The public domain is a rich collection of creative works whose copyrights have expired. More than ever we have incredible access to this art and literature. Public domain images and writings add depth to lessons and expose students to classic works.
Any movie based on a fairy tale, Shakespearean play, or classic book takes advantage of the public domain. Remixes such as Wicked, Gnomeo & Juliet, and most Disney’s films are possible without fee or need for permission because of the public domain.
Currently, in the US, works created before 1923 are automatically in the public domain. Laws passed in 1976 and 1998 have frozen this date until 2019.
Books: Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg offers free text of books and stories in the public domain. You don’t need to read an entire book, just grab a juicy passage for grammar, setting, or figurative language studies.
To give you an idea of some of their resources:
- Children’s Fairy Tales sorted by region
- All science Fiction books and periodicals
- All books by Mark Twain
- The most downloaded books of the month
- The top authors of the month
Project Gutenberg makes it easy to integrate classics into your lessons. Want to expose kids to The Wizard of Oz, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, or Great Expectations? They’re all there, ready for you to edit, email, or print.
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- Here’s Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- This is a dramatic reading of The Wizard Of Oz
- And here’s Pride and Prejudice
Search Librivox’s catalog for some classic stories for your class to listen to. Combine this with Project Gutenberg to give your highest-level readers a chance to experience books that truly challenge them.
iBiblio keeps an archive of artwork from the public domain. Works are organized by era or artist. Collections include:
And, used as the image for this article, Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Marriage
These images are perfect for practicing descriptive writing, inspiring stories, or studying art techniques.
Have a favorite classic you love to expose students to? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ianabyrd!