Maya angelous life and legacy

ELA Middle School

Maya Angelou's Life and Legacy

Gender Poetry Biography Civil RIghts

Maya Angelou was an author, poet and icon. She grew up during segregation and used her work to empower and give voice to the African American community. Her memoir, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" changed the literary world and opened doors for African American authors and women.

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A raisin in the sun 1959 2

ELA High School

Motivation for Writing 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Race Fiction

The play "A Raisin in the Sun," by Lorraine Hansberry, reveals the struggles black families faced as they attempted to achieve the American dream in the 1950s. The play follows the lives of a working class family - the Youngers - from the South Side of Chicago. The Younger family recently received an insurance check, and have an opportunity to make positive changes in their lives. The audio story offers listeners a glimpse into an alarming event that happened to author Hansberry’s family when they moved into a white neighborhood during segregation. Learn about the play, "A Raisin in the Sun," as well as why "A Raisin in the Sun" made such an impact on American theater. Perhaps most importantly, listen to this story to find what Lorraine Hansberry’s motivation was for writing this iconic story.

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ELA Middle School

Immigrant Experience

Race Religion Education Culture Global

In 2015, the United States resettled nearly 70,000 refugees as wars and political instability continue to drive people from their home countries. Resettlement isn’t easy for the person coming to a new country. One of those people, Barwaqo Mohamed was born and grew up in Somalia, but came to the U.S. as a political refugee in 2006. In this audio story, Barwaqo talks about her experience as an immigrant with a journalist who volunteered to tutor her in English for over four years. Barwaqo describes herself as a natural at learning languages and that helped her fit in. Listen to the interview to learn how that skill has served her since she came to the U.S.

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Current Event November 14, 2017

Dads at School

Education Psychology KERA

A group of fathers in Texas wanted to be sure every student in their schools had a father figure. So they created a group called All Pro Dads. This group of volunteers now has 1,300 fathers who serve the school district. At every school there are dads who welcome students as they are dropped off to help them start their day. They provide male role models in an effort to support students with mentorship, positivity, and encouragement. Listen to hear from volunteers as well as students about this program.

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ELA High School

The Price of Combat and ‘The Red Badge of Courage’

Literature Civil War Coming of Age

When “The Red Badge of Courage” was published in the 1890s, 30 years after the U.S. Civil War, it was one of the first novels to address the psychological effects of combat. The book’s central character is Henry Fleming, a teenager who joins the Union Army with high hopes of glory and adventure. The realities of war soon hit, and Henry must juggle the conflicting emotions of fear, pity, envy, pride, outrage, and eventually, courage. Listen to learn more about a book many consider a coming-of-age novel, while others question whether war is the best way to turn a boy into a man.

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The kite runner

ELA High School

Exploring Afghanistan through ‘The Kite Runner’

Middle East Fiction World Literature Coming of Age

In recent decades, Afghanistan has been a country plagued by war. Author Khaled Hosseini’s debut novel, “The Kite Runner,” is set in Afghanistan in the 1960s and 1970s through the 2000s. The book tells the story of two young friends, Amir and Hassan, who are from very different classes and ethnic groups. The story follows them as they navigate life before and after the coup that toppled the Afghan king in 1973, the Russian occupation in the 1980s, and the rule of the Taliban in the 1990s. Listen as the author Afghan-native Hosseini describes how his life experiences are significant to his novel and how he has set out to change the public perception of this Middle Eastern country.

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Young adults and choices

ELA Middle School


Natalie Babbitt Writes for Young Readers in 'Tuck Everlasting'

Literature Fiction Young Adult Literature Coming of Age

Author Natalie Babbitt has been writing books for young people for four decades. Her respect for young readers shines through in the themes of her novels, from love and everlasting life in “Tuck Everlasting” to money and dreams in her first non-fantasy novel, “The Moon Over High Street.” In this interview, Babbitt describes her perspective on writing for young people.

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Anne frank diary at anne frank museum in berlin pages 92 93

ELA Middle School

Anne Frank’s Father Attempted to Emigrate

Immigration Memoir

Anne Frank’s diary of her family’s life in hiding from the Nazis is one of the most famous accounts of World War II. Less known is how her father, Otto Frank made many attempts to get his wife and two daughters, Margot and Anne, out of Nazi Germany to safety. In 2005, several letters and documents written by Otto Frank were discovered. Despite the support of several wealthy and powerful friends in the United States, he was unable to acquire the necessary visas. The U.S. was making it more and more difficult for immigrants to enter the country and, after Germany declared war on the U.S., Cuba rescinded the visas it had originally offered. Listen to learn more about the powers that kept the Frank family in Europe, where they were eventually discovered, arrested and almost all murdered by the Nazis.

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The hobbit

ELA Middle School

A Ring from 'The Hobbit'

Fiction Archaeology Fantasy European Literature

The famous ring featured in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” may have actually existed. This story reveals how Tolkien encountered a supposedly cursed ring from the Roman period shortly before he wrote “The Hobbit.” Many believe that this ring and the details surrounding it might have inspired Tolkien’s novels. Today, the ring is on public display at an English estate. Listen to learn more about the fascinating connections between history, archaeology and J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy series.

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Current Event August 26, 2015

Seer Stones Used To Translate The Book of Mormon

Religion US History I

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) has recently provided detailed explanations for how their scriptures were translated. This is the first time the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published images of the seer stone, the stone that founder Joseph Smith used to translate the scriptures in the 1820s. The Mormon Church has said it wants to be more open about the origin of their religion, and is providing full-color photographs of the seer stone. Listen to hear more about these new church documents that were recently released.

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Catcher in the rye red cover

ELA High School

Does ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Still Resonate?

Literature Culture Fiction American Literature Classics Young Adult Literature Censorship Realistic Fiction

J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye” has long been a staple of high school reading lists, though it has also frequently been banned from them. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a rebellious 17-year old who has just been expelled from prep school. The novel is considered a classic of American literature, and Holden is thought to be a character every teenager can relate to—but is this still true today? Listen to hear about how this novel earned its status as a classic and the arguments in the debate about whether it should still be required reading for high school students.

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ELA High School

Re-Tracing Chaucer's Steps on the Canterbury Road

Economics Literature Immigration European History

“The Canterbury Tales” is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 14-century, and is widely considered to be one of the influential works of early European literature. It is a “frame story” containing a collection of tales told by a fictional group of religious pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer made specific use of real locations to root his stories in the world of his time. Listen to hear about how the Canterbury Road has influenced other famous writers, and about how the locations of Chaucer’s tales have changed over the centuries.

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Current Event December 15, 2017

Debate: Should Suspension Be In School or Out of School?


Across the country there’s a debate over whether or not out-of-school suspensions are effective in dealing with a student’s disruptive behavior. A city council member in Washington D.C. believes they are not useful and that more money should be put toward in-school activities for disruptive students. This issue concerns teachers since dealing with disruptive behavior can take time out of classroom teaching and affect other students. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of in-school suspensions and then debate: Should suspension be in school or out of school?

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Current Event April 3, 2015

Integrating College Basketball in the South

Race Civil RIghts Sports

Basketball fans across the country are preparing for the exciting end of March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. As Kentucky drives towards a undefeated season, this story remembers a time when the Southeastern Conference (SEC) was not integrated. Despite the Voting Rights Act of 1964, racism in the South was still commonplace and public. Perry Wallace stepped onto the basketball court for Vanderbilt University in 1966 and became the first black varsity athlete in the Southeastern Conference. Listen to learn more about the climate of Southern basketball in the late 1960s and how Perry Wallace survived and thrived.

Warning: Quotes in this story contain strong language.

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Current Event September 28, 2017

Teachers Step Up During Hurricane

Education Weather and Climate

Houston, Texas is recovering from Hurricane Harvey and students were delayed in going back to school. Many students are staying in shelters and teachers are volunteering to provide learning opportunities to children who were traumatized or displaced by the hurricane. One special education teacher created a group of educators called Teachers Volunteering in Shelters to help these students. Listen to hear more about these volunteers.

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Current Event November 3, 2017

Debate: Should Animals be Allowed in Cafes?


One of the newest trends in coffee shops is welcoming animals. The way these cafes work is that people pay to enter and get a free drink. People who don’t have time or room for a pet can come and spend time with animals, without having to own them. Most people come to pet the cats, rabbits, sheep, or owls in the cafe. But some cafes might be going too far. In South Korea, one cafe welcomes raccoons, a typically wild animal that can be dangerous. Listen to hear about a visit to this cafe and then debate: Should animals be allowed in cafes?

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Understanding the amish and technology

ELA High School

Understanding the Amish and Technology

Religion Technology Culture

The Amish are a Christian religious group who are known for their isolation and rejection of modern technology. Popular culture has shaped our understanding of the Amish community, from the Harrison Ford movie Witness to TLC’s show Breaking Amish. But this lens on the Amish doesn’t show the complexities of their religious culture. Listen to learn more about the Amish and their complicated but thoughtful relationship with technology.

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ELA High School

Easy Rawlins and Walter Mosley’s Los Angeles

Fiction Mystery

Walter Mosley, an African-American writer, is one of the country’s best known mystery writers. The Los Angeles-based private detective, Easy Rawlins, is his most popular character. Rawlins has been the main character in over a dozen mystery novels that examine the black experience in postwar Los Angeles. In this interview, Mosley discusses Easy Rawlins’ journey, and the importance of Los Angeles in his novels. Listen to learn more about how Mosley uses Easy Rawlins to tell the stories of a hidden Los Angeles.

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Toni morrison

ELA High School


Toni Morrison’s Writing Inspired by Ghosts

Literature Civil RIghts Slavery

Toni Morrison is an American novelist who is best known for her novels exploring the experiences of African Americans. When she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in in 1993 she said at the ceremony that she is “pleasantly haunted by ghosts.” In this interview with Morrison she explores how ghosts are a part of some of her writing. The novel “Beloved” has a ghost as a central character in a story about two slaves who fell in love. The novel “Jazz” recalls Harlem in the 1920’s and explores the themes of purgatory and Jazz music. Listen to this story to learn what sparks Morrison’s creativity.

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ELA Middle School

Themes of Belonging: Sandra Cisneros

Culture Fiction Memoir

Sandra Cisneros writes about working class Latino life in America and has won many awards for her writing. She is best known for her book, “The House on Mango Street.” The themes in her writing include the meaning of home, belonging, crossing boundaries and cultural expectations of women. Her new memoir, “A House of my Own,” describes how her own life also reflects these themes. In this interview, she talks about being connected to Mexico and to the United States, and how she hopes to be an ambassador passing between the two cultures. Furthermore, she works to honor the women in her family while also being an independent woman and breaking some cultural traditions. Listen to hear more about how Sandra Cisneros has created a house of her own.

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