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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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The State of the Union Address is held in January: Interactive Notebook Activity

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.

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 7, 2019

Snow Factoids! Possible Interactive Notebook Activity!


Get the free downloadable version at this link:

Snow Facts
Gail Skroback Hennessey
Fun/Informative Interactive Notebook Activity!

1. One inch of water is about six inches of wet snow or 12 inches  of fluffy snow.

2. The world's largest snowflake was 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick. It fell in Fort Keogh, Montana, on January 28,1887.

3. Snow can be colors other than white, including blue, orange, green, yellow, and purple.  Actually, snowflakes are clear.

4. Air pollution caused orange snow to fall over an area of Siberia, Russia, in 2007.

5. Mount Baker,in the North Cascades, of  Washington State, holds the record for the most snowfall. 1140 inches fell during 1998-1999.

6. The record for the most snow in one storm, within 24 hours, was in Silver Lake, Colorado. Back in 1921, Silver Lake received  76 inches of snow.

7. Heilongjiang Province, China,holds the record for the world's largest snow sculpture. In 2007, a snow sculpture 656 ft. long and 116 ft. tall was made.

8. Snow flakes have SIX sides.

9. On average, a snowflake falls to earth at 3.1 mph.

10. One snowflake contains about 10 quintillion water molecules(that's the number 10 with 10 zeroes).

11. Did you know that Valdez, Alaska, averages 326 inches of snow a year? That makes it the snowiest state.

12. Wilson A. Bentley studied snowflakes for much of his life and is probably the most famous snowflake researcher. He was nicknamed "Snowflake Bentley. 

13.According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world record for the most snowmen built in one hour is 2,036. The record set, on February 28, 2015, involved 1406 people. 

14. If you have  "chionophobia", you have a fear of snow.

15. Bethel, Maine, has the record for the largest snowman ever built. A 122 ft. snow-woman was built in 2008.

Extension Activities:

1. Illustrate one of the factoids.

2. Pretend you are a snowflake. Tell about a day in your life. What did you do? What did you see? Feel? Etc.

3. Do a paper cutting of a snowflake. Write a poem using each of the letters of the word snowflake.

4. Locate 10 NOUNS and 10 VERBS in the factoid statements.

5. Pronouns are NOUN substitutes. Can you spot 7 PRONOUNS  in the Factoid statements?

Check out this resource: 

If you live where there is snow, you have probably built a snowman. The snowman has been around for quite a while. In fact, the earliest drawing of a snowman was found in a book dating back to 1380! The book,"Book of Hours" was found in a library in the country of the Netherlands. This resource has four snowmen reading passages:
1. Famous sculptor, Michelangelo, was hired to make a snowman for a wealthy person in Florence, Italy.
2. A snow man is used each April,to help predict the weather during a festival in the country of Switzerland.
3. One of the earliest written comments about snowmen dates back to 1690. Two snowman were left to guard Fort Schenectady, in New York, during a blizzard with very tragic consequences!
4. The world's record for the largest snowman, Olympia, was constructed in 2008. 13 million pounds of snow were used to make the amazing snow-woman! As of 2015, the record still stands.

Each short reading passage includes following directions to identify answers. There are also several extension activities and a Did you Know? section.

Note: Illustration from

Friday, December 28, 2018

In the News: Antarctica! Possible Interactive Notebook Activity

In the News: Antarctica!
Possible Interactive Notebook Activity

Go to
 if you'd like the user friendly version of this posting.

With more and more tourists visiting Antarctica each year(estimates are about 40,000 people), scientists have detected a problem with some of the penguins, native to the continent. Seems the birds are getting germs from the tourists and this could mean serious troubles. Scientists tested the droppings of penguins and found they contain human bacteria. It is the first such transfer, called “reverse zoonosis" every found, in Antarctica. The gentoo, king and macaroni penguins as well as several other birds, including the kelp gulls, giant petrels and brown skuas, are infected with human pathogens. The gentoo penguins are very endangered birds and it is feared that the human bacteria may cause the birds further survival issues. 
Your Turn:
  1. What are TWO facts you know about the continent of Antarctica? ______________________ and_______________________
2.   What would you suggest as a possible way to help these native creatures of Antarctica?  _________________________________
3. Why do you think tourists want to go to Antarctica?
4. Explain what “reverse zoonosis” means._______________________________________________

2. After 921 miles and 54 days, Colin O’Brady, has made history. He successfully crossed Antarctica, from coast to coast, unassisted and alone.  O’Brady, who called the trek, “The Impossible First”, dragged a 400 pound sled which carried his food, tent, a satellite phone, GPS tracker and fuel. He ate lots of oatmeal, soup and protein bars, trying for about 7000 calories per day to keep his energy levels up. During the journey, O’ Brady endured 30 mph winds ,extremely cold temperatures, averaging -40F degrees, and the solitude of not seeing anyone else! Another man,Louis Rudd, was also trying to be the first person to accomplish this task. About 70 miles away,O’Brady waited for Rudd to complete his journey, too. O’Brady has also climbed Mt. Everest and the other six highest peaks on each continent. 

Your Turn: 
  1. What would be ONE personal item you would pack in your sled for such a journey? Why?_________________________________
  2. Pretend you are O’Brady and list three things you would think about as you trekked across Antarctica._____________ _____________ ___________________________
  3. What would be ONE fear you would have about such a journey?_____________________________________________
  4. What would be the hardest thing to deal with in such a journey?
  1. O’Brady waited for Rudd to finish his trek across Antarctica. Would you have done this?___________________________________
  2. State an adventure that you would like to take sometime in your life.
7.  What do you think O’Brady meant by his calling his trek, “The Impossible First”?_______________________________________

Did You Know?
1. The continent of Antarctica was once part of a larger mass mass called Gondwanaland. India, Australia, SA and Africa were also part of Gondwanaland.

2. The highest point in Antarctica is Vinson Massif. It is 16,070 ft. (4897 m) 

3. The coldest temp ever recorded was -128.6 F(-89.2 C)on  July 21, 1983, at the Russian Vostok Station, on Antarctica.

4. Did you know that 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice and snow?

5. Did you know that only 100 tourists are allowed to be ON Antarctica at any one time?

6. The Antarctic Treaty states that “The area(Antarctica) is to be used for peaceful purposes only.”

7. There are NO countries on the continent of Antarctica.

8. From a Greek word, Antarctica means the opposite of north.

9. Lake Vostoc is a fresh water lake UNDERNEATH the ice of Antarctica! It is estimated to be about the size of Lake Ontario. It is under 2.29 MILES of ice.

10. It was only in 1820 that Antarctica was first seen by the outside world. It would take 20 more years before scientists determined it to be a continent.

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.

Photograph of penguins from

Photograph of O’Brady from

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

World's Oldest Complaint Letter- Using the News in the Classroom

Written on a clay tablet, an ancient cuneiform letter of complaint is the world’s oldest such letter ever found. Cuneiform was an early writing system. The letter dates back to about 1750 BCE!
 Go to this link and read about this artifact:

1. Where was the cuneiform letter found?____________
2. Who wrote the letter?______________
3. What were THREE complaints the man had in his letters to a supplier known as Ea-nasir?__________________ ______________ _____________
4. Although not on current display, where is this cuneiform letter kept? __________________
5. What is the name for the earliest known Semitic language?_______
6. Have you ever been unhappy about something you purchased or received? What was the item?________________________________
7. Have you ever written a letter to a company? Do you think it might have helped to contact the company?________________________
8. Pretend you are Ea-nasir and write a letter back to the customer.
What might you offer the customer to make him happy?
9. Many artifacts are located in countries other than where they originated. Some of the countries want their historic artifacts back. What do you think about this issue?________________________________
10. Archaeologists find many artifacts(things made and used) left behind by ancient cultures. What are two things we can learn from artifacts?____________________________

11.  If you could leave 7 things for a future archaeologist to find to tell about your culture, what would you place in a box and why?____________________________________________________

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Teachers: Click here for the complete Freebie(with Extension Activities):

Looking for a possible Interactive Notebook Activity to use with kids just before the holidays(or the week you return in the new year)?

Gail Hennessey 
Bonne annee(French)
Frohes neues Jahr(Germany) 
Felice anno nuovo(Italian) 
Gott nytt ar(Swedish)
Feliz ano nuevo(Spanish) 
Shana tova(Hebrew)
Hauoli makahiki hou(Hawaiian) 
Gelukkig nieuwjaar(Dutch) 
Fun World New Year ’s Factoids! 
1. In Russia, divers place a New Year’s tree into Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. 
2. Did you know that in Denmark, people like to through old broken dishes at the front door of friends, at New Year’s Eve? 
3. Did you know that eating 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight is considered good luck in Spain? 
4. Hogmanay is a custom celebrated in Scotland at New Year’s. The word means “last day of the year”. One of the activities is “first footing”, being the first person to visit a neighbor or friend in the new year. Usually, a gift is brought, too. 
5. Christmas trees are made into bonfires to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands. This custom is done to symbolize getting rid of the old and welcoming the new year. 
6. In Switzerland, don’t be surprised if you see people drop a bit of cream onto the floor on New Year’s Eve. It is thought that this will bring good luck in the new year. 
7. In the South American country of Venezuela, people like to write a wish on a piece of paper and then burn it so that the wish may come true in the new year. 
8. In the country of Italy, many people like wearing RED underwear at New Year’s believing the color will bring good luck in the new year. In other cultures, especially several countries in Latin America, wearing YELLOW is considered good luck. 
9. In Mexico, don’t be surprised if you see people carrying empty suitcases around their house or street on New Year’s Eve. The custom is done if you would like to travel in the new year. 
10. The custom of having a ball drop from Times Square, in New York City, on New Year’s Eve began in 1907. Some people in the south, believe eating black eyed peas will bring prosperity in the new year. 
11. In Austria, people like to waltz when midnight strikes in the new year. 
12. Did you know that throwing a bucket of water outside a window at midnight on New Year’s Eve is done in Puerto Rico? It is to get rid of bad spirits. 
13. In Ireland, people bang bread on the walls and doors of their homes at midnight. This is done to scare away evil spirits and to bring good luck. 
14. Finding an almond in rice pudding on New Year’s Eve means good luck in the new year. This custom is found in Sweden and Norway. 
15. People in the Philippines believe that round things bring good luck and often wear cloths with polka dots on New Year’s Eve. Another custom is to have all the lights on in the home on New Year’s Eve so that it will insure a good new year. 
16. Did you know that April Fool’s Day involved New Year’s Day? People used to celebrate the new year around March 25-April 1st. When the calendar changed the new year to January 1st, pranks were played on those that continued to celebrate the New year on April 1. 
1. Which 3 customs did you find the most interesting? Why? 
2. How do you celebrate New Year’s Eve?

3. New Year's Eve is a time to make a resolution for the New Year. What is a goal which you'd like to try and work to accomplish in 2018?

4. Illustrate one of the customs listed above.

5. Using a world map, locate the different countries mentioned in this list. Write ONE fact that you might know about each of these countries.

6. Rewrite 5 customs from the list and make mistakes in spelling or grammar. Exchange  your list with another student for them to be a "proof reader" to find the errors.
Check out my fun/informative web quest on the history of New Years. 
Learn about the history of New Year's with this fun/informative web quest. There are nine questions, lots of interesting customs of how people celebrate New Year's around the world, comprehension questions, extension activities and the key. Great activity for reading for information and research/computer skills. Included are also other holiday New Year's celebrations including Diwali, Chinese New Year, Songkran and Rosh Hashanah. The resources also mentions how April Fool’s Day originated over when to celebrate New Year's! 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Remembering a Historic Day in History: Wright Brothers Fly over Kitty Hawk(12/17th) INA

Did you know that people actually thought that the airplane would have no real purpose? WOW...were they wrong!  On December 17, 1903, less than 10 people showed up to watch Orville and Wilbur Wright make history. In fact most papers(only 3 carried the story in the USA) refused to print the press release of the Wright Brothers' historic flight, believing it was not possible for a human to fly. The December 17, 1903 event had to have been a hoax! 
To honor this historic day in history, use this resource to learn a bit about the history of flight.

Did You Know?
1. Most people at the time of the Wright brothers’ first flight attempts on December 17, 1903, thought that the airplane had NO purpose for transportation and was just a dangerous sport.

2. The distance covered by the 1903 Wright Flyer was less than the wingspan of today's 747 Jumbo Jet!

3. The Wright brothers’ first attempt went 120 ft. That’s about 20 people, about 6ft. tall, lined end to end!

4. Charles Lindbergh was the first to fly non-stop from New York to Paris. The trip, in 1927, took 33.5 hours.

5. Amelia Earhart was the first woman aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. The year was 1928.

6. Lillian Gatlin, was the first woman to ride as a passenger in an airplane! The year was 1922.

7. In 1939, Willa Brown was the first African American woman to earn a commercial pilot’s license.

8. Did you know that pilots and co-pilots can not eat the same meal while in flight?

9. Every 37 seconds, an airplane takes off from Chicago O’Hare’s International Airport. That’s about 100 airplanes each hour.

10. The word used for aviation help, “Mayday”, comes from the French “m’aides" meaning “help me.

11. Did you know that 1/3 of your taste buds get numb while flying?

12. Bessie Coleman was an American aviator and the first African American female pilot. She was also the first American to receive an international pilot’s license. 

13. It is said that Gustave Whitehead successful powered an aircraft in Bridgeport, CT, on August 14, 1901. That is two years before the Wright Brothers. Whitehead's craft, called the Condor, did two flights on that date. Reaching 50 Ft., the distance covered was 1 1/2 miles.

14.Aerophobia is the fear of flying.

15. KLM is the world’s oldest airline, started in 1919.

16. Someone estimated that if you add up all the miles flown by all the 747 airplanes, it’s the distance from the Earth to the Moon and back over 75,000 times.c

17. National Aviation Day, August 19th, was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, on the birthday of Orville Wright, who first piloted the Wright Flyer on December 17, 1903.

Your Turn:

1. Write a diary entry pretending to be Lindbergh, Earhart, Coleman, Orville/Wilbur Wright and tell about a day in your aviation life.

2. Illustrate one of the factoids. Write a sentence of your own explaining the illustrated fact.

3. Have you ever flown in an airplane? Tell about something you remember about your first time in an airplane.  If you haven't flown, would you like to experience flying? Why, why not.

4. Illustrate one of the facts listed above. Write a sentence of your own explaining the illustrated fact.

5. If you could meet one of the aviators mentioned above, what would be TWO questions you would ask of the aviator?

6. Write 3 POSITIVE(i.e.: helpful) character traits that a person can have. Write 3 NEGATIVE (i.e.: jealousy)character traits a person can have. What would be 2 positive character traits you would describe for yourself. What would be ONE negative character trait you would describe for yourself. What are 3 character traits that you would give to someone that is an aviator such as Lindbergh, Earhart, Coleman, Orville/Wilbur Wright? 

Visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: 

Note: Photograph from Gail Hennessey(Wright Brothers' National Memorial)