Posts Tagged ‘websites’

Screenplays in the Curriculum? Of Course!

Clapperboard (Credit: Photo by Will Jackson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Television and movies are–for better or for worse–a dominating cultural force. They feed popular culture and the young minds imbibing it.

According to a 2012 Nielsen report, teens watch about 22 hours of television a week. And that’s not including movies, social media, YouTube, videos, and all sorts of other technologies.

Educators may find all of this media exposure distracting to their students. According to a report by Common Sense Media, “Many teachers think their students use of entertainment media has hurt their academic performance.”

So what’s an educator to do?

I recently watched the School Library Journal webcast Pop Literacy. (I highly recommend it.) It’s a great overview of how (and why) to incorporate pop culture into your curriculum, including a fascinating discussion of the word “appropriate” in terms of pop culture in the classroom.

One thing, in particular, struck me as worthwhile, fun, and exciting for students, as well as for teachers.


If young people are watching an average of three hours or more of television a day, it probably would benefit them to know WHAT they are watching and HOW it got there. Television shows and movies require a lot of elements along to way to becoming a finished product. One of the first? A screenplay.

A screenplay, or a script, is created by one person or a team of writers. Dialogue, interaction, action, and reaction, setting, set design, costume, and prop descriptions are woven together to create a world not just to be imagined, as in a book, but also to be brought into form.

How can this project be beneficial to students?

Most students watch and enjoy television. They are drawn in by the story, intrigued by the characters, immersed in the narrative, invested in its conclusion. Some students do not enjoy classroom creative writing–the process can be intimidating and overwhelming. Screenwriting is a way to engage students as part of the collaborative and creative process in writing a screenplay.

Reading. You can start by reading, analyzing, and discussing a screenplay. There’s a huge selection at imsdb.com, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, La La Land, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can search by genre, or for a specific script. For younger students, try the read-aloud plays in SIRS Discoverer.

Discussion. Introduce students to the codes and conventions of screenwriting and review the significance of the three-act structure. Explore how to create a unique voice for each character and consider why a convincing setting is an important element of the screenplay.

Writing. Your students now have a basic idea of the screenwriting process and screenplay elements. Now, divide the students into teams, give them parameters, and set them to work imagining, discussing, and writing! Try this Writing a Screenplay lesson plan for guidance and inspiration.

Ready to move one step further and create student films from the finished screenplays? This filmmaking unit for 6th through 8th grade students gives an overview of the process.

Interested in learning more about screenwriting in the classroom? Check out the links below.

Teaching Scriptwriting, Screenplays and Storyboards for Film and TV Production
How to Bring Screenwriting into the Classroom
Teaching Screenwriting to Teenagers
Scriptwriting in the Classroom

Do you have thoughts about or experiences with screenwriting as an activity for your students? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us #ProQuest.

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Activities for the 100th Day of School

100th Day of School Collection Poster
by RubyDW is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Depending on which part of the U.S. you live in, your students will celebrate their 100th day of school pretty soon (it usually occurs in January or February each year). Many schools across the country celebrate the 100th day of school. It’s not only a milestone but also a great opportunity for teachers to practice math with their students. This is especially important in preschool and kindergarten, where students are learning their numbers. But it also provides good activities for all elementary-level students.

For example, you may ask your students to bring in “100” of something. It could be a collection of paperclips, or macaroni noodles, or buttons. The possibilities are endless! When my son was in preschool, he brought in a collection of 100 animal fact cards that we collected from National Geographic Little Kids magazines. We laid out all the cards on the floor and I helped him count all the way to 100. We also practiced counting by 10s. This activity is a good way to introduce more numbers.

See these fun activities that you can use in your classroom:

100th Day of School (Starfall)

Have a 100th Day of School Celebration (Scholastic)

100th Day of School Activities (K-5 Math)

Celebrate the 100th day of school!  (ReadWriteThink)

What Is the 100th Day of School? (VeryWell)

Celebrate the 100th Day of School (Education World)

In SIRS Discoverer, we love to find resources that teachers can use in their classrooms. See our activities page and math resources for more ideas. Also, see this cute story from Highlights for Children entitled 100 Things about a girl who is trying to find 100 things to bring in for the 100th day of school celebration.

Are you celebrating the 100th day of school? We want to know about it. Tweet us at #ProQuest or comment below!

New Year’s by the Numbers

New Year's Eve Times Square

New Year’s Eve at Times Square
Photo credit: Anthony Quintano / iWoman / CC BY

How do you ring in the New Year? 62 percent of Americans say they stay home on New Year’s Eve, spending it with family and friends, 22% admit to falling asleep before midnight, while around 10% don’t celebrate the holiday at all. Common traditions include attending parties, eating special New Year’s foods, watching fireworks displays and making resolutions for the new year. While 45% of Americans make resolutions, only about 8% achieve them. Many people commemorate the arrival of the New Year with a champagne toast, judging by the 360 million glasses of sparkling wine that are consumed in the U.S. each year during the holiday season. Around a million people crowd into New York City’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve to watch the iconic lighted ball drop–joined by nearly 6 in 10 Americans and a billion others globally who view all or some of the televised broadcast of the festivities.

Float at Rose Bowl Parade.

Float at Rose Bowl Parade
Photo credit: Joe Mac1 / IWoman / CC BY

On New Year’s Day, many American cities hold parades. Since 1906, the people of Philadelphia have celebrated the New Year with a parade that features 15,000 Mummers in colorful and lavish costumes who dance, spin and twirl down Broad Street after a year of secret planning. This year marks the 126th Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, which includes floral floats and marching bands and is viewed by over 80 million people around the world. The average float contains more flowers than a typical American florist will sell in five years, with up to 18 million flowers used to create all the floats that appear in the parade.

SIRS Knowledge Source offers editorially-selected and credible internet resources on vital issues and topics. You can search for sites by keyword/natural language, subject headings, or topic. Check out some of the sites below to find more information on the history and traditions of the New Year’s holiday.

New Year’s

New Year’s Traditions

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Pasadena Tournament of Roses

The Origins of U.S. Libraries

Most students today, born after the Internet became widely used about 20 years ago, probably have no concept of the idea of using the printed word exclusively to do homework, reports, or research. Back in those dark days, doing almost any assignment meant a trip to the library. Without the magic of the Internet, you had to go through the process of locating an actual physical copy of a book, magazine, newspaper or microfilm that contained the exact information you wanted. Finding enough information for a simple 500-word report could take hours.

With the advent of the Internet, information databases, digital scanners, e-books, cloud-based storage and other technologies, libraries today are very different than they were even 20 years ago. On this Throwback Thursday (#TBT), we explore the origins and some of the milestone events in the development of libraries in the United States.

1638: John Harvard, a young minister in Charlestown, Massachusetts died and left his 400 volume library as well as half of his estate to the local, newly established college, originally called the New College. In his honor, the oldest institution of higher education in the United States was renamed Harvard College. The collection has since grown to about 18 million volumes.

Harvard University Campus & Library

Harvard University Campus & Library (public domain) via Library of Congress

1731: Benjamin Franklin founded the first successful lending library in the U.S. The Library Company of Philadelphia was a subscription library supported by its shareholders, as it is to this day.

Benjamin Franklin Opening First Subscription Library in Philadelphia

Benjamin Franklin Opening First Subscription Library in Philadelphia
(public domain) via Library of Congress

1814-1815: The initial collection of the Library of Congress was in ashes after the British burned it on August 24, 1814 during the War of 1812. In 1815 Congress approved the purchase of Thomas Jefferson‘s 6,487-volume library for $23,950 as the foundation to replace the one lost in the fire.

1833: The first tax-supported public library in the United States (and the world!) was founded in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

1886-1919: Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated more than $40 million to pay for 1,679 new public library buildings in communities across America.

Carnegie Library, Girard, Kansas

Carnegie Library, Girard, Kansas (public domain) via National Park Service

1876: The American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world, was founded. Melvil Dewey published A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloging and Arranging Books and Pamphlets in a Library, better known as the “Dewey Decimal System.”

Card Catalog

Card Catalog (public domain) via Library of Congress

1904: The nation’s first bookmobile was created to deliver books to the residents of Washington County, Maryland. The custom outfitted horse-drawn Concord wagon was the brainchild of librarian Mary Lemist Titcomb. It could display 200 volumes and store another 2,360 behind its shelves.

Washington County Mobile Library

Washington County Mobile Library, (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

1916: The first presidential library, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Library, opened in Fremont, Ohio.

1935: The Works Progress Administration library service program gives support in labor and funds to all types of libraries.

Photograph of Works Progress Administration Worker Receiving Paycheck

Photograph of Works Progress Administration Worker Receiving Paycheck
(public domain) via National Archives and Records Administration

1938: Eugene Power, a pioneer in microphotography, established University Microfilms. He introduced microfilm to libraries, and led the format to its standard use for preservation, sharing, and document storage.

1960’s: The Library of Congress developed Machine Readable Cataloging (MARC) in the mid-1960’s. The intent was to create a computer-readable format that could be used for bibliographic records, enabling libraries to download cataloging, share information, and search all parts of a cataloging record. The MARC format structure became an official national standard in 1971 and an international one in 1973.

To learn more about some of these events in U.S. library history, explore these websites available on SIRS WebSelect:

11 Facts About September 11

On September 11, 2001, the world changed forever when al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four American airliners and used them to carry out the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history.

Here are 11 facts about September 11 that you may or may not know:

A New York City firefighter looks at the ruins of the World Trade Center at dawn on Sept. 12, 2001, a day after the terrorist attacks. (Credit: Jim Macmillan/Philadelphia Daily News/MCT)

A New York City firefighter looks at the ruins of the World Trade Center at dawn on Sept. 12, 2001, a day after the terrorist attacks.
Image by Jim Macmillan/Philadelphia Daily News/MCT via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

1. A total of 2,977 people were killed–including the passengers, crew and 19 hijackers aboard the four planes, those in the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon. Also killed were 343 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority officers who were responding to the attacks. Another 10,000 people were treated for injuries, many seriously.

2. Ben Sliney was on his first day on the job as the FAA’s National Operations Manager on September 11. Shortly after the attacks, he made the decision to ground all aircraft within the continental U.S., and all aircraft already in flight were told to land immediately. Within four hours, almost 4,500 planes had safely landed. For the first time in history, the entire airspace over the U.S. and Canada was closed except for military, police, and medical flights, and civilian air traffic was not allowed to resume until September 13, 2001.

3. In the days following the attacks most skyscrapers in major cities across the United States were closed, along with State capitols and many government buildings surrounding them, as well as many U.S. landmarks. The stock market closed for four trading days after the attacks. Most major sporting events were canceled or postponed until after Sept 16–including Major League Baseball, NFL and collegiate football games, NASCAR races, and the 2001 Ryder Cup of golf.

4. A third skyscraper–World Trade Center Building 7–a 47-story building and one of the largest in downtown Manhattan—also fell during the attacks. The building was the site of the command center of the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

5. Only 291 dead bodies were recovered “intact” from Ground Zero.

6. It took firefighters 100 days (until December 19) to extinguish all the fires ignited by the attacks in New York.

7. The Department of Homeland Security was created in response to the attacks. It merged 22 governmental agencies into one, including the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

8. Cleanup at Ground Zero officially ended on May 30, 2002. It took 3.1 million hours of labor to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris. The total cost of the cleanup was $750 million.

9. According to the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York, of the 2,753 people reported missing at the World Trade Center, 1,115 victims, or 41 percent of the total, have not been identified as of May 10, 2014.

10. The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened on May 21, 2014, in New York City.

11. As a result of the attacks, September 11 is now remembered each year in the USA as Patriot Day.

SIRS WebSelect offers editorially-selected websites with resources and information for educators and students on the 9/11 attacks, as well as thousands of other subjects. Learn more about that fateful day and its aftermath at these websites:

9/11: Timeline of Events

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

Remembering 9/11

Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive


11 Awesome Libraries and Librarians!

Libraries are awesome! Did you know libraries have existed almost since the beginning of the written word? A collection of 30,000 clay tablets found in ancient Mesopotamia are said to date back more than 5,000 years.

The first great public library was the Library of Alexandria, founded around 300 BC in Egypt. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the valuable collections held there were lost when the library was destroyed. A modern version was opened in 2002 as a memorial to the spirit and scholarship of the original library.

Every great library is staffed with talented librarians. Many famous people and world leaders throughout history served as librarians before achieving recognition in other fields.

So in honor of the awesomeness of librarianship, here are 11 notable libraries and librarians throughout history:

Vatican Library

“The Sistine Hall of the Vatican Library” Photo credit: xiquinhosilva / Foter / CC BY

Vatican Library, Vatican City. Established in 1475, the library of the Holy Roman Church holds the oldest complete manuscript of the Bible, as well as over one million other printed volumes and 65,000 manuscripts. Most of the works are in either Latin or Greek.

Pope Pius XI (1857-1939). Before he became pope (from 1922 until his death in 1939), Achille Ratti was a librarian and scholar, and famously reorganized the archives in the Vatican library.

"Bodleian Library" Photo credit: Poul-Werner / Foter / CC BY

“Bodleian Library” Photo credit: Poul-Werner / Foter / CC BY

Bodleian Library, Oxford, United Kingdom. The main research library of the University of Oxford is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back to 1602. It has more than 11 million items within its walls.

The Brothers Grimm. Before they published their classic work Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1812, Jacob (1785-1863) served as the royal librarian for Napoleon Bonaparte’s youngest brother Jerome, King of Westphalia, with brother Wilhelm (1786-1859) as his assistant.

Harvard University Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The oldest library system in the United States began in 1638 when John Harvard donated 260 volumes. The Harvard Library has grown to become the largest university library in the U.S, and the largest private library system in the world, with more than 18,000,000 volumes.

Mao Zedong (1893-1976). The Communist leader of the Chinese revolution and founder of the People’s Republic of China lived in Beijing as a young man, where he was an assistant librarian at the University.

Library of the Benedictine Monastery, Admont, Austria. The largest monastery library in the world was completed in 1776 and holds some 200,000 volumes, including more than 1,400 manuscripts (some dating from the 8th century) and 530 incunabula (early printed books before 1500). Some of the manuscripts were the gifts of Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg, who founded the Monastery in 1074.

Golda Meir (1898-1978). The fourth Prime Minister of Israel (1969-1974), worked as a librarian in both Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois. The main library of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she graduated in 1917, is named in her honor.

Library of Congress Reading Room

[Main Reading Room. View from above showing researcher desks. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.]
Photo credit: The Library of Congress / Foter / No known copyright restrictions

Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Established by an act of the U.S. Congress in 1800, it is the largest library in the world, holding millions of books, recordings, photographs, maps and manuscripts in its collections.

J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972). The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 until his death in 1972 put himself through law school at George Washington University by working at the Library of Congress as a messenger, cataloguer and clerk.

Laura Bush Portrait. White House photo by Krisanna Johnson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Laura Bush Portrait.
White House photo by Krisanna Johnson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Laura Bush (1946-). The former First Lady earned her Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Texas at Austin in 1973 after working as an elementary school teacher. She worked in both school and public libraries in her home state of Texas.

Find more information on some of these renowned libraries and prominent librarians in these websites offered on SIRS WebSelect. All sites are selected, curated and updated daily by SIRS editors to ensure quality and accessibility. Or you can easily create your own search using keywords, natural language or subject headings to explore this topic or virtually any other classroom lesson.

The Vatican Library

The Library of Congress

J. Edgar Hoover

Laura Bush

Benjamin Franklin: Founding Librarian

Benjamin Franklin

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Artist David Martin
(Credit: Library of Congress, via ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher)


We all know Benjamin Franklin for his exhaustive list of achievements, including his role as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. But there is a lesser-known accomplishment on Franklin’s resume: Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia on July 1, 1731.

The Library Company was created for one simple reason: to expand access to books. Books in Colonial America were expensive and scarce. There were no public libraries. Franklin and members of his discussion group, Junto, were frustrated because they did not have enough books available to cultivate their intellectual and political debates. So the Library Company used membership dues to purchase books. The Library Company’s book collection eventually became an integral source for delegates to the First and Second Constitutional Congress and the Constitutional Convention.

Library Company

The Library Company of Philadelphia,
1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107.
By Davidt8 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Greater access to books nurtured great minds like Benjamin Franklin. As we commemorate Independence Day on July 4th, let’s also celebrate the role that libraries serve in our democracy.

To learn more about Benjamin Franklin, check out these sites featured on SIRS WebSelect:

Benjamin Franklin: Glimpses of the Man

Benjamin Franklin: How I Became a Printer

Benjamin Franklin’s Junto Club & Lending Library of Philadelphia

The Electric Ben Franklin

100th Day of School

100th day of school

Example class bulletin board featuring items that students brought to count for the 100th day of school.
Photo credit: mrsdkrebs / Foter / CC BY


The 100th day of school is fast approaching (it usually occurs in January or February each year). Many schools across the country celebrate the 100th day of school. It’s not only a milestone, but also a great opportunity for teachers to practice math with their students. This is especially important in preschool and kindergarten, where students are learning their numbers. But it also provides good activities for all elementary-level students.

For example, some teachers will ask students to bring in “100” of something. It could be a collection of paperclips, or macaroni noodles, or buttons. The possibilities are endless! This year, my son, who is in preschool, is bringing in a collection of 100 animal fact cards that we collected from National Geographic Little Kids magazines. We laid out all the cards on the floor and I helped him count all the way to 100. In preschool, most children are only counting up to 20, so this activity is a good way to introduce more numbers. It’s also good to count by 10s with them.

100 Things from Highlights for Children is a cute story about a girl who is trying to find 100 things to bring in for the 100th day of school celebration. This story, along with other great math resources, can be found on SIRS Discoverer.

Also see wonderful websites featured in SIRS Discoverer’s WebFind for more ideas on 100th day of school activities:

100th Day of School

Celebrate the 100th day of School

100th Day of School Activities

STEAM Resources for the Classroom and Library


Fractal Art by werner22brigitte [Public Domain] via Pixabay


STEAM is a movement that integrates an A for the arts into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.  STEAM education was created in 2006 by former teacher Georgette Yakman.

The Creative Component

Advocates of STEAM contend that there should not be a dichotomy between science and art. Instead, art should be seen as a driver of creativity that can foster innovation and spark engagement and learning in science education.

“Engineers, inventors, and designers produce drawings as part of their creative process. They draw to work out and refine concepts and details. They draw to persuade. They draw to give direction. And they draw to record their ideas and to learn from others.”–Doodles, Drafts, and Designs, Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian

Pathway to Economic Growth

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, sees STEAM as a pathway to fostering U.S. economic growth. Maeda, writing in Edutopia, has said that “[d]esign creates the innovative products and solutions that will propel our economy forward, and artists ask the deep questions about humanity that reveal which way forward actually is.” He cites Apple as well-known example of a company in which design is crucial to the success of technology.

Tried and True

The idea of integrating the arts and sciences in education is nothing new. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was not only a famous Renaissance artist, but was also a scientist, engineer and inventor. In fact, he used his skills as an artist to draw his mechanical ideas.

“If someone had told Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, or Galileo that the study of science in the 21st century would be separated from the creativity of the arts or the social, cultural, and historical insights into human behavior offered by the humanities, they would have wondered what scientists had done to make the world disrespect them so much.  It’s an odd idea to separate out different kinds of knowledge that inspire and enrich one another in the real world and the virtual too.” – Duke Professor Cathy Davidson

Links for Teachers and Librarians

Over the past several years, more and more schools have begun integrating the arts into their STEM curricula. Below are six links you can use to incorporate STEAM into your classroom or library:

Websites for Students

Are your students working on a STEAM project and need a little inspiration? Below are five editorially-selected websites from ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher.

If you’ve implemented a STEAM curriculum in your classroom or library, let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.


This Day in History: U.S. Mint Established

When the Founding Fathers created a new government, they realized the need for a respected monetary system. Soon after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, on April 2, 1792, Congress passed The Coinage Act, which created the U.S. Mint and authorized construction of a Mint building. Did you know that before the creation of a national Mint, Americans used English, Spanish, French and colonial currencies, as well as livestock, produce, and even wampum to conduct transactions? The Coinage Act established a federal monetary system, adopted the dollar as the standard monetary unit, set denominations for coins, and specified the value of each coin in gold, silver, or copper. It also made coin defacement, counterfeiting, and embezzlement by Mint employees punishable by death.

Gold Bars at Fort Knox

Gold bars are kept by the U.S. Mint at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
(Credit: United States Mint)

The U.S. Mint was the first public building erected by the federal government. It opened in Philadelphia (then the Nation’s capital) later that same year. The first delivery of American coins occurred in 1793 and consisted of 11,178 copper cents. The U.S. Mint is also responsible for issuing commemorative coins, and its Fort Knox, Kentucky, facility stores the U.S. gold bullion supply.


The Sacagawea Dollar Coin.
(Credit: Paul J. Denneby/FHWA)

A few interesting facts about U.S coins:

* All U.S. coins now issued bear the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

* The Lincoln cent is the only circulating coin currently produced in which the portrait faces to the right.

* Only three women have been honored on a circulating coin. Susan B. Anthony appears on the obverse of the dollar coin (1979), Sacagawea on the obverse of the golden dollar (2000), and Helen Keller is pictured on the reverse of the Alabama quarter (2003).

SIRS WebSelect offers editorially-selected, credible internet resources on vital issues and topics. You can search for sites by keyword/natural language, subject headings, or topic. Explore some of the sites below to find more information on U.S. coins and currency, both past and present:

U.S. Mint

Legendary Coins & Currency

Coins of Colonial and Early America