A Vermont farmer named Wilson A. Bentley discovered that no two snowflakes look exactly alike. In 1885, he attached a microscope to a camera, which allowed him to photograph individual snow crystals, or snowflakes. Over time, he took pictures of more than 5,000 crystals. He realized that each one was a little bit different. Bentley published articles about his findings in magazines and journals. People started calling him “Snowflake” Bentley. Scientists still agree with his work today.
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley said, “Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty.” What is something in nature that you find beautiful?
The United States Constitution was written during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Each state then determined whether or not it would ratify the Constitution. Those who favored ratification were called Federalists because they wanted a strong federal government. Those who opposed ratification were known as Anti-Federalists. They were concerned that a strong federal government would trample states’ rights and the rights of the individual. The understanding that a Bill of Rights guaranteeing individual liberties would be added to the Constitution was pivotal in several states’ decision to ratify. The Constitution was officially ratified on June 21, 1788. The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.
- a point on which something turns or balances
- a person with a central role, or thing on which something depends
- the action of turning, as on a pivot
- critically important
What else, or who else, has played a pivotal role in history? Use the word pivotal in your answer.
Playing dreidel is a Hanukkah tradition. Dreidels are four-sided tops. Each side shows a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. The letters are nun, gimel, hay, and shin. Nun means take nothing, gimel means take everything, hay means take half, and shin means put in. Players take turns spinning the dreidel. Depending on how the dreidel lands, players move game pieces, like candies or coins, in and out of a center pot. The game ends when one player has all of the game pieces.
Do you have a favorite game to play during the holiday season? Describe the game and why you like to play it.
Farms and other forms of agriculture are popping up in surprising new places, such as densely populated urban areas. Small farms can be planted on vacant lots, balconies, or even rooftops. Growing food locally can encourage healthy eating; help improve habitats; create new jobs; and support food-health literacy in communities.
- relating to or located in the city
- characteristic of cities
Suburban is related to the word urban. Based on the definition above, what does the word suburban mean?
Suburban means located near a city or characteristic of suburbs (towns or communities near a city).
Kwanzaa was created by a professor in California named Maulana Karenga. Kwanzaa was first celebrated by African Americans in the United States. Now people of African descent observe Kwanzaa in many other countries, too. The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza.” The phrase means “first fruits” in Swahili, an African language. Africans have held first-fruit, or harvest, celebrations for thousands of years.
Kwanzaa celebrates principles such as family, sharing, hard work, responsibility, and unity. What do you celebrate during this time of the year? How do you celebrate?
Orville and Wilbur Wright were brothers from Dayton, Ohio. They made the first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Orville Wright said, “We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity.”
- follow with the aim of capturing or killing
- seek to accomplish or acquire
- continue along
- proceed with
Which meaning of pursue is used in the quote above?
What do you hope to pursue? Use the word pursue in your answer.
In the quote above, the word pursue means seek to accomplish or acquire.
Every year, an enormous Christmas tree decorates Rockefeller Center in New York City. The tradition began during the Great Depression in the 1930s. The construction workers building Rockefeller Center were thankful to have work, so they put up a tree in 1931. It was 20 feet tall. Since then, the tradition has continued, and the trees have become much bigger.
Describe the largest tree you have seen in real life and where you saw it.
Many schools and organizations are founded on a core set of values. For example, students at Harvard University uphold certain basic values of the community while attending Harvard, including:
- Respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others
- Honesty and integrity in all dealings
- Conscientious pursuit of excellence in one’s work
- Accountability for actions and conduct in the workplace
–Harvard University Statement of Values, August 2002
- what something is worth
- a belief or idea about what is important in life
- think that something is important
- assess how much something is worth
What part of speech is the word values in the sentence above? Which meaning does it have?
What are some values that you uphold at your school? Use the word values in your answer.
Values is a plural noun in the sentence above. It means beliefs or ideas about what is important in life.
Who built the first snowman? Some researchers believe that prehistoric cave-dwelling people may have created snowmen as a form of folk art. However, since snow melts, there is no concrete evidence of the snowy sculptures. The first documented evidence of a snowman appears in a book from 1380.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of building with snow? If you don’t know much about building with snow, research how others build with it.
Each of the seven nights of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of seven principles: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani).
- a moral rule or belief that influences your actions and helps you determine right and wrong
- a basic truth
- a law of nature that explains why something works
Which definition of principle is used in the sentence above?
In the sentence above, principle means a moral rule or belief that influences your actions and helps you determine right and wrong.
The first Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France. They began more than 25 years after the first Summer Olympic Games. In the Chamonix 1924 event, representatives from 16 countries competed in 16 events. The Winter Games have been held every four years since, and today over 80 countries participate. Athletes compete in snowy sports such as alpine skiing, speed skating, curling, figure skating, and ice hockey.
The Olympic Games cost a huge amount of money. Do you think that money is well spent? Explain why or why not.
A spectacle is some kind of show that is unusual or catches your eye. A Broadway performance or a fireworks show can be a spectacle. There are also events in nature that can be considered spectacles, such as the northern lights display in the Arctic.
• a remarkable and dramatic sight
Describe a favorite or feared spectacle in nature. Use the word spectacle in your answer.
Migration is an annual event for many types of animals. Migration allows animals living in harsh climates to escape to warmer habitats for part of the year. Migrating species include geese, humpback whales, salmon, and Arctic terns. The Arctic tern travels almost 44,000 miles between the Arctic and Antarctica every year.
Research an animal that migrates and describe its seasonal journey. Where does the animal live during the summer months? During the winter months? Which path does the animal take to reach its destination?
The idiom take advantage of can describe something positive or something negative. Read the sentences below and match them with the two definitions of take advantage of.
1) I took advantage of the winter break to catch up on my homework and get a lot of sleep!
2) I don’t think it’s right how Jane takes advantage of Jacob; she asks him for the homework answers because she knows he likes her.
take advantage of
- put to good use
- profit selfishly by, or exploit
Write sentences of your own using both meanings of the idiom take advantage of.
1) In the first sentence, took advantage of means put to good use.
2) In the second sentence, takes advantage of means profits selfishly by, or exploits.
Ancient Romans named the month of January for the mythological Roman god Janus. Janus was the god of doors and gates. Just as a door faces two directions, Janus was believed to have two faces that looked in opposite directions. He could look backward and forward at the same time. Janus is also the god of beginnings. One of his faces reflects on the past, and the other looks toward the future.
Do you think a doorway is a good metaphor for the start of a new year? Explain why or why not. Write your own metaphor for the start of a new year.
Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Around the start of a new year, many people resolve to get fit, quit bad habits, or accomplish other goals.
• make a firm decision
• clear up or deal with successfully
• declare by a formal vote
What meaning of resolve is used in the sentence above? Describe a situation or circumstances that you helped resolve successfully. Use the word resolve in your answer.
In the sentence above, the word resolve means make a firm decision.
Do you know the secret to making popcorn pop? Water and heat! Each kernel of corn contains a small amount of water that, when heated, begins to expand. The moisture turns to steam and creates pressure inside the kernel. The pressure builds, eventually causing the kernel to explode and turn inside out.
Unpopped popcorn kernels don’t look anything like the popcorn pieces that you eat. What other kinds of food look completely different when they are cooked?
The United States purchased the territory of Alaska from the Russian empire in 1867. Many people thought it was a poor decision. Alaska was remote, difficult to defend, and considered to be of little value. A gold rush in the late 1800s dispelled those concerns, as did the later discovery of oil in the territory. Alaska became the 49th state in January of 1959.
• drive away
Use the word dispel in a sentence of your own.
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. led a protest in Birmingham, Alabama. He was arrested by Birmingham police and sent to jail. While incarcerated, Dr. King wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” This letter explained that Dr. King allowed himself to be arrested in order to reveal the injustice of the laws in Birmingham.
In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” What does this quote mean to you?
Bill Clinton was president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. His inaugural ceremony in 1997 was the first presidential inauguration to be broadcast on the internet.
• swear into public office with a formal ceremony
• formally open or begin to use publically
Which meaning of inaugurate is used in the sentence above? What forms of the word are used? Use the word inaugurate in a sentence of your own.
Which meaning of inaugurate is used in the sentence above?
In the sentence above, inaugurate means swear into public office with a formal ceremony.
What forms are used?
Two forms are used in the sentence: inaugural is an adjective and inauguration is a noun.
Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. At the time, England ruled the American colonies. Franklin believed the colonies should seek independence from England. He helped write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, two of the founding documents in American history.
Benjamin Franklin was also an inventor. Research Ben Franklin’s inventions and describe one of them.
The police obtained a warrant from the judge to search the suspect’s apartment.
- an official authorization
Which meaning of warrant is used in the sentence above?
In the sentence, warrant is used as a noun meaning an official authorization.