In 1732, George Washington was born in Westmoreland County, Va. At the time, the English still ruled the American colonies. During the Revolutionary War against England, Washington led the Continental Army. Washington provided such fine leadership for the young nation that he became the first president of the United States. He was elected by a unanimous vote of the Electoral College.
Imagine your school is a country. If you could write a constitution for it, what kind of laws and rules would you choose and why?
The National Weather Service began tracking weather in 1870.
- a rail or set of rails for trains or trolleys to run on
- a path or trail
- a prepared course for runners
- to follow someone or something
Which meaning of track is used in the sentence above? Write sentences using two other meanings for the word track.
In the sentence above, tracking is a verb meaning to follow something.
In the 1800s, companies in the United States started producing commercial Valentine’s Day cards and selling them in stores. Before then, Americans made their valentines by hand. Today, the United States Postal Service mails millions of valentines each year. It is the second busiest time of the year for post offices. The busiest time is Christmas, when Americans mail more than a billion cards nationwide.
People give valentines to show friends and family their love. Write a short note to someone you care about. In it, tell the person why he or she is important to you.
An idiom is a phrase or group of words with a meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the words. What does the idiom save for a rainy day mean in this sentence?
Joe decided to save his science fair prize money for a rainy day.
What situations would you describe as rainy days?
Work with a partner to list either three examples of rainy days or three examples of other weather-related idioms. When finished, use each example in a sentence.
The idiom save for a rainy day means to plan ahead or save something for potential hard times in the future.
The dates of Chinese New Year, sometimes known as the spring festival, depend on the phases of the moon. The Chinese follow a lunar calendar for traditional holidays. Chinese New Year starts with the first new moon of the year. Celebrations last until the full moon 15 days later. The last day of the festival is known as the lantern festival, which includes dragon dances and parades along with many glowing lanterns.
Do you know, or can you find out, what the phases of the moon are? What does each phase mean?
Which definition of eligible matches each sentence below?
- having the right qualifications or age
- desirable; suitable
Sentence 1: When Joseph turned 16, he was no longer eligible for the special kids' price at the movies.
Sentence 2: Jane's mother thought Jorge was an eligible bachelor, and she embarrassed Jane by saying so right in front of him!
Write a sentence for one of the definitions, using the word eligible in your answer.
Sentence 1: In this sentence, the word eligible means having the right qualifications or age.
Sentence 2: Here, eligible means desirable or suitable.
Students' sentences will vary.
Hearts have symbolized love for a long time. People used to believe emotions originated in the heart. Strong feelings, such as excitement or nervousness, can make your heart beat faster. But why? The brain constantly sends signals to the heart. Our emotions can change these signals, causing the heart to respond in complex ways. When we experience anger or frustration, our heart patterns become more erratic. On the other hand, when we experience feelings such as love and happiness, the heart picks up a smoother rhythm.
Have you ever felt your heart beat differently because of your emotions? Describe the situation and how you felt.
Today is Mardi Gras! "Mardi Gras" is French for Fat (Gras) Tuesday (Mardi). Many French words have been adopted into the English language. Here is another French word that has been adopted into English:
ambiance (often spelled ambience in English) noun
• the character and atmosphere of a place
Describe the ambiance (or ambience) of a place you have been. Be specific in your description. Where and when were you there? What was going on? How did it make you feel?
Before the Chinese New Year, many people follow the tradition of thoroughly cleaning the house. Once the old year has been "swept away," people put away their brooms. According to tradition, you should not sweep on New Year’s Day. You could sweep away good luck!
Some people believe walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror is bad luck. Others carry a lucky charm, such as a coin or four-leaf clover, to bring them good luck. Do you believe in good or bad luck? Explain why or why not.
- not named; unidentified
- created, written, or given by someone unknown
- not noticeable
Why would someone do, write, or give something anonymously? List two or three examples of things that might be done anonymously. Give a reason for each.
Example Answers: donating money to charity but not wanting publicity; sending a love note but being afraid of rejection; voting but not wanting to influence others' votes or be judged for your choice; etc.
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. He was elected the 16th president of the United States in 1860. Lincoln led the country through one of its most difficult periods: the Civil War. It was during this war that he gave his famous Gettysburg Address, which is carved into a wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Lincoln wanted to end slavery in the United States, and some Americans disliked him because of this. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, and he died on April 15. Many people consider him to have been one of the country's greatest leaders.
Imagine you are an abolitionist in Lincoln’s time. Write a speech explaining why slavery is wrong. Try to convince your listeners to share your opinion.
Benjamin Franklin was a famous leader of the early United States who advocated for the colonies’ freedom from England. He was also a writer and author. Franklin published the pithy Poor Richard's Almanack, which gathered together commonly known expressions and words of wisdom, often called proverbs.
- brief, to the point, compact, short-and-sweet, concise
Think about these quotes from Poor Richard’s Almanack:
- Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
- God helps them that help themselves.
- One today is worth two tomorrows.
- Well done is better than well said.
- A good example is the best sermon.
Select one of the quotes to explain. Give an example from your own experiences or from the life of a public figure or fictional character.
Valentine's Day began at the end of the 5th century, when the Pope declared February 14 a saint's day in honor of Saint Valentine. Many different men could have been Saint Valentine, but we don't know for sure who he was. All of the stories about him describe him as heroic and romantic. Over time, Valentine's Day became associated with romance. People began exchanging written valentines in the 16th century.
Do you do anything special to celebrate Valentine’s Day? If you do, describe your Valentine’s Day celebrations. If you do not, explain why.
- without a plan, pattern, rule, or method
- a manner of selecting something in which each part of the set has the same chance of being picked
Read the sentences. Which meaning of the word random is used in each sentence?
1. A random sample of students was chosen by pulling names out of a hat.
2. His path to school is random; each day he goes a different way!
Have you ever done a random act of kindness? Write a sentence describing what you did and why it was random.
1. In the first sentence, random means a manner of selecting something in which each part of the set has the same chance of being picked.
2. In the second sentence, random means without a plan, pattern, rule, or method.
Being elected president is tough! The basic requirements for the job are threefold. First, you must be a native-born U.S. citizen, or, if you were born abroad, both your parents must be U.S. citizens. Second, you must be at least 35 years old. Third, you must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. These qualifications are written in the Constitution. If you qualify, you must then win millions of votes in a presidential election.
What do you think about these qualifications for being the president? Do you think they are fair? If you had the option to change the requirements, would you? How so?
We honor all the U.S presidents with a national holiday in February. Presidents' Day is celebrated on the third Monday of every February.
- show respect toward; revere
- give special recognition
- fulfill the terms of
Which meaning of the word honor is used in the sentence above? Write a sentence using any meaning of honor.
In the sentence above, honor means give special recognition.
The Chinese Zodiac is an ancient calendar system invented in China. It is based on the lunar calendar. Each year in the zodiac calendar's 12-year cycle is named for a different animal. These include rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The Chinese used to track their ages by knowing the animal year in which they were born.
Research the Chinese Zodiac. Under which Chinese Zodiac animal were you born? What is the current Chinese Zodiac animal?
The Italian artist Michelangelo was a painter, architect, sculptor, and poet. Many people consider him to be the most accomplished artist who ever lived.
- do something successfully
- very skillful
- very successful; having achieved a great deal
What did you accomplish today? What do you plan to accomplish tomorrow?
Which living artists, performers, or athletes do you consider to be the most accomplished? Explain your choices.
For Chinese New Year, people eat traditional foods with symbolic meanings. A whole fish, for example, is one popular Chinese New Year dish. Whole foods represent completion and a good beginning. Spring rolls symbolize wealth because they look like gold bars. Long noodles mean a long life. Citrus fruits are very popular because they are said to bring wealth, luck, and status. This is because their Mandarin names are similar to the Mandarin words for positive things like gold, luck, and status.
What is your favorite holiday food? Name the food and the holiday on which you eat it. Does it represent something specific during the holiday?
George Washington was the first president of the United States, as well as one of its first folk heroes. A folk hero is someone popular with ordinary people for heroic acts that may be real or exaggerated — or even a complete myth. There is a myth, for example, that young George Washington chopped down a cherry tree with a hatchet. When confronted by his father, George admitted the deed, adding, "I cannot tell a lie." This story was an exaggeration of Washington's famous honesty.
Can you think of any other folk heroes in American culture or your family's culture?
Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky. As a boy, he hardly ever went to school and was mostly self-educated. He eventually became a lawyer. Lincoln went on to lead the United States through the Civil War as the country's 16th president. He helped end slavery and preserve the Union. Today, Lincoln is regarded as one of the greatest American presidents.
Imagine you lived in a simple log cabin, instead of where you live now. In what ways would your life be different? Describe what you think would change.
Any good writer will tell you that a thesaurus is an indispensable tool.
- necessary, essential, vitally important
Think about a hobby, activity, or sport you enjoy. Identify an item that you consider indispensable to the activity. Describe the item, how it is used, and what makes it indispensable. Use the word indispensable in your answer.