Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear,
With twenty-nine in each leap year.
Many people use this rhyme, or a variation of it, to remember the number of days in each month. The rhyme dates back at least 450 years. A version is recorded in Richard Grafton’s 16th century publication called Abridgement of the Chronicles of England.
What is your favorite month of the year and why? Write about the weather and what happens during this month.
In 1681, King Charles II of England granted land in the American colonies to William Penn. Penn was a Quaker, or member of the Society of Friends, which was a persecuted religion in England. Penn wanted to create a haven for Friends in the colonies. His land later became the state of Pennsylvania. The state's moniker literally means "Penn's woods." Pennsylvania was the second state to ratify the Constitution, joining the Union on December 12, 1787.
• a safe place
• a place with suitable conditions
Is there a place you would consider a haven? If yes, describe it and tell why it is a haven for you or for a group you are in. If not, describe a haven you might seek. Either way, use haven in your answer.
The coldest place in the world is Vostok, Antarctica. On July 21, 1983, it reached negative 128.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is too cold to live there, but Russian scientists recorded the temperature from a research station. The station is close to the South Pole, the most southern part of Earth.
What is the coldest temperature you have experienced? What was the hottest?
"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book.” – Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
• make a declaration; announce
• state your opinion
If you were going to make a declaration, what would it be? What would you like to declare? Use declare in your answer.
Every year around Christmas, the President's pastry chefs make a White House out of gingerbread. The tradition started in 1969 with a simple miniature model of the White House. Today, the chefs plan for months. They consult the original floor plans and collaborate with electricians make the gingerbread version as close to the real White House as possible. This holiday tradition requires hundreds of pounds of gingerbread, chocolate, and icing.
Have you ever made a gingerbread house? Describe the ultimate gingerbread house. What types of icing, candy, or other edibles would you use to decorate it?
Abraham Lincoln was in favor of the abolishment of slavery long before he was elected U.S. president in 1860. As president, however, Lincoln postponed legislation. He felt he did not have enough support around the country for abolition. As a result, Lincoln exceeded the expectations of the abolitionists when he declared the Emancipation Proclamation in the middle of the Civil War. He encouraged the Thirteenth Amendment until his death in April of 1865. The 13th Amendment was officially ratified on December 6, 1865.
• end or annul
Find the other forms of this word in the passage above. What part of speech is each?
Speed skating has been an Olympic sport since 1924. It is considered the fastest human-powered sport in the world. Speed skaters wear special skates that are longer and sharper than ice skates for figure skating or ice hockey. They also wear suits that are designed to reduce wind resistance and allow the skaters to move faster. Some Olympic speed skaters can reach 40 miles per hour when racing.
What is your favorite Olympic sport? Would you want to be in the Olympics? Explain why or why not.
December 7 is Pearl Harbor Day. Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base on Oahu Island, Hawaii. On December 7, 1941, Japanese airplanes attacked Pearl Harbor. Many U.S. ships and aircraft were destroyed by bombs and planes. Many U.S. soldiers lost their lives. In his speech to Congress, President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the day of the attacks as “a date which will live in infamy.”
• a well-known evil action or quality
Use infamy in a sentence of your own.
Kwanzaa is a winter holiday celebrated by African Americans and other people of African descent. The holiday is based on African harvest festivals and celebrates African heritage. It begins every year on December 26 and ends on January 1. On each night of Kwanzaa, people light a candle in a candleholder called a kinara. The candles are red, black, and green. Each of the seven candles represents a principle from African cultures. Every night when families light the candles, they talk about the principle of the day.
Have you ever celebrated Kwanzaa? If you have, explain how you celebrated. If you have not, research Kwanzaa and find three facts about the holiday.
Steve Jobs proved he was ambitious when he discovered his passion for computers. He co-founded Apple Computer, a company that revolutionized the computer industry. Apple introduced affordable and intuitive products such as the Macintosh, iMac, iPod, Macbook, iPhone, and iPad.
• having ambition to achieve a specific goal; displaying eagerness to acquire wealth or power
In what ways are you ambitious? Use ambitious in your answer.
Yuletide is a word some use to mean the Christmas season. The term refers to a festival from ancient Germany. Yule was celebrated for twelve days in midwinter, around the time of the December solstice. Many of the traditions of the Yule festival have been absorbed into modern day Christmas celebrations.
What other old-fashioned words do you hear during the winter holiday season? Try thinking of holiday songs you know, such as "Deck the Halls."
Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, led the first successful expedition to the South Pole, arriving on December 14, 1911. The success of this Antarctic expedition was the result of Amundsen’s meticulous preparation. He considered the usefulness and the weight of every article of clothing and bit of food he brought on the journey. He and his men wore reindeer skin clothing and many layers of socks. They traveled by dogsleds pulled by carefully-selected dogs that would thrive in the freezing temperatures.
• showing extreme attention to detail
What are you meticulous about? If you don’t consider yourself meticulous, explain why. Use meticulous in your answer.
Susan B. Anthony played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement. She lived in America during the 1800s when women did not have the same rights as men. She fought to change this inequality. Her efforts helped create the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920. This amendment was adopted 14 years after her death. Susan B. Anthony was the first woman shown on U.S. currency. Her silver dollar coin was issued in 1979.
Choose a coin and write about the historical figure featured on that coin.
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 Bill of Rights was officially 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 pivotal in your answer.
Snowshoe hares are small mammals that look like rabbits. They live in the colder parts of North America. They have large feet that help them walk on top of the snow. Snowshoe hares are white in the winter, but in the summer their coat changes color. Snowshoe hares slowly become brown over about ten weeks in the spring. The change in fur color helps snowshoe hares blend in with their environment, even when the season changes.
Do you know any other animals that change color? How does this ability help the animal?
Many movies are based on books. We call these films adaptations. If you have ever read a book and then seen the movie adaptation, you may have noticed that some films differ greatly from the original book. Filmmakers sometimes change a written story because a two-hour movie does not offer enough time to include all the details, plot twists, and characters of a book. Can you think of other reasons a book may be adapted when it becomes a movie?
• make suitable for a new purpose or different conditions; modify
• change yourself to new conditions; become adapted
• the act of adapting
• something that is adapted
Use adapt and adaptation in sentences of your own.
Have you ever competed against someone with an advantage over you? You might have been the underdog, the person expected to lose in a competition. The word comes originally from shipbuilding, when workers called planks of wood "dogs." Shipbuilders placed the planks over a pit to work on them and two people sawed at a time. One person sawed from above, while one man worked below, toiling just as hard, and ended up covered in dirt and sawdust. The person below the planks became known as the underdog.
Have you ever felt like the underdog in a situation? Describe your experience and why you felt like the underdog.
Orville and Wilbur Wright, brothers from Dayton, Ohio, made the first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903 at 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 pursue in your answer.
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, thankful to have work, unexpectedly put up a tree in 1931. They festooned it with paper garlands and tin cans.
What would you do to celebrate feeling grateful for good fortune? Describe how you could share your gratitude with the world.
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 on rooftops.
• 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?
Kwanzaa, a holiday based on African harvest festivals that occur in late December, lasts from December 26 to January 1. The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits.”
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 it?
Each of the seven days 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.