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Lesson Plans


Language Arts/English
Our original lesson plans are developed by Thirteen Ed Online Master Teachers. Starting with tried-and-true lessons that work in the classroom, our Web-savvy teachers have built Web-based activities that use the rich resources of Thirteen/WNET New York and the Internet.

Each month, we will create new lessons based upon outstanding PBS series and around outstanding Web resources.



Grades 9-12


New Yorkers have always been passionate about Shakespeare. They have wept and fainted, gone to jail, even fought and died over the Bard's works. In this lesson, students learn about four events concerning the history of Shakespeare's plays in New York City. What is it about the Bard and his work that makes people react so passionately? The lesson emphasizes reading primary and secondary source materials, interpreting the emotions of the people involved in the historical events, and reading passages from Shakespeare that relate both historically and emotionally to the events. In culmination, students will simulate a Town Hall meeting in which they defend Shakespeare as part of American culture.

Grades 9-12


In 1883, the young Willa Cather was plucked from her comfortable home in Virginia and dropped into the prairies of Nebraska, a both terrifying and exhilarating experience that became the force behind her extraordinary work. As depicted in the AMERICAN MASTERS show, Cather's novels serve as mirrors into the history and culture of pioneer life in late nineteenth century America. In this unit, students will learn to read literature with an eye toward understanding history and then create their own historical fiction. Immigrant students can also use the opportunity to examine and write about their own pioneering ways as they learn about new customs in a completely foreign culture.

Grades 9-12


More than 40 years after his death, Ernest Hemingway is one of the most widely read, and widely written about, American authors. His distinct style, larger-than-life persona and profound influence are indisputable. Using the AMERICAN MASTERS episode "Ernest Hemingway: Rivers to the Sea" that recounts the life and legacy of Ernest Hemingway, this lesson focuses on studying life in post-war Spain through a journalist's eyes. Ultimately, the students will work together to create a newspaper to showcase their research and writing. For classes that are technologically advanced, students are challenged to create a series of podcasts to share their work.

Grades 3-5


Everyone loves a Cinderella story, whether it's the original Brothers Grimm version, the ever-popular Disney interpretation, or one from a different country entirely. There are so many different versions, but at the core of it, it's the same basic plot. The Prince needs a wife, so he throws a ball to find a bride. Cinderella wants to go to the ball, but the wicked stepmother and stepsisters just won't have it. Thanks to a fairy godmother, perseverance, and some animal friends, Cinderella lives happily ever after again. For this lesson, students will watch the original 1957 television production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA, starring Julie Andrews, restored and airing for the first time since then by the GREAT PERFORMANCES series. After viewing it, students will write their "own" version of the beloved fairy tale. However, theirs will have a twist. Their versions will be told from a different perspective.

Grades 6-8


Who is Bill Irwin? Some people know of him as Mr. Noodle from Elmo's World on "Sesame Street." Others recognize his work as a clown or a mime on Broadway. However, he is more than that. In addition to being an actor, a dancer, a performance artist, and a vaudeville clown, he is also a producer, director, writer, and choreographer. It's hard enough having one job in a production be it on the small screen, on film or on the stage. Imagine taking on multiple roles and responsibilities. After studying Bill Irwin, you may think that he's the hardest working man in show business.

Grades 9-12


Musical theatre book writers, lyricists, and composers have long looked to literature for inspiration and material. In this lesson, students will compare and contrast literary works and the musicals they inspired. Utilizing video clips and Web sites, students will compare specific passages from original texts to moments in Broadway musicals based on the texts, and analyze similarities and differences between the two. As a culminating activity, students will try their hand at adapting and performing a non-dramatic narrative, either as a straight play or as a musical number.

Grades 9-12


In this lesson, students will watch the AMERICAN MASTERS episode "Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues" and use what they learn to help analyze some of his most popular songs. Students will discuss whether or not they feel they can understand an artist through his writing. Finally, students will use Williams's methods of inspiration to pen their own lyrics or poetry.

Grades 9-12


In honor of the heroes of September 11th, students will explore the concept of "heroism" in this lesson, through personal reflection, group activities and a thoughtful analysis of Thirteen's documentary, HEROES OF GROUND ZERO. Students will use different forms of writing, various artistic media and computer software to create a group presentation on the theme of "heroism."

Grades 9-12


This lesson, inspired by the work of the Center for Family Life in A BROOKLYN FAMILY TALE, lets students design an innovative community program to address the needs of their community.

Grades 9-12


What is the experience of being a Latino living in the United States today? Are their concerns and experiences different or similar to that of other ethnic groups? Can the experience be categorized at all? The PBS series AMERICAN FAMILY gives one perspective on this as it depicts the life and times of a fictitious Mexican-American family. There has been much else written on the subject as well. In this lesson, students explore this complex issue by looking at the demographics of the United States, and reading how this has made an impact on American media. After becoming aware of some of the issues surrounding Latinos, students read a collection of poems on the subject, written by Latino writers. In the end students reflect on what they've learned by creating a multimedia collage.

Grades 7-9


In this lesson, students learn about the lives and contributions of the many black Americans who are honored on U.S. commemorative postage stamps. One way of understanding American cultural values is to consider those individuals who are honored in this manner. This lesson emphasizes finding, organizing, synthesizing and communicating information. The culminating activity is a presentation in which students report on their research about the honoree and his or her place in American history.

Grades 3-5


Using a story by Laura Ingalls Wilder, this language arts/history lesson plan will give your students a perspective on the day-to-day realities of frontier life in South Dakota, back in the "good old days." Ultimately, your students will reflect on which time period suits them better - then or now.

Grades 9-12


Students research women and sports by focusing on the controversial issue: Is cheerleading a sport? Research entails online explorations, polling, and graphing -- all of which will assist students in engaging in a well-informed debate about an issue affecting the school environment.

Grades 10-12


This language arts lesson will help your 10th to 12th grade students understand the impact that media messages can have in shaping reactions to tragic events conveyed in the news. Students explore broadcast and Web-based news sites and discover how experts view the media's impact on young minds. In a culminating activity, your students will create their own news Web site homepages.

Grades 5-9


During the month of January, many teachers turn to the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and the morals that he preached to all people, regardless of race, creed, beliefs and age. This lesson not only examines the message of Dr. King, but also the words themselves. This is a lesson in identifying the literary devices that he used in his "I Have A Dream" Speech. It will introduce the following literary devices: analogy, symbolism, use of chronology, personification, metaphor, figurative language and the effective use of repetition.

Grades 9-12


The PBS series HERITAGE: CIVILIZATION AND THE JEWS is the story of Jews dealing with their moral and spiritual struggle to maintain their cultural identity and keep their history alive. This story has captivated many important Jewish writers, including Philip Roth. In this lesson, students read Roth's collection of short stories, GOODBYE, COLUMBUS to get his take on the issue. Students form groups to help each other read, analyze, and conduct research on important background information that informs Roth's stories about Jews and their assimilation into modern American society. In the end, students write and publish their own stories of assimilation, using Roth's writing as their guide.

Grades 9-12


How does environment shape culture and human experience? Students explore this question as they discover how natural resources-namely, diamonds and gold-influenced the history and culture of South Africa. Wearing the imaginary hats of historians and consultants, students learn about South Africa's troubled history. Students learn about apartheid through research and the words of a South African woman, whose story is featured on the SOUTHERN TREASURES episode of AFRICA, airing Sunday, October 28th at 8 PM. As a culminating activity, students express their thoughts on apartheid by writing children's books, focusing on point of view.

Grades 9-12


In this interactive lesson, students examine many aspects of the gay and lesbian rights movement from the Stonewall riots up through today. After taking an online bias test, students explore historical events, different perspectives and media representations of homosexuality. Students demonstrate their understanding through a talk show activity and by writing editorials about what they learned.




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