe “military areas” which would confine persons who were restricted from living in or traveling to coastal areas, mainly the West Coast of the United States. As a result of the Order, the Western Defense Command began the removal and detention of tens of thousands of residents of Japanese ancestry, mostly from California. (Anti-Asian prejudices had existed in California since the mid-1800s, beginning with Chinese immigrants. Anti-Japanese movements became widespread in California around 1900.) Within six months after FDR signed the Order, some 122,000 men, women and children were involuntarily taken to assembly areas. They were then moved to and confined in relocation centers, or, internment camps, that were isolated, fenced-in behind barbed wire and under military guard.

Japanese-American Internment

Japanese-American Internment Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entire communities of Japanese Americans were uprooted. The U.S. government made no official charges against them, nor could they appeal their relocation and incarceration. Most of those relocated were American citizens. All lost their personal liberties; many lost their homes and personal property. There were ten relocation centers in remote areas in six western states and Arkansas: Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Tule Lake and Manzanar in California; Topaz in Utah; Poston and Gila River in Arizona; Granada in Colorado; Minidoka in Idaho, and Jerome and Rowher in Arkansas. For the next two-and-a-half years, Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment. Several prisoners used the legal system to challenge the government’s actions. Fred Korematsu, a U.S. citizen of Japanese descent, refused to go to an internment camp and was arrested, tried and convicted in federal court. He challenged FDR’s executive order, and the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Justices upheld Korematsu’s conviction on the grounds of military necessity.

Grave of Fred Korematsu

Grave of Fred Korematsu [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

These Japanese Americans were not allowed to return to their homes until January 2, 1945. In an ironic twist of history, during the course of World War II, only ten Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, and not one of them was of Japanese ancestry. In 1988, calling the internment of Japanese Americans “a grave wrong,” President Ronald Reagan signed a bill authorizing that each surviving internee receive a check for $20,000 along with an official apology from the United States government.

You can find out more about this important topic in U.S. history by searching eLibrary. Here are just a few related resources:

German- and Italian-American Internment (Research Topic)

Japanese American Internment (Reference Book)

Japanese Canadian Internment (Research Topic)

Racism (Research Topic)

90th Anniversary of “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”

The Bridge of San Luis Rey Research Topic

The Bridge of San Luis Rey Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” That is the opening line of Thornton Wilder’s 1927 novel, “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.” Makes you want to read more, does it not? In Wilder’s story, five people were walking on a century-old Inca rope bridge, a bridge which many in Peru thought would never collapse. Well, collapse it did, killing the five people who were walking across. The incident was witnessed by a Brother Juniper, a Franciscan monk, who began to wonder if the accident occurred due to a divine plan, or if it was simply a random tragedy. His curiosity led him to investigate the lives of the five victims in order to prove that God intended those people to die together at that moment in time. After his research, he wrote an enormous book about the subject that was found to be heretical by the Church, resulting in both Brother Juniper and his book being burned in a town square. But, in a creative device used by Wilder, one copy of the monk’s book survived, which is supposedly the basis of the novel.

Thornton Wilder Research Topic

Thornton Wilder Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

A year after “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” was published, Wilder wrote to a friend: “It seems to me that my books are about: what is the worst thing that the world can do to you, and what are the last resources one has to oppose it. In other words: when a human being is made to bear more than human beings can bear—what then? . . . The Bridge asked the question whether the intention that lies behind love was sufficient to justify the desperation of living.” What makes Wilder’s book the enduring novel it is has everything to do with the questions it poses about our purpose on Earth. It begins as a book about truth, and ends as a book about love. The end of the novel goes as follows: “But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

The year 2017 marks the 90th anniversary of Thornton Wilder’s novel. Even after all this time, it is still read in many high schools, often assigned along with a reading of Wilder’s play “Our Town.” The novel has appeared on TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 best novels since 1923, and it ranked 37 on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century. I recommend blocking off a few hours this year (the novel is very short: I remember my brother’s copy was around 125 pages) to read Wilder’s excellent story. And while you are at it, please use eLibrary to brush up on Thornton Wilder and his other famous works.

Trivia:

Thornton Wilder was the winner of three Pulitzer Prizes: for his novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (1928); for his play “Our Town” (1938) and for the play “The Skin of Our Teeth” (1942).

The Bridge of San Luis Rey” has been filmed three times: in 1929, 1944 and in 1994. The latest version starred Robert De Niro, F. Murray Abraham, Kathy Bates and Harvey Keitel.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair quoted from the novel when he was giving his remarks after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

The Gift of the Magi Research Topic

“The Gift of the Magi” Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Talk about your twist endings! If you are an educator looking for ways to round out the ELA curriculum before the Christmas break, you might consider having your elementary/middle school class read O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi.” Full disclosure: I was aware of this short story for many years but never really took the time to read it until recently. As short stories go, this one is very short; it can be read in about 15 minutes or less.

O. Henry (aka William Sydney Porter) was known for unexpected endings to his stories. “The Gift of the Magi” provides a good example of comic irony. You all know the story: A young couple (Jim and Della Young) lives in a small apartment in the city. They each have one possession in which they take much pride: Jim, his grandfather’s pocket watch and Della her beautiful long, flowing hair. It’s Christmas Eve, and Della has only $1.87 to spend for her husband’s Christmas gift. She wishes to buy him a fob chain for his watch. To get the rest of the $21 she needs, Della cuts and sells her beautiful hair (evidently a common practice at the turn of the 20th century). She then buys the watch chain and hurries home.

O. Henry Research Topic

O. Henry Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

SPOILER ALERT!!!

If you haven’t guessed by now, Jim arrives home from work, stunned to see Della with her hair shorn in a chic Audrey Hepburn boy-cut! She presents him with the watch chain. Here comes the twist: Jim, surprised that she has cut her hair to buy him a gift, now gives his Christmas gift to her: a set of combs for her long hair. But, to get the money to buy the combs, Jim had to sell his watch. And, if you surmised that after this the couple grows bitter with the loss of their cherished belongings, drifts apart and that their marriage ends in a messy, public divorce…you would be WRONG!

O. Henry’s story was first published in The New York Sunday World in 1905 and later in book form as part of a short-story collection called “The Four Million” (1906). The tale has been adapted several times into plays and TV specials. One version that immediately jumps to mind is Disney’sOnce Upon a Christmas” (1999) in which Mickey and Mini Mouse play the lead roles. Another adaptation is a short-film anthology called “O. Henry’s Full House” (narrated by John Steinbeck), in which “The Gift of the Magi” is featured (1952). It can often be seen on Turner Classic Movies this time of year. Other than A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, this is probably one of the most-loved stories read during the holidays. The title, of course, gets its name from the Three Wise Men who presented the Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

"Gifts of the Magi" (1905)

O. Henry’s Original “Gifts of the Magi” (1905) [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Using eLibrary’s resources, teachers can find adaptations of “The Gift of the Magi” that would be perfect for an upper elementary or middle-school in-class play. If you want to teach your students about comic irony, or if you just want to present a heart-warming example of self-sacrificial love, take a few minutes of class time and read O. Henry’s classic tale.

eLibrary Resources:

American Literature (Research Topic)

Common Core ELA Grade 8: Literature (Research Topic)

Features of a Short Story (Hutchinson Encyclopedia)

The Gift of the Magi Classic Play (Scholastic Scope Magazine)

The Gift of the Magi Play (Scholastic Action Magazine)

The Gift of the Magi Adapted Play (Storyworks Magazine)

A Reading of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” (CBC Radio Website)

Using Irony (Website)

70 Years Later, and It’s Still “A Wonderful Life”

"It's a Wonderful Life" Research Topic

“It’s a Wonderful Life” Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

When it comes to Frank Capra’sIt’s a Wonderful Life,” people usually break down into two camps: They either love it or hate it. Critics typically have the same response – some praise it as an example of great American cinema, while others complain that it is sappy and overly sentimental. But one thing on which both fans and critics agree is the power of Jimmy Stewart’s performance as the decent, yet frustrated, George Bailey. As most of you know, the movie starts out as a comedy with flashbacks detailing important moments in Bailey’s life. Then, the film abruptly switches gears when George’s Building & Loan business suddenly loses $8,000. George, realizing he and his family will be financially ruined and that he might end up in prison, decides to kill himself.

Frank Capra, 1930s

Director Frank Capra [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

James Stewart Research Topic

James Stewart Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Stewart’s performance from this point on becomes quite interesting. No longer the dependable son and father and citizen, Stewart summons up the dark side of George Bailey….a darkness that he was feeling in his own life. During World War II, Stewart flew B-24 bombers for the 703rd Bomber Squadron. Stewart spent over 4 years in the military and 15 months of that time in dangerous bombing runs. According to the book “Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe,” by Robert Matzen, Stewart suffered from PTSD and battle fatigue after he came home from the war. He was so thin and gaunt, that some of his friends were worried about him. Men who served with him said that Jimmy was not afraid of being shot down; he was more afraid of making a mistake and killing his own American troops down on the ground.

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Donna Reed & Jimmy Stewart

Donna Reed with James Stewart [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the war, when Stewart went back to Hollywood, he was extremely anxious because he had not acted in a film in almost five years. Frank Capra (who was battling his own PTSD issues after filming documentaries of the war) approached Stewart with an idea for a movie. Stewart was reluctant, but agreed to do the project. Co-star Donna Reed said there were some tense moments during filming, and it was “not a happy set.”  Stewart’s character was deaf in one ear, just as Stewart himself had suffered hearing loss due to the sound of the planes in long bombing missions. Behind the scenes, Stewart was questioning whether he should quit acting because it was such a superficial profession. It was then that Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter) said to him, “So, are you saying it’s more worthwhile to drop bombs on people than to entertain them?” After hearing this, Stewart threw himself fully into the role of George Bailey, giving one of the best performances of his career.

"It's a Wonderful Life" Screenshot

Iconic Scene from “Wonderful Life” [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

This Christmas season, being the 70th anniversary of the release of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” take time to watch the movie with a fresh set of eyes, paying close attention to Stewart’s performance, especially during the scenes where George Bailey seems at his most desperate. After the war, these same scenes may have been acted out in homes in small towns all over America.

eLibrary

Wonderful Life Trivia:

For the role of Mary Hatch, Capra wanted his favorite actress Jean Arthur, but since she had Broadway commitments, he sought out Ginger Rogers and then Olivia de Havilland, but then found Donna Reed.

The film is based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” (1943) by Philip Van Doren Stern.

The fictitious Bedford Falls is based on the real-life town of Seneca Falls, NY.

The character of Mr. Potter is likely based on Norman J. Gould, a Seneca Falls businessman who had control over the politicians and much of the economy of the town.

It’s a Wonderful Life” was Capra’s favorite among films he directed, and he screened it for his family every Christmas.

The famous swimming pool scene was filmed in the gymnasium at Beverly Hills High School. Built in 1939, the pool is still in operation.