Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.

Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.
Click on icon to go to my website:

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holidays at the White House(Factoids)

 Note: Click here for a free download, great Interactive Notebook Activity!

Holiday Traditions at the White House!
An Interactive Notebook Activity
Gail Skroback Hennessey

• In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge began the custom of a National Christmas Tree.  It had 2500 electric lights!

• First lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the custom of having a theme for the official White House Christmas tree.

Environmentalist President Theodore Roosevelt didn’t approve of cutting a tree down for the Christmas holidays. Because of this, he banned having a Christmas tree in the White House. However, Archie, his son, cut a small tree down and hid it in the closet in the swing room. He also decorated it.

• The first president to have electric lights on the family Christmas tree was President Grover Cleveland. The year was 1894.

• President Benjamin Harrison had one of the first White House Christmas trees. It was lit with candles. The year was 1889.

• Did you know that George Washington paid 18 schillings(a lot of money at the time) for someone to bring a camel to  Mt. Vernon for the Christmas holidays? Ok, Mt. Vernon isn’t the White House but I liked this fact. Interestingly, the tradition of having a camel come to Mt. Vernon during the holidays continues to this day!

• In 1834, President Andrew Jackson’s children had fun at the holidays including having snowball fights in the White House…with snowballs made from cotton.

Traditionally, the official White House Christmas tree, is the one placed in the White House’s Blue Room. The tradition of an official tree at the White house began with First Lady Lou Henry Hoover(1929)
In 1997, there were thirty-six trees decorated for the holidays, and in 2012, there were 54 decorated trees!

• President Franklin D. Roosevelt  always read Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” to his family on Christmas Eve.

• The holiday tradition of a gingerbread house, in the White House, began with First Lady Patricia Nixon, in 1969.  Did you know that the White House gingerbread house is made from about 150 pounds of gingerbread dough? More than 250 pounds of white chocolate are used for decorating.

  • Hanukkah is often celebrated around this time of year. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter became the first president to honor the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, by lighting a National Menorah.  The tradition continues each year.  In 1993, President Bill Clinton lighted the first menorah in the White House.  President George H.W. Bush hosted the first White House Hanukkah Party in 2001. 

  • President Benjamin Harrison dressed up as Santa Claus for his grandchildren!


If you had to create a theme for the official White House Christmas tree, what would you select and why. Draw and picture of your tree.

• Which do you think is more environmentally friendly, a REAL or ARTIFICIAL tree? Give 2 reasons for your opinion.

Teacher Page:
Extension Activities:
1. The holiday season is a time of giving. Encourage students to “pay it forward”, doing an act of kindness for someone else.
3. Illustrate one of the facts learned.
4. Teachers may wish to read this article to share with students on which type of tree is MORE environmentally friendly:
6. Words such as abuzz, flummox, the creeps,round the clock and whiz-bang are credited with Dickens. Other words that Dickens helped to popularize include, kibosh, butter-fingers,boredom,messiness,squashed,bah humbug,and tousled.  Have students create creative sentences using several of these words.

• Check out my web quest on Charles Dickens! A Christmas Carol is probably the most popular holiday story.Have your students learn about Charles Dickens,one of the most famous writers of all times! 8 informative web questions. Additional activities/links,too. It is said Dickens used an amazing 4.6 million different words in his writing! Skills include:reading for information and using research/computer skills.

• Check out my TpT Store for web quests and Reader’s Theater Scripts:
Illustration from

Sunday, November 8, 2015


This year , 2016, Diwali, or Deepavali, begins on October 30th and lasts for 5 days.

Deepavali means "festival of lights”. It's a happy time of year and is the biggest holiday in the country of India.  Practiced mainly by people of the Hindu faith, many other people enjoy taking part in the festive holiday season,too. During the holiday, people pray, give gifts and light lamps(Dipa lamps). Special sweet treats including Laddus(sweet wheat balls with nuts and fruits inside) and Karanjis (flour fried dumplings with coconut and sugar) are eaten. Families and friends get together and fireworks are set off to help welcome the new year.
Fun Facts:
Diwali celebrates the end of the harvest season.

President Barack Obama was the first US president to participate in a Deepavali celebration in the White House, in 2009.

Shubh Deepavali” means “Have an auspicious Diwali “and is a common greeting for this holiday time. 

Diwali marks the Hindu New Year. It is a national holiday in India.

Other countries which have Diwali celebrations include: Australia, Guyana, Trinidad, Nepal, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Fiji,  Malaysia,Myanmar, Tobago, Surinam, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and there are celebrations in the United States. Use a world map and identify the location of these countries.

Extension Activities:
Make a Rangoli- Using colored rice flour and water, people decorate patterns on the ground outside their homes and place of worship. It's a way to honor the Hindu Goddess Lakshimi and hope the goddess feels welcome in their homes. Use colored markers and create a colorful Rangoli pattern  See some pictures:

Make a Dipa Lamp:
Usually made from clay, they are traditionally the size to hold in the palm of the hand. Make sure you make a small depression in the center to hold a votive candle.You can paint your lamp purple, yellow, blue or red and decorate with colorful sequins. Dipa lamps are lit and placed in the water. Legend says if the dipa lamp makes it across the water to the other side, a wish will be granted by the Hindu Goddess Lakshimi.

Have small groups of students review the country of India at this link:  Draw/color a picture of something that has to do with India(Taj Mahal, tigers, etc.) Write 5 facts learned about the country to share with the rest of the class.  Learn more about India at this link:

Read a folk story from India to the students such as “The Elephant and the Blind Men”. Have students write a summary of the story.

Additional Links:
Learn more about Diwali at these links:  Cartoon video on Diwali for kids

Learn about India with these resources:
1. India in Focus,is a web quest, with additional fun facts and extension activities. Did you know that it was ancient India which gave the world the idea of the zero? The game Chutes and Ladders comes from an Indian board game. More people speak English in India than in the United States? Students learn about the country of Skills include:reading for information and using research/computer skills.

2. Taj Mahal:Explore World Landmarks are great to introduce kids to some popular world landmarks around the world. With writing in the content area, the short activities can also be used in Language Arts classes, too! About one page of reading, discussion questions and extension activities. Grades 4 and up. 
3. Chess, yoga,the game Parcheesi and the place value -zero are just some of the gifts we have from India. Want to introduce your students to the country of India? This resources will be most helpful.Basic notes,mapskill activity, lots of extension activities and links to get your students engaged in learning about the country of India.

NOTE: Check out this reading passage resource on Diwali:

Note: Illustration

Monday, October 5, 2015

October is National Bullying Prevention Month! Although highlighted in this month, anti-bullying awareness should be practiced every day of the year.  If you SEE bullying taking place, SPEAK UP!  

Check out this short video at the Cartoon Network about joining the "I Speak Up" campaign.

Have kids read this short saying:
"Sticks and stones may break your bones but names can never hurt you."  Is this a true statement? Explain your answer.

Personally, I never thought this to be true. Words are very powerful and negative words can and do hurt....a lot!  

Discussion Questions to ask Students:
1. What is your definition of a bully?  What are some examples of bullying?

2. Why do you think some people are bullies?

3. If you see someone being bullied, what could YOU do?

4. If YOU are being bullied, what could YOU do?

5. Have you ever been bullied? How did you feel? What did you do?

6. Have YOU ever bullied someone else? Have you ever been asked by others to join them in bullying someone else? How did you react to this?

A great start to discussing bullying might be to read about Hans Christian Andersen, the author of "The Ugly Duckling". Hans was often teased as a boy. He was very tall and skinny. He was called "scarecrow" by neighborhood children. One day, he actually climbed a tree to get away from bullies who were chasing him. Then, he got tangled and stuck. His father had to come help get Hans out of the tree.  Check out my resource, a play on Hans Christian Andersen:

Other suggestions:
Using Literature to discuss the issue of bullying:

  • Read the story, the Ugly Duckling to start a discussion on bullying.   Best Children's Books   

  • Another story to read is Goose Girl by the Brothers Grimm. Find the story

  • Still another story is Cinderella.Find the story online at this link: Together We Teach
  • Newspapers in Education has an online comic book story about bullying: 

  • There are also many contemporary books that deal with bullying. Here is a small sampling for elementary and middle school student.

  • The Berenstain Bears and the Bully by Stan Berenstain

  • Blubber by Judy Blume

  • The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

  • Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

  • Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain by Trevor Romain and Elizabeth Vedick.

  • The Bully from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler with Jared Lee.

  • My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig

  • Roxie and the Hooligans by Phillis Reynolds Naylor 

  • Find more books on bullying and read summaries at this link: 

    Read and listen to a short story about bullying online at this link:


    I have compiled lots of resources for classroom teachers to use on this topic. Go to this link:

    I hope you find this information of value to use with your students!


    Sunday, September 27, 2015

    Who Owns This Photograph?

    Here is a possible bell ringer to use with your students.

    A couple of years ago, a macaque found a camera that had been left unattended. Named Naruto, the monkey started to snap pictures, including a fantastic selfie. The owner of the camera got his camera back and published the photographs. Now, an animal rights organization has filed a lawsuit claiming the photographs are the property of Naruto.  PETA says that if the courts rule in favor of the macaque, it will be the first time a right(in this cause, ownership of property) is giving to a non-human animal. 

    What do you think? 

    1. Who owns the photographs, the owner of the camera or the monkey? Why?

    2. Write a caption for the photograph.

    Note: Photograph from


    Tuesday, September 15, 2015

    Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month(September 15-October 15th)with this fun/informative web question. There are 12 questions- famous people, customs, contributions are included. A Did You Know? section, comprehension questions, a Teacher Page with activities and key!


    Check out this Preview:

    Mes de la Herencia Hispana
    National Hispanic Heritage Month!
    Gail Skroback Hennessey

    National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated each year from September 15-October 15th. It was originally established, in 1969, as Hispanic Heritage Week, by President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, it became a month long celebration. Learn some of the contributions made by Hispanic(and Latino )Americans, to our country, with this informative webquest!

    1. National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th to celebration the independence for which five Latin American countries?______________ _________  __________   ___________ and ___________.Which other holiday occurs during National Hispanic Heritage Month?_________ According to the 2010 census( a survey of a population), what percent of people living in the USA are of Hispanic or Latino origin?_________Find the answers at this link:

    2. Perhaps , you’ve heard a mariachi band? This music originated in Mexico. Which music  is popular with people who came from Puerto Rico and Cuba?_________Which type of music uses both the accordion and alto saxophone and has roots with German and Czech music?________ From which country, do most people of Hispanic and Latino origin in the United States,come from?_________Which popular condiment( something placed on food to add to the taste) sells better than ketchup in the U.S.A?__________Which green vegetable snack is often served with chips?________Find the answers at this link:

    3. Many words in English originated(started)with Spanish words. It is thought that at least_________ English words originated with Spanish words. Oregano, tomato, burrito and taco are examples.Find three words that have to do with cowboys that come from Spanish._________   __________and______________What are three words that came to us from sailors stopping at Caribbean islands?_________   __________ and ____________Which insect’s name comes from a Spanish word?________Find the answers at this link:

    There are 12 web questions, a Did You Know? section, comprehension questions, a Teacher Page with extension activities and the key.

    Did You Know?( SAMPLE of some of the facts)

    Before colonists settled Plymouth Colony, there were people living in St. Augustine, Florida, and Sante Fe, New Mexico.
    Chinese(Mandarin) is spoken by the most people in the world. The second most spoken language is Spanish.  A close third is…English.
    • The majority of Hispanic people in the United States came from the country of Mexico.
    • Pedro Flores was the first to mass-produce the yo yo in the United States.

    Comprehension Questions:(SAMPLE of some of the questions)
    1. Which layer of the atmosphere was affected by chlorofluorocarbons? How is this layer important to us?

    2. What is the term for the highest court in the United Sates? Who is the head of this court?

    Define and place in a sentence: census, architecture, condiment, customs, luminaries, piñata.

    Teacher Page:
    Have students in small groups work on the web quest. Regroup and discuss the web quest.

    Have groups make 7 true or false questions to exchange with another group to answer as a review.

    Extension Activities: (SAMPLE OF SOME of the ACTIVITIES)

    1. Fun online activities:  Play Paco’s Passport

    2. Game from Mexico: Toma Todo:

    3. Read a Hispanic folkstory:  The Ugly Princess  or  The Bear-Prince, The Gypsy queen and the Forbidden Chamber. (from Mexico)

    4. El Chupacabra, is a mythical creature. Write 5 descriptive phrases to describe a chupacabra. Draw/color a picture. Write a day in the life of a chupacabra.

    Notes: Illustration from:
    Thank you for purchasing this resource! Please check out my other webquests/reader’s theater scripts and units of study(world history):

    Monday, September 14, 2015

    The Monarch Butterfly Migration has Begun!

    The migration has begun. ,Each September Monarch butterflies begin a 3000 mile journey, of about three months, from Canada and the United States to their destination-Mexico.  Sadly, the monarch butterfly numbers are diminishing. Just 15 years ago, there were an estimated one billion orange/black butterflies. Today, scientists say there are less than 30 million. One main reason for less monarch butterflies is a pesticide that is used today. It kills weeds and it also kills a plant called milkweed. Milkweed is the only plant that a monarch butterfly uses to lay their eggs. It is also the only food of the Monarch caterpillar. The lepidoptera(name for butterflies) need our help. People are being encouraged to plant more milkweed plants along the routes that Monarchs follow on their migration south. Trying to use less pesticides would help, too.

    Extension Activities:
    Draw/color a picture of a monarch butterfly. Write a day in the life of a monarch. What do you see? Hear? Feel? Touch? as you migrate toward Mexico for the winter.

    Discuss the Japanese poem, Haiku. Three lines, syllables 5/7/5. Write a Haiku about a Monarch Butterfly.

    Review prior knowledge on why butterflies are important.Review the information at this site:   on the importance of butterflies. Make a poster and include 3 facts learned.

    Helpful links:

    Note: Photograph from

    Check out my teaching resources(webquests/reader’s theater scripts:

    Sunday, August 30, 2015

    Could You Live in a Dome for 365 Days?

    Here's a Bell Ringer to use in your classroom.

    Six scientists have entered a dome, 36 ft. in diameter and 20 ft. tall, on the summit of Mauna Loa, Hawaii. They will stay inside the dome for 365 days!  Part of a NASA program(HI-SEAS or Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) to study the effects on a long mission to Mars, the location mimics the landscape found on the planet Mars. The dome has six bedrooms, a bathroom, exercise area, dining area, kitchen and a lab. At some times, the scientists will conduct experiments outside the habitat but only while wearing space suits. 

    Could you spend a year in a dome?

    What would be three things you’d take along with you?

    What would you miss the most?

    What might be some issues living in such a dome with five other people?

    What would be the first thing, you’d wish to do when you left the dome, 365 days later?

    Write a diary entry about your first week in the dome.

    Photograph from 

    Have a wonderful school year!


    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    Guest Blog at Minds-in Bloom...Check it out

    Thanks to Rachel Lynette for the opportunity to share a Back to School blog, 
    "Got a Minute ,Two, or Five? It's on the homepage and can be found here, too: Check it out:

    What ideas do you have when there is a bit of time left during your class?

    Friday, August 14, 2015

    It's a new school year and I'd like to share one thought...focus on the positive!

    As a classroom teacher for 33 years, I know that there are days when this thought is difficult at best to accomplish, but it really is something to keep in mind...even on those difficult days.  Take a walk during your break, have some photographs of your kids, husband, significant other, something you can gaze upon to bring back your positive state of mind. Eat chocolate(for me-Butterfingers!)

    Try to find something that happened during your day that brings a smile, not a frown, as you leave school to go home. There were many days, when I'd arrive home, dragging myself into the home, down with what may have happened that day. The negativity zapped my of my energies. It wasn't a good thing and certainly not healthy. It took me a while to realize...focus on the positive!

    Another important thought as you begin your school year...try and align  yourself with positive teachers and other adults during the day. I remember having a team where at break time, two of the women would complain about the kids, the administration and everything else. I eventually stopped joining them at break time and started to walk. Stay clear of such negative people, they will only bring you down...  A few years later, I had several new team members, the negative teachers had left. WHAT a difference. When those of us on my new team would leave the building at the end of the day,we'd be laughing about something humorous that we'd experienced that day! What a difference this team made on my day and my life. So-seek out those that help you accomplish this goal-focus on the positive.

    I wish you all a wonderful school year!

    Anyone else have some thoughts for those teachers returning to the classroom?

    Sunday, August 2, 2015


    I am so excited that my THINGY LETTER Clipart is finally available.

    From Utah to Colorado, to New York to New Jersey, and around my home and inside my garage, once I started I saw letters of the alphabet all around me!

    Use my THINGY letters to have kids write spelling words, vocabulary words, to make Mother’s Day/Father’s Day cards or as an art activity!

    Have students try and guess what some of the THINGY LETTERS are.( I've included a key) 

    * I have both a color photograph THINGY LETTERS as well as a black/white version...

    Just in time for those looking for new clipart options for BACK TO SCHOOL!


    Also, check out the TpT Back to School Sale, August 3-4.  Save up to 28% on all purchases. Promo code: BTS15

    Friday, July 24, 2015

    Picture, This, Activity: Sea Bunny

    Wanted to share:  Perhaps, you may find this a great "Picture, This", activity!

    What do you see?  If you think this looks like a cuddly bunnie, that's what this marine slug has been nicknamed. The adorable slug, of the Jorunna Parva species,is found in the Indian Ocean, to Japan and the Philippines. Discovered back in 1938, the  "sea bunnies" have only become known to the rest of the world, last year, with the release of some very cool photographs(such as this one).

    Ask kids to look at the photograph:
    1. Write three descriptions to describe the marine slug.
    2. Write a day in your life as a "sea bunny". What do you see? What do you do? What do think about as you spend your life living on the ocean floor.
    3. In Japanese, the slugs are called KAWAII(which is Japanese for "cute"). What is one word you'd use to describe the slug?

    Photograph from photographs here, too.


    Check out my My TpT Store for fun/informative web quests, Reader's Theater Scripts on famous people and more:

    Thursday, July 9, 2015

    New Horizons About to Visit Pluto!

     Perhaps, you will find this of interest to use with your students!

    After 9 1/2 years, New Horizons is about to give Earthlings an amazing view of Pluto!  On Tuesday, July 14th, after 3 billion miles, the spacecraft will be within 7800 miles of the dwarf planet(which was still considered a planet back during the 2006 launch). It will take 4 1/2 hours, traveling at the speed of light, for New Horizons' snapshots to reach Earth. Mission control at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, will begin sharing photographs with the rest of us soon after. The flyby of New Horizons will last only a few hours. If you look to the lower left, scientist have nicknamed the dark region, the whale. And, to the right, is a white heart shaped region of Pluto. Illustration from

    Fun Facts:

    Pluto was discovered in 1930, by Clyde Tombaugh.

    Pluto takes 248 1/2 years to orbit the sun!( The earth does this in one year)

    It takes Pluto  6 1/2 days to turn on its axis(The Earth takes 24 hours)

    For a time, between 1979 and 1999,Neptune was further away from the sun,than Pluto!

    Pluto has four known moons.  Charon is the largest.

    Bundle up on Pluto as the temperatures is about minus 390F.

    No longer a planet, Pluto is also now known as 134340.

    It takes 8 minutes for the sun’s light to reach Earth. It takes five hours to reach Pluto.

    It is so dark on Pluto that stars can be seen during the day.

    Disney’s dog Pluto was supposed to have been named after Pluto.

    Back in 1930, an eleven year old girl, Venetia Burney, suggested the name of Pluto!

    It takes about a week for the sun to rise and set on Pluto.

    Percival Lowell first suggested a search for a planet beyond Neptune.

    Pluto has about 1/15 the gravity of Earth. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you’d weigh about 7 pounds on Pluto.

    Pluto is called a dwarf planet or a plutoid.


    * A MNEMONIC is a way to remember lists using the first letters of each. One used for the planets was: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.  Think of a new MNEMONIC for the 8 planets or a mnemonic for remembering something else.

    *  Read why Pluto was demoted from being one of our nine planets.  What do you think, should Pluto be a planet or not? Why, why not?

    * Check out my webquest on space. There are 12 informative webquestions, compehension questions and extension activities.