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Idea Swap

Teacher-tested ideas to celebrate Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, Black History Month, and more!

By Megan Kaesshaefer
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

Across the Curriculum with The 39 Clues

Teachers Lisa Campbell and Mike Bentz from Skyline School in Solana Beach, CA, shared with us how they use this hit series to teach in core areas. Try these ideas with your classroom's top clue hunters!

1. Research Famous Figures
Invite students to research the different historical figures (there is one in each book), such as Benjamin Franklin, Amelia Earhart, and the Romanovs. You will find that students want to do the research to further their quest for the 39 clues!

2. Zero in on Dan and Amy
For geography practice, have students keep track of main characters Dan and Amy's travels by filling in locations of countries and cities they visit across the globe. Assign students locations to research, and have them present their findings.

3. Design a Math Travel Game
Let students join Dan and Amy on their travels! Issue pretend passports, checking accounts, and credit cards to fund students' hunts, and ask that they keep track of expenses for food, lodging, and transportation. Students will learn about foreign currencies and can practice converting money. For a lesson in time, have students work with problems involving the various time zones Dan and Amy travel to.

4. 39 Clues Wiki
Create a wiki for students to use as a place to record their findings from online clues and present their research on historical events and figures. Open the discussion to the whole class by having students participate in a password-protected blog, monitored by you. They can post their own theories, comment on their peers' predictions, and ask questions.

5. Uncover Characters and Clues
Use a bulletin board to make a giant graphic organizer. To follow the books' characters, clues, and locations, have students make a picture card for each one, with names, traits, and images. Set aside time in class for students to update the organizer with the solutions they find to the different online cards (the39clues.com).

6. Create a Reference Book
Conduct a research project with the online cards (the39clues.com), as many refer to actual historical events (the sinking of the Titanic, the Salem witch trials, etc.). Create a research page for each card that captures significant dates, people, locations, and historical influences. These pages can then become a reference book for students to use in the hunt for clues.

7. Write: What I Would Do
Present students with this writing prompt: Given the choice, would you take the million dollars or join the hunt for the 39 clues in an attempt to become the most powerful person in the world? Allow students to write for ten minutes, then invite them to share their decisions and reasons why.

8. Host a School-Wide Celebration
Incorporate the 39 Clues books in a school-wide "Cahill Day" to promote literacy. Invite students to dress as 39 Clues characters or in their "branch" colors (after taking the online quiz). You can also hold a trivia contest and invite the winners to an exclusive Cahill luncheon. At Lisa and Mike's school, Peter Lerangis (author of the third book in the series) stopped by to join in the excitement!

Want more 39 Clues? Visit The 39 Clues Educator Network, which includes book-by-book guides, author videos of the month, activities, and a place for teachers to share ideas. Join the network at www.scholastic.com/teachthe39clues.

 

Great Winter Holiday Ideas

Sweet Scents
To celebrate Valentine's Day in my class, we make simple gifts students can bring home to their families. Students draw a small heart or design on art paper. Then, they carefully cut out the design and glue it to a bar of plain hand soap, which can be bought at a dollar store. I then dip the bars in paraffin wax and let them cool. The students love bringing home personalized, great-smelling decorative soaps for their families! Jenifer Moore, Montevallo, AL

How Many Hearts?
For a Valentine's Day estimation game, I fill a clear container with candy hearts and ask students to guess how many hearts are inside. Then, we create a bar graph based on their estimations. Once the actual total is found, we practice ratios. For example, if I tell students that there are three pink hearts for every one white heart, they guess how many of each color there would be. Pat Roth, Morresville, NC 

 

Paper-Heart Appreciation
I have a simple but effective writing assignment that is perfect for Valentine's Day. I invite students to write a paragraph about one thing they appreciate about their parents or caregivers. It can be a weekend activity they do together, a tradition that is unique to their family, or a trait that makes this person admirable. Students practice handwriting and paste their finished piece inside a colorful paper heart. Jacquelyn Howes, Weatogue, CT 

 

Care for the Community
On Valentine's Day we like to reach out to the community. Students decorate boxes with a Valentine's Day theme and fill them with handmade goodies to send to local seniors. Items are contributed by participating classrooms and might include baked goods, cards, bookmarks, and art projects. Our parent volunteers then distribute them, and report back to us that seniors' reactions are priceless. Jeremy Brunaccioni, Gill, MA


Links of Kindness
During February, my class celebrates small acts of everyday kindness. To do so, we contribute to a kindness chain that hangs in our classroom. If anyone sees an act of kindness — maybe a compliment exchanged between peers, or someone sharing a book with another student who forgot hers — they write it on a strip of construction paper, and it becomes a link in the chain. This chain acts as a visual representation of how we treat one another with respect. Elizabeth Peterson, Hampton Falls, NH


Share the Love
During each day in February, I ask students to help me select a student of the day. I call on someone and they tell me who they think should be chosen and why. They cannot simply say, "I nominate Jenna because she is nice," or "I nominate Maria because she is pretty." Instead, I ask for a concrete example: "I nominate Jenna because when I fell on the playground, she took me to the nurse." This whole process reinforces the niceties of society without me preaching that students should be kind to one another. And best of all, everyone gets nominated at some point throughout the month! Mary Rose, Longwood, FL


Mail Call!
In my classroom, we label our rows of desks with different street names, so that each child has a "school address." Students address three valentines per day during the first two weeks of February with their classmates' full school address and their own school address as a return. This is wonderful practice for letter writing and proper address placement. Students then use play money to buy stamps (or stickers, in our case). We use cardboard boxes with dividers (such as those found at a liquor store) to sort the mail that comes in. Each day during the first two weeks in February, I assign two students as mail clerks to sell stamps, two sorters to put the mail in the correct sorting boxes, and two mail carriers to deliver the mail to individual mailboxes (or students' desks). Then, we open all of the mail during our Valentine's Day party! Jacquelyn Howes, Weatogue, CT 

Make Freedom Boxes
After reading Henry's Freedom Box to celebrate Black History Month, our class makes our own "freedom box." To begin, students draw a picture of what freedom looks like to them. We then make a replica of Henry's "box" out of a large cardboard box and wood-grain contact paper. Students are then asked to think of several things that they are allowed to do that Henry was not. These items or activities are placed in the box for safekeeping. Next, each student relives Henry's experience by getting into the box one at a time and imagining that he or she is on a journey to freedom. Joan Easterling, Mount Olive, MS

 

Quilting Black History Together
After reading the work of famous African-American authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison, my middle school students write an essay about a favorite author. Then, they sketch a portrait of the author or a character from one of the author's stories. To finish, we hole-punch the edges of their work and quilt them together using yarn. This is definitely a "hall-worthy" project when finished. Jennifer Capps, York, SC


BHM Heroes
For a study on biographies, I have students bring in Wheaties boxes. First, each student chooses the biography of an African-American hero to read independently. Then they put a picture of that person on the front of the Wheaties box, with a list of interesting facts they have researched below it. We display the artwork in the hall with the heading "Look Who's Worth the Wheaties!" Jennifer "Ji Ji" Lawley, Montevallo, AL


Learning Trees
To celebrate Black History Month, I use a theme-oriented unit embedded with reading and vocabulary learning skills. We spend time reading stories aloud, such as Up the Learning Tree by Marcia Vaughan and Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder. Students create their own learning trees out of paper, and add to each branch and leaf a new fact or key word from the story. Dorit Sasson, Pittsburgh, PA 

 

Gettysburg Readdressed
Here is an idea for Presidents' Day: It's called "Gettysburg Readdressed." Students read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and we have a discussion about what it means to us. I select key phrases from the speech and ask students to find more modern-day synonyms to use in their place. For example, "fourscore and seven years ago" can be "87 years ago," or "fitting and proper" can be rewritten as "the right thing to do." Students then write about a more contemporary situation or theme using those key phrases. Taking a brown paper bag, they cut out one side and write their version of the Gettysburg Address on it. To create an aged look, I dampen the paper, roll it, then fasten it with rubber bands. I let it dry overnight and then remove rubber bands. Students can also draw an illustration from a scene in the speech. Jane Williams, Independence, OH


Presidents' Day
To celebrate Presidents' Day, my students learn about the three branches of government, the Electoral College, and the role of the media in modern presidential campaigns. Then the students research the life and legacy of a specific president in order to make a PowerPoint presentation about the person's life, career, presidential achievements and failures, and post-presidential life. To finish, the students give an oral presentation to the class on what they've discovered. Angela Smith, Roebling, NJ 

  • Subjects:
    Holidays and Seasonal Themes
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