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:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Countdown to Summer, My Teacher Checklist.

How do you finish up the school year? 
So many things to do on the check off list. In addition to lots of administrative requirements, here are some things I also do before I close the door with a "'s summer!" and leave the building.

Please share what is on YOUR countdown to summer checklist.

1. Before the students leave, I have them write a Dear Incoming 6th grade letter. I tell the students to list a couple of tips that they'd like to give the incoming students about my social studies class and how to be successful.  On the first day of school, the new students read the letters and we discuss some of the tips that were suggested.

2. During study hall the last week of school with testing done, and less assignments for the students to work on, I often asked if anyone wished to cut out "fresh" letters for next year's bulletin boards. Students helped me take down all my boards.After the room was bare, a major echo could be heard in the room, Fortunately, it didn't stay that way for long. I would begin decorating my room for the fall. I used to get some very confused looks from colleagues as I'd busily put on things for September in June! Students offered to cover the boards with newspaper when I was done so the construction paper didn't fade over the summer. This was a real time saver because when I came down the end of August to set up my room, I just removed the paper and could move to other tasks needing to be done for the first day of school, I found many other teachers eventually joined in on this "pre" readiness idea.

3. I always did a major file cleaning each June as files have a way of accumulating! I also sorted my desk drawers so they'd look ready for the new school year. I offered students any of the materials that were able to be given away. 

4. Having a walk in closet with all my materials, I also dusted and straightened up the closet. Past social studies projects that students had made and I had asked to save were checked to see if they could last another year.  When I retired, I actually tracked down as many students as I could to offer them back their donated 6th grade projects they had made for my annual Ancient Museum night. Some were 20 years old!

5. Before the students leave, I put up huge papers for each homeroom. Students were encouraged to write a goodbye note on the papers(which I saved and are now in  my attic.) Before I was in a departmentalized middle school team, I was a self-contained classroom for 17 years. We'd make yearbooks. I still have those, too.  Last year on Facebook, a student I had almost 30 years ago contacted me. Turns out her 6th grade yearbook with poems, short stories, class will, etc., was long missing. I found mine and mailed her copies of her "work" show she could show her kids. She was appreciative.

6. I also gave the students an end of the year letter. See below....

7. As I closed the door to my classroom for summer, I would always say...WHERE did the school year go? " Life is an adventure....enjoy the ride!"

Have a wonderful summer!

End of the Year Letter to Students:

Do you give parting comments to your students at the end of the school year?  On the last day of the school year, I would give a letter to each of the students in my 6th grade classes. Here is the last one I wrote the year of my retirement.
Perhaps, you have letters you'd like to share?

Dear Students:
After 33 1/2 years of teaching at HCS and having had more than 2000 students sit in my social studies classroom over these many years, I have decided to retire from teaching at the end of this school year in June. I've tried to interest you about the world in which we live during our time together and hopefully, learn something about yourselves as well.

I'd like to leave you with some thoughts which I find useful in my life:Know the true value of time, snatch, seize, and enjoy every minute of it. No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination, never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.(Chesterfield).

Life is NOT a Spectator Sport. Use ever day to the fullest. Read, try to make someone smile, help someone, say a kind word to someone, dream things you'd like to do and work to make them possible AND and at the end of the day, be able to say,Yes, I used the day well.Remember...YOU make your own HISTORY!

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men(and women) to do nothing.( Burke) It's not always easy to break from the crowd, but speak up for someone you feel is being mistreated, don't stay silent, for it may be you that hopes someone will speak up for you one day!

Life is an adventure...enjoy the ride. I wish you much happiness as you travel down life's highway and hope you have few bumps along the way but, perhaps some interesting detours!
Mrs. H
The Social Studies teacher who loves the color purple!

May 1st is Save the Rhino Day!

Save the Rhino Day is May 1st! 

A crash is what you call a group of rhino
A Black rhino can run up to 40 mph...on its toes!
About 50 pounds of manure is produced by an adult white rhino EVERY day.
A white rhino isn't really WHITE. It's name comes from an Afrikaans word meaning wide(for its mouth). The word is wyd. White rhinos are really grey.
A black rhino isn't really BLACK. Also a grey/brownish color, it got its name for the dark wet mud that they often have covering their bodies.
Did you know that a rhino is a relative of the zebra, tapirs and horse?
The word, rhinoceros comes from the Greek words-rhino(nose and ceros(horn)
After the elephant, the white rhino is the largest land mammal. A white rhino can weigh up to 5000 pounds.  
Eating only plants, a rhino is a HERBIVORE.
The horn of a rhino is not ivory but keratin, a material found in fingernails.
Rhinos have VERY bad eyesight! They do have great hearing and a great sense of smell.
Rhino have wandered the earth for over 50 million years(and haven't changed much in their appearance)
Did you know that there are 5 species of rhino? (White, Black, Javan, Sumatran, Indian)

Use a world map and have students locate the areas of the world where rhinos live in the wild. (Rhino can be found in Africa countries including South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania,Kenya and Uganda. They can be found in  India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma, Nepal and Vietnam. Rhinos are found on the island of Java. There may still be rhino in  Sumatra and Borneo.

Write a Day in the Life of a rhino. What did you do? What did you see? Feel? Smell? 

Read an interview with a Rhino ranger/keeper:  and  Pretend you work with rhinos and write a diary, including 3 facts learned about rhino.

Make a poster and share 3 facts about the rhino to create awareness for Save the Rhino Day!

Look at a photograph of a rhino. Write a description of what you see.



Monday, April 24, 2017

 Library of Congress Day is April 24th!

2/3 of all Americans have a library card. If you don't have a library card...this would be a great time of year to get one.  And, what's great about a library card... it's  FREE! 

Fun Facts to Share with Kids:
1. The word "library" comes from the word librarie, meaning "a collection of books". The Anglo-French word comes from an earlier Latin word, librariaum ,meaning "chest of books"

2.The first lending library was established by Ben Franklin, in 1731.

3. The first bookmobile was in operation, in 1857, England.

4. St. Catherine's Monastery's Library(in Sinai, Egypt) is said to be the oldest continually run library in the world. It was constructed in 6th century. Only monks and  scholars can use it.

5. The oldest continually run public library is The Library of Paris(Bibliotheque de Paris), in Paris, France. It dates back to 1368.

6. A Greek, Zenodotus, is considered the first known librarian in history.  He worked at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt.

7. The Library of Congress, in the USA,is the world's largest library.

8.The largest book find ever owed was  $345.14(two cents a day). A book of poetry was checked out in 1955 and found in a home 47 years later!

9. The most expensive book ever sold is the Codex Leicester, by Leonardo da Vinci. It was purchased by Bill Gates, in 1994, for $30.8 million!!!! dollars.
10. Each year, the main library ,at Indiana University, sinks about one inch from the weight of all the books! 
11. The world’s first library was built by Ashurbanipal(668-627BC) in Assyria.
12.The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered the oldest written story. It comes from the people of Mesopotamia ,telling the adventures of the King of Uruk( @2750-2500 BC). 

Extension Activities:
1. See photographs of some of the most beautiful libraries in the world:  Pretend you are visiting one of these libraries. What do you see? How do you feel?What might you be reading?
2. Write a paragraph explaining what you think of one of these quotes:
     " Reading makes all other learning possible. We have to get books into our children's hands early and often." President Barack Obama
     "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." American Broadcast journalist, Walter Cronkite.
     "There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." Walt Disney
     " A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
3. Write a persuasive paragraph explaining why someone should have a library card.
4. Write a poem about a library.
5. Check out my informative web quest on the Library of Congress, our nation’s library! Are you a bibliophile(someone that loves books)? The Library of Congress, called our Nation's Library has over 33 million books. There are also over 12.5 million photographs and 6 million pieces of sheet music! Learn more about the Nation's Library with this fun and informative webquest.


Monday, April 17, 2017

TREES! Free Interactive Notebook Activity for Around Arbor Day!

* Feedback appreciated

Interactive Notebook Activity
Gail Skroback Hennessey

Arbor Day 2017 is April 28th. 
It’s a time to celebrate trees!

Can you think of THREE ways in which TREES are important to us?

Did You Know?

1. The Botanical Gardens Conservation International  announced that there are 60,065 different species of trees in the world.(2017)

2. The most endangered tree species according to the Botanical Gardens Conservation International is the karma gigs. Found in the country of Tanzania, there are only six trees left.

3. The tallest tree in the world is the Hyperion. The tree is 379.4 ft.(115.6m) tall and is located in California’s Redwood National and State Parks. The tree is taller than the Statue of Liberty (305.6ft or 93.1m) and the famous Big Ben(316 ft or 96 m) found in London, England.

4. The largest tree in the world is the General Sherman. The giant sequoia stands 275 ft.(or 83.8 m). Twenty people holding hands would be needed to circle the base of this tree!

5. For many years, the oldest individual tree in the world has been a bristlecone pine named Methuselah.It’s location is a secret but it is located in the White Mountains of California. It is estimated to be about 4,,848 years  old. In 2013, another bristlecone was found to be about 5,066 years old. This tree may now be the world’s oldest tree.The unnamed tree is located in the same forest. What would YOU name the tree?

6. There is clonal tree in the country of Norway which has a root system estimated to be about 9552 years old! It is called Old Tjikko. A clonal tree grows when their branches touch the ground and start new roots.

7. The beautiful cherry trees, found in  Washington, D.C., were a gift from the people of Japan. Back in 1912, 3000 trees were gifted by the mayor  of Japan. Interestingly, in 1981, the United States gifted cuttings of some of the cherry trees back to the people of Japan, after many of their trees were destroyed in a flood.

8. Did you know that Guinness World Records says the manchineel tree is the “most dangerous tree” in the world? Just getting the sap of the tree on your skin can cause blisters. Getting the sap in your eye could actually cause blindness! This tree is found in tropical regions of North and South America.

9. There is a tree called the Great Banyan Tree, found in the country of India that is called the “widest tree in the world”. If you look at the “tree” it looks like a forest as the “tree” covers 3.5 sq. acres of land in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden. Its branches reach the ground and sprout new growth. Is the Banyan tree a “clonal tree”?

10. Did you know that one tree can inhale about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year?

11. Some people like to grow trees in a small dish. Called bonsai, the word means “tree in tray”. Growing living trees in this way is an art form from Japan. China also developed a similar type of art,too.

Your turn:
1. What do you think these quotes mean? Illustrate on of the quotes.
A. “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”  Ralph Waldo Emerson
B.“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ” 
2. List 7 products we get from trees.
3. Write a diary entry about a day you took a walk into the woods. What did you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?
4. Draw a picture of a tree. Write three ways in which trees are important.

Teacher Page:
  1. Have students learn about bonsai trees with this reading passage. Write 4 facts learned:
2. Show students the Great Banyan Tree:  Write a poem about the tree.
3. Have students illustrate one of the Did You Know? facts.
Links for additional information teachers:
Resources of Interest on this Topic:
1. Learn about the history of Arbor Day and all about trees with this web quest. There are 11 web questions, a Did You Know? section, comprehension questions and a teacher section with keys, additional links and lots(11 extension activities).This could also be something to use with EARTH DAY, when you are studying TREES and, of, course, for ARBOR DAY!
2. A Biologist and marine zoologist, Rachel Carson’s books shared her love of nature, especially the ocean and its inhabitants. Her book, Silent Spring, sparked concern in how chemical pesticides were harming our environment. Carson helped to start the environmental movement in our country, which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This Reader's Theater Script on Rachel Carson could be used as a STEM biography any time of year or especially during the time of Earth Day.

Illustration from

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Celebrate William Shakespeare During the Month of April!

William Shakespeare

The anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death is April 23rd.
What do YOU know about this famous writer?

I though you may find the following information of interest to share with your students.

Did You Know?
1. Did you know that there are actually many ways to spell his name? The estimate is that there are over 80 ways to spell Shakespeare’s name!

2. Considered to be the greatest writer of the English language, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays* during his lifetime. Probably, the three most famous works were Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth. Shakespeare introduced thousands of words to the English language and also wrote 154 sonnets. 
It is said that next to the Bible, his works are the most quoted!

3. Shakespeare also used lots of expressions that are common today.  Examples include: “Knock, knock, Who’s there?”, “green eyed monster”, “vanish into thin air”, “wild goose chase”, “makes your hair stand on end”, “so-so”, “good riddance”, “tongue tied”, “night owl” and “eaten out of house and home”.  More expressions of Shakespeare can be found at this link: 

4. Did you know that pencils were a new invention when Shakespeare was born?

5. It is thought(based on a 17th century portrait of him), that Shakespeare wore a gold hoop in his left ear.

6. During the time of Shakespeare, plays were only performed in the afternoon.

7. Women were not allowed to participate in plays during the time of Shakespeare so all the roles were performed by men.

Your Turn:
1. Illustrate an expression of William Shakespeare.  Place three of his expressions into sentences.

2. What are 2 character traits you think a writer needs to have?

3. Select one of the quotes of Shakespeare and illustrate it. Write a short paragraph explaining what you think the quote is saying.
A. "Better three hours too soon than a minute too late."
B. "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
C. " I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see you are unarmed."
D. "What's done can;t be undone."
E. "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."

4. Create a compliment using Shakespeare's words. Go to this link:  

5. See the grave of William Shakespeare and what he had written on it: Interestingly, recent scans seem to suggest that Shakespeare's skull is missing from his grave! Why do you think someone may have stolen it?

Check Out These Resources:
  1. Check out my Reader’s Theater Script on William Shakespeare.  Shakespeare is a guest on a talk show and the studio audience asks questions about his life. Part of my Ms. Bie Ografee's Talk Show Series. Comprehension/Did You Know?section, LOTS of extension activities/links/key.

  1. William Shakespeare: Possible Interactive Notebook Activity. Short reading, fun acts, comprehension questions and a few extension activities:

Note: Other Reader's Theater Scripts on Famous Writers:


Note: Illustration from Photograph of Shakespeare’s home was taken by Gail Hennessey

*37 plays are what most believe Shakespeare wrote in his lifetime.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Earth Day Fun Facts(Possible Interactive Notebook Activity)

Gail Skroback Hennessey

Did You Know?

1. Scientists say that it takes about 500 years for plastic to decompose.

2. The Ring of Fire located in the Pacific Ocean is the largest zone of active volcanoes. 75% of the world’s volcanoes are here!

3. There is enough salt in the oceans that if you could collect all of it and spread it, it would cover all the continents in 5 ft. (1.5m) of salt.

4. Scientists say the earth travels at 66,700 mph through space or 18.5 miles per second!

5. The name "Earth" is the only planet named for an Angle Saxon word("erda") and not from Greek or Roman mythology.

6. In 1961, the first man in space, Russian Yuri Gagarin, was the first to call Earth, “the Blue Planet”.

7. Scientists say that the average person makes about four pounds(1.8kg) of garbage every day!

8. Did you know you are heavier in certain places on Earth? There is less gravity near the coast of India and more gravity in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean.

9. The earth isn’t round. It is an oblate spheroid, or “pear shaped”.

10. It is estimated that the earth weighs about 6, 588,000,000,000 million tons.

11. 25,000,000 plastic bottles are thrown away every hour in the United States. You read correctly!

12. Don’t thrown away the tinfoil of a Hershey’s Kiss. About 133 sq. miles of tinfoil are used to wrap 20,000,000 of the sweet treats every day!

13. Yellowstone National Park, was the world’s first national park. It was established in 1872.

14. The Peace Bell, rung at the United Nations every Earth Day, was made from coins collected by kids in Japan to promote peace on Earth.

15. Scientists say that the jellyfish is older than the dinosaur and dates back at least 650 million years.

16. One recycled aluminum can saves enough energy for a television to run for three hours.

17. Scientists say there are more living organisms in just ONE tablespoon of soil than all the people living on the earth(and that’s over 7.4 billion people)

18. One inch of topsoil, the very most fertile layer of soil, takes over 500 years to create.

19. Seen from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef(off the coast of Queensland, Australia), is called the “single largest animal being of the world”.

10. Mt. Trashmore, in Virginia Beach,VA, is a hill 60 ft(18 m high) 800 ft, long( 240m) made from trash.(That’s why it’s called Mt. Trashmore!)

Extension Activities:

1. Illustrate one of the Did You Know? facts.

2. Have kids select a photograph of the earth from space and write a paragraph as to what they see. 
3. Discuss Haiku(3 line poem with 5-7-5 syllable pattern). Write a Haiku about Earth day or something about the earth(trees, ocean, river, trash, etc.)

Links for teachers: very cool! See the world population continue to grow every second!

Check out these resources:
1. NOT JUST FOR EARTH DAY.Learn about the history of Earth Day and, our planet, EARTH, with this informative web quest. There are 15 web questions as well as comprehension questions and a Did You Know? fun fact section. The teacher page includes extension activities, the key, and additional links. Great for a Friday activity!

2. Scientists say Nepal earthquake MOVED Mt.Everest ONE INCH! Learn about Mt. Everest, Nepal and the Yeti with this fun web quest! Activities,interesting facts and comprehension review,too.Skills include:reading for information and using research/computer skills.

3. Learn lots of fun facts with this Exploring the Ocean Blue: A Web quest.There are 9 informative web questions. Fun Facts, comprehension questions,extension activities,links.Use as part of a unit on oceans,a Friday activity for a Friday or before a vacation.Skills include:reading for information and using research/computer skills.

4. Studying the ocean? Looking for a resource for Earth Day or World Ocean Day? Introduce your students to Jacques Cousteau with this informative Reader's Theater Script. Oceanographer, photographer, scientist, inventor, writer and filmmaker, Cousteau spent his life studying the oceans and the marine life that lived in the oceans. Part of Ms. Bie Ografee Talk Show Series(extensions/comprehension questions, Did You Know?, key)

5. Antarctica!Geographical web quest which introduces kids to the continent of Antarctica. There are 10 web quests(with lots of information in the questions), 14 Did You Know? facts, comprehension questions(including several "thought question"), a teacher page with a number of extension activities, additional links and key.