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

Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.
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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Are YOU Ready for Groundhog Day?

Are you READY for Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Day is February 2nd. It's a time when people look to a groundhog to find out whether or not we will be having six more weeks of winter. The idea dates back hundreds of years when people looked to hibernating animals such as badgers, hedgehogs and bears to see when they might wake up from their winter sleep.

According to the tradition, if the animals saw its shadow, winter would last several more weeks. If it didn't see it's shadow, spring would be soon arriving.

When Europeans, especially the Germans, came to the United States, they brought the tradition. The groundhog became the animals of choice as it hibernated and looked something like the European hedgehog. Groundhog Day started back in the 1880s with the first official celebration on February 2, 1887. The most famous groundhog weather forecaster is Punxsutawney Phil, of Punxsutawney, PA. On February 2nd, Punxsutawney Phil , who lives at the Punxsutawney Library is taken to Gobbler Knob and placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on the stage near where hundreds have gathered. At 7:25 if Punxsutawney Phil comes out to make his weather prediction. If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring is on its way!

Did You Know? 

1. The groundhog, also called woodchuck, is a relatives of the squirrel. Learn some additional Fun facts about groundhogs at this link:

2. Groundhog day is also celebrated in Canada on Feb. They have several weather forecasting groundhogs including Wiarton Willy, Shubenacadie Sam and Balzac Billy.

3. Did you know that Groundhog Day is an official university holiday at the University of Dallas(Irving, TX)? Celebrations are held in honor of the groundhog.

4. The very first mention of a Groundhog Day in the United States was found in a diary entry of James Morris. The year was 1841.

Extension activities:

1.Pretend you are a weather forecasting groundhog. Tell about your big day. What did you hear? What did you see? How did you feel being in the limelight?

3. Read more about the groundhog. Draw/color a picture and write 5 facts learned about the groundhog( in complete sentences): 

4. The Groundhog isn't the only creature in nature that is used to help forecast weather. Can spiders predict a sunny day? My mother-in-law told me that if you see spiders hanging up their wash(making webs) early on a summer morning, it's a sign of a beautiful summer day. See chimney smoke going straight up on a winter's day? Another sign of nice weather. But, if you see ants building mounds, it's a sign of rain. Same with birds roosting on electrical wires, another sign of coming rain. There are lots of weather folklore. Being observant to nature, can help you predict the day's weather, without a weatherman. Illustrate a weather folklore: 

Check out my Groundhog Day, Reader's Theater Script: Learn about the groundhog and the history of Groundhog Day with Ms. Bie Ografee's guest, Sarsaparilla, the Groundhog:

Photograph from

Monday, January 22, 2018

State of the Union Address is Coming!

Gail Skroback Hennessey
The founding fathers stated in the Constitution that the President "shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” It wasn’t spelled out HOW the president was to do this or even when such an update should be given. The State of the Union Address has taken many forms since the birth of our nation. It has come to be an annual speech given by the President of the United States and is done in the month of January. In 2018, the address will be given on January 30th.

Did You Know?
1. Originally called the “Annual Message”, it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who first used the phrase the "State of the Union" address. Interestingly, the words “State of the Union” appear in the U.S. Constitution.

2. Although there aren’t assigned seats for the State of the Union Address, usually Senators sit on the sides and members of the House sit in the middle of the House chamber.

3. Benjamin Harrison didn’t give a State of the Union Address as he was only president for 31 days. He caught a cold during his Inauguration Day ceremonies and died soon after. He was the first president to die while in office.  The only other president to not give a State of the Union Address was James Garfield. He was assassinated.

4. One member of the President’s cabinet does not attend the State of the Union Address. This “designated survivor” is taken to a secret location until the end of the speech.

5. President James  Polk announced during his speech that gold was discovered in California!

6. The State of the Union Address is given to the Congress at the U.S. Capitol.

7. During his last State of the Union Speech, President Harry S. Truman announced that a hydrogen bomb had been developed.

Your Turn:
  1. If the President can not continue in his/her office, who is next in line in the Succession Act?___________ Do you know who is next in the list if this person can not take over the duties as the President?_________________
  2. What would be ONE issue that you would focus on as President? Why? ________________________________________
  3. Find 10 nouns in the Did You Know? list. ____________________________________________ Find 10 verbs in the Did You Know? list. ______________________________________________
  4. Why do you think there is a member of the cabinet  picked as the “designated” survivor? ___________________________
  5. Write ONE fact you know about the U.S. Capitol Building.___________________________

Teacher Page:
1. Ask the students if they have any prior knowledge about the State of the Union Address. Next, have the students read over the fact sheet and do the You Turn.
2. Regroup and discuss
3. You may want to share with students the Order of Presidential Succession:

Check out this resource to have students learn more about the history of the State of the Union Address. There are 10 web questions, 9 Did You Know? Facts, 6 comprehension questions, a student page(handout to give for homework or extra credit for the night of the State of the Union Address), a teacher page with a couple of extension activities and the key to both the web quest and the comprehension questions.  This would be a great opportunity to bring the news into the classroom with the 2018 State of the Union Address scheduled for January 30th.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Chocolate Facts- Just the Thing for Around Valentine's Day! Interactive Notebook Activity

Chocolate Fun Facts
Gail Skroback Hennessey
Do you love chocolate? If you do, you may want to hide a few bars away for a future date. Seems that chocolate may be running out and, in the not so distant future. Researchers says that chocolate, which comes from cacao beans, may be a thing of the past in less than 40 years! The reason, the warming of our planet is making for less and less places for the bean to thrive. Additionally, the demand for chocolate is growing, especially in places such as China where people are  developing a “sweet” tooth. More and more people are also especially sweet on dark chocolate, which requires more cocoa than other types of chocolate. Still another problem is that a fungus is attacking the cacao beans as they grow on the trees. Let’s hope that we can solve the chocolate problem, so we can all continue to enjoy its yummy taste! 

Click here for the free downloadable version of this Interactive Notebook Activity:

Chocolate Factoids:
1. Now THIS is a chocolate bar. Weighing 12,770 pounds when made, it earned the title of world's largest! A ton is 2000 pounds. Approximately, how many tons of chocolate was this bar? _______________

2. To make one pound of chocolate, you need about 400 cocoa beans.

3. Did you know that one of the things sold in Ben Franklin’s printing shop was chocolate? Write TWO facts you know about Ben Franklin:_____________and___________

4. Do you like white chocolate? Actually, it doesn’t have any cocoa and really isn’t chocolate!

5. Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, is said to have had 50 cups of a chocolate drink every day. He drank out of a golden goblet.

6. Originally, hot cocoa was served without sugar and was a very bitter drink.

7. An amazing 23 million Hershey kisses candies are made every day.

8. Milton Hershey had tickets for the maiden voyage of the Titanic but cancelled due to a meeting. Do you know anything about the Titanic? _________________

9. At one time, people in Meso-America(Central America) used cacao beans as money. What might be two problems using cacao beans as money?____________ and ___________

10. “Chocolate” comes from the word, “xocolatl, a Mayan word for “bitter water”.

11. If you have a cough, you may wish to try eating chocolate to get rid of a cough. Seems to work!

12. Chocolate is very dangerous for dogs and cats!

13. For a time in 2013, the country of Belgium made a stamp which had a chocolate flavor.

14. The candy M and Ms were developed as a treat for soldiers during World War 2. The hard shell kept the chocolate from melting too quickly.

15. The chocolate chip cookie was first baked by Ruth Wakefield. The year was 1930. In exchange for a lifetime of chocolate, she gave her recipe to the Nestle’s Company.

16. Did you know that two countries in Africa produce half the world’s chocolate? Those countries are Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire.

17. On Columbus’ fourth visit, he is credited with bringing back  to Europe the first cocoa beans(1502-1504)

Your Turn:
1. What do you think this saying means? "Life is like a box of never know what you're gonna get.”( From the movie, Forrest Gump.)
2. What is your favorite chocolate treat? Write a descriptive paragraph describing your favorite chocolate treat to a Martian who has never experienced the treat.
3. Illustrate one of the chocolate factoids.
4. Using a world map, locate the countries mentioned in this information.
5. Find 7 nouns. Find 7 verbs. Find 4 pronouns.

Teacher Page:
  1. Before reviewing the facts on chocolate, ask the students to share any prior knowledge they may have on chocolate.
  2. Have students review the factoids on chocolate and do the Your Turn section. Put the handout away and ask the students to write 5 facts they remember from the list.
3.  Review the responses to the Your Turn section.
Check out these resources:
The first in my series, Everything Has a History, check out my History of Candy Internet activity. Why not show your students that even candy has a history with this fun/informative web quest! Learn facts including marshmallows date back to 2000 BC and King Tut's Tomb contained licorice. I also have included several additional resources and extension activities. Great for a Friday, a day before a vacation activity or just when you'd like to share with kids that...everything has a history!

Candy and chocolate are very popular on Valentine’s Day. Check out this resource. Valentine’s Day is February 14th. The symbol of the holiday is a heart. What do you know about the human heart and the Valentine’s Day holiday? Grab a red pencil and use this web quest to find out some very interesting facts about the human heart and the holiday of Valentine’s Day!There are 9 web questions, a 20 All things Red Activity, lots of fun facts and 9 extension activities:

Illustration from:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Famous Games from Ancient Greece are Coming! Interactive Notebook Activity

Gail Skroback  Hennessey
Click here for the free downloadable version of this Interactive Notebook Activity:

1. In ancient Greece, unmarried women participated in their own games. Held ever 4 years, the event was held to honor Zeus’ wife, Hera. The event was a running event. In 1900, women were first allowed to participate in the famous modern games.  
2. The original games were a religious activity to honor the ancient Greek god, Zeus.
3. In 1900, the first TEAM sport of the modern games was added. It was football.
4.  The city of London, England, has the record for hosting the Olympic Games. The city has hosted THREE times!
5.   In total, the United States has hosted the most games. The USA has hosted FOUR  Winter Games and FOUR Summer Games. 
6. The motto of the Olympic Games is in Latin.  “Citius,Altius, Fortius “ means “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”. 
7. A baker named Coroebus was the first record winner of an olympic competition. The year was 776BC. He competed in a running event.
8.  In 2012, both softball and baseball were dropped from the games. Wrestling, one of the original sports from the games in ancient Greece, has been dropped from the 2020 Olympics.
9. Tug-of-War, Croquet and lacrosse were once sports in the famous games.
10. The Caribbean nation of Jamaica sent a bobsled team to the 1988 Winter games in Calgary, Alberta, Canada!
11. In 2012, Saudi Arabia allowed two women to compete(judo and 80m running competition). It was the first time women from Saudi Arabia were allowed to compete.  The Olympic committee  said the male teams from Saudi Arabia would be disqualified if females were banned. The issue was  gender discrimination.
12. Women made history at the 2014 Winter Games when they were allowed to compete for the first time in  ski jumping. Men have been doing the event since 1924.
13. The Country of Brazil is the largest country on the continent of South America. It is also the 5th largest country in the world. The 2016 Summer Olympics, were held in  Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. It was  the very first time the famous games were held in a country on the continent of South America.
14. At the 2016 games, a group of between 5-10 athletes competed for the first time under the official flag of the olympics.They were athletes that had been forced from their countries and are called refugees.
15.  The 2018 Winter Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The mascot is called Soohorang and is a tiger. 

Extension Activities:
1. Pretend you are an Olympic athlete.  In which sport would you be competing? Write a diary entry about your event. How did you feel? What did you see? Did you win? Etc.
2. List THREE important character traits needed to be an Olympic athlete. List three personal characteristics you believe are most positive about you. Give an example to support each of the three characteristics.
3. Illustrate one of the Fun Facts and include a statement in complete sentences describing the illustration.

4. Using a world map, locate the different countries which have hosted the Olympic games:  Find 3 facts about five of the different countries which has had a city host the games.

Teacher Page:
  1. Before reviewing the facts about the history of the famous games of ancient Greece, ask the students to share any prior knowledge they may have on the games. Ask the students to also share any prior knowledge they have on the country of Greece. Locate the country on a world map.
  2. Have the students read over the facts.
3. Afterwards, have students write 7 facts they remember about the factoid list. Illustrate one of the factoids from the list. Write a brief paragraph about the illustration.
4. Use a political world map that shows countries and color the different countries that have hosted the famous games of Greece since 1894. See a list of cities/ countries that have hosted the games.

Check out these resources:
1. Learn about the History of the Famous Games of Ancient Greece with this fun/informative webquest:

2.  Learn about South Korea, the host country for the 2018  Winter Games with this web quest. There are also fun facts, extension activities and a mapskill activity.

3. Learn about the country of Greece, where the famous games originated with this webquest. There are also comprehension questions and extension activities:

Illustration from: