Facts About Native American Indians

If you were born in the United States, then you are an American citizen for sure, but are you a Native American? You might be a native American, but not a Native American. Do you see the difference?

A native American (small “n” on native) is anyone who was born in the United States. A Native American (capital “N” on Native) is a member of a small group of people who have lived in the United States for thousands of years. Native Americans – or Native American Indians – lived here long before people arrived from Europe.

Here are some more interesting facts about Native American Indians:

  • When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, he thought he was in India. For that reason, he called the people here “Indians.” We still use the word Indians when we talk about Native Americans. You can call them Indians, Native Americans, or Native American Indians.

  • There are more than 500 different Native American tribes in the United States. A tribe is a group that probably has the same language, ancestors, customs, beliefs, and leaders. They may also live in the same area and work together like a large family.
  • There are over 300 Indian reservations in the United States. A reservation is an area of land managed by Native Americans. A reservation might have different laws from the area around it. For example, casinos (places for gambling, like the ones in Las Vegas) are illegal in North Carolina. However, the Cherokee reservation in western NC has a casino.
  • When the Europeans arrived, they brought foreign diseases with them. These diseases killed many Native Americans.
  • In 1838, the U.S. government forced millions of Native Americans to leave their homelands and travel west. They did this because the government wanted to use the land near the east coast for its own purposes. This migration of the Indians is called the “Trail of Tears” because it was a very sad journey for them, and many died.
  • Even though Native Americans were here long before the United States became a country, they did not become U.S. citizens until 1924.

Your Turn

What did you learn today about Native Americans? What would you like to know about them? Search the internet for more information, and share it with us in the comments!

The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

photo credit: Grand Canyon via photopin (license)

This week, we’re going west to the Grand Canyon. A canyon is a very long, very deep hole in the earth. Usually, there is a river at the bottom of the hole. Over time, the water in the river carries away the dirt from the land and digs deeper into the earth. Over a very long time (many, many, many, many, many years), the river digs so far down that a canyon forms. A canyon has high, straight walls.

The Grand Canyon is the largest canyon in the United States and one of the biggest in the world. It is not the deepest canyon, but it is very deep – 6,000 feet  (1.8 km) at its deepest point.

Do you want to know more about the Grand Canyon? Listen to this, and try to answer the questions below.

  1. Where is the Grand Canyon (which state)?
  2. What formed the canyons in the south-western part of the United States?
  3. How big is the Grand Canyon?
  4. What is the name of the river at the bottom of the Grand Canyon?
  5. How long ago did the Grand Canyon begin to form?
  6. What kinds of rock can you find in the Grand Canyon?
  7. When did Native Americans live in the Grand Canyon?
  8. Name 3 Native American tribes that have lived in the area?
  9. For how many months did John Wesley Powell and his group travel through the Grand Canyon?
  10. When did tourists begin visiting the Grand Canyon?
  11. How many people visit the Grand Canyon each year?
  12. Finish this quote: “Take only ______________. Leave only _______________.”
  13. What is the Skywalk?
  14. How much does it cost to use the Skywalk?
  15. How do people feel when they visit the Grand Canyon?

Listen again, and check your answers. If you need help with the listening, click here for the script. Check your answers in the comments section!

Your Turn

How did you do? Were you able to answer all of the questions? What else would you like to learn about the Grand Canyon? Search the internet for more information, or plan a trip to see it in person!

Have you visited the Grand Canyon? Tell us about it in the comments!

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American pastor (preacher, minister, church leader) in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also a famous speaker and a political activist. An activist is someone who works very hard to change something in society. Dr. King worked very hard for civil rights (the rights of all U.S. citizens), especially equal rights for black and white Americans.

When Dr. King was a boy, schools, churches, restaurants, toilets, and even water fountains were segregated. That means that white people and non-white people were separated. This was the law until 1954, when the Supreme Court decided that it wasn’t right or fair to separate the races. A lot of people were very unhappy with the court’s decision to integrate (mix together) black and white people, but Martin Luther King believed that different races could live together and share peace in society.

Dr. King believed very strongly that people should protest (say they disagree or don’t like something) peacefully, without violence. He said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” That means we cannot end darkness with more darkness. We need to turn on the lights. And we cannot end hate with more hate. We need to give love. He also said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” That means it’s easier to love than to hate. If I hate someone, it causes too much stress, it hurts me. Dr. King wanted people to change the world, and he believed that love and education were the best ways to do it.

Martin Luther King’s most famous speech is the “I Have a Dream” speech. He gave it in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963. You can click here to read and listen to the whole speech. In it, he says, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Dr. King’s dream was that all people would be judged equally, based on who they are on the inside, not what they look like on the outside.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated (killed) in Memphis, Tennessee, but his dream of peace and equality continued. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan created an official holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. His birthday is on January 15, but we celebrate his life each year on the third Monday of January.

When President Reagan created Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the band U2 wrote a song called “MLK.” The words of the song are simple:

Sleep. Sleep tonight, and may your dreams be realized.
If the thunder-cloud passes rain, so let it rain, rain down on him.
So let it be.


Your Turn

Wake Tech’s ESL classes will be CLOSED on Monday, January 19 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While you are at home, visit this website for more information about Dr. King.

Things You Didn’t Know about Thanksgiving

Many students know the history of Thanksgiving. Pilgrims (people who left England for religious freedom and new opportunities) moved to the northeastern part of the United States to start a new life. It was very difficult in the beginning, and a lot of people died. However, the British and the Native Americans became friends, and soon, there was enough food for everyone. They celebrated their success for three days in 1621, and that was the first Thanksgiving.

Here are some things you might NOT know about Thanksgiving:

  • The pilgrims probably didn’t eat many of the foods at the first Thanksgiving that Americans eat now. They probably did not have turkey, pumpkin pie, or potatoes!
  • George Washington announced the first national Thanksgiving holiday in 1789, 168 years after the pilgrims celebrated the first time.
  • In 1829, a woman named Sara Josepha Hale started writing letters to the president because she wanted Thanksgiving to be a national holiday. At that time, each state decided when it would celebrate. She wrote letters for 30 years! She wrote letters to at least five different presidents.
  • Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln announced that the whole country would celebrate Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November. This happened during the Civil War, and President Lincoln was trying to keep the country together. Maybe he hoped that a national holiday would help everyone feel united again.
  • In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Thanksgiving one week earlier. This was during the Great Depression, and Roosevelt wanted to give people more time to shop for Christmas presents so that businesses could get more money.
  • In 1941, Roosevelt officially changed the day of Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday in November.
  • Every year, the president pardons (forgives, or gives no punishment to) a turkey on Thanksgiving. That turkey gets to retire on a farm instead of being eaten by a family.

This video includes all of the information I just gave you. Watch, listen, and see how much you can understand.


Your Turn

The answers to these questions are also in the video. Write a comment, and tell us which ones you heard!

  1. How many deer did the Indians kill to give as gifts to the colonists?
  2. What do we call the meat of a deer?
  3. How did the pilgrims eat cranberries at the first Thanksgiving?
  4. Why did Sara Josepha Hale want to have a Thanksgiving celebration?
  5. Name 3 recipes written by Sara Josepha Hale.
  6. How did people feel about President Roosevelt moving the date of Thanksgiving?
  7. Who was the first president to pardon a turkey?

Veterans Day – November 11, 2014


Here’s why…

“A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” (Quote from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website)

Seven months before World War I ended, the fighting stopped on November 11, 1918. That day was called Armistice Day because an armistice is an agreement to temporarily stop fighting a war. This day was remembered and celebrated for several years as Armistice Day, which became a national holiday in 1938. However, after World War II and the Korean War, Americans felt that the holiday should celebrate all American soldiers, not just those who fought in WWI. Therefore, in 1954, President Eisenhower signed the legislation that changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

Every year, on November 11, Americans take time to appreciate and thank all the members of our armed forces – Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard. We celebrate our soldiers with parades, speeches, flowers placed on the memorials and graves of soldiers, and of course, a day off from work or school.

For more information on Veterans Day (and some great listening practice too!), check out this video:



Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

photo credit: dean.franklin via photopin cc

Did you know that Mt. Rushmore just celebrated its 73rd birthday? It was completed on Halloween (October 31) in 1941, after 14 years of construction. Here is some more information about Mt. Rushmore.

Where is Mt. Rushmore?

It is located in an area of South Dakota called the Black Hills.

Whose idea was it?

The idea for the Mt. Rushmore sculpture came from a man named Doane Robinson. He wanted to bring attention to his state, South Dakota, and invite more tourists to visit.

Who designed it?

An artist named Gutzon Borglum designed Mt. Rushmore. He was born near the area that is now South Dakota, but at that time, South Dakota was not a state. Borglum was born in 1867, and South Dakota became a state in 1889. Borglum studied art in Paris, where he became friends with the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin.

How big is it?

Mt. Rushmore is very big. The park is almost 2 square miles (more than 5 km). Each president’s face is 60 feet tall (as tall as a 6-floor building). Each president’s nose is about 20 feet long (6 meters). Their eyes are about 11 feet wide, and their mouths are about 18 feet wide. If they could open their mouths, your whole family could probably walk inside.

Which presidents are carved into the mountain?

The faces of 4 U.S. presidents are carved (cut) into the mountain. Each president represents an important time in U.S. history.

  • George Washington is there because he was the first president. He represents the beginning of the nation.
  • Thomas Jefferson is there because the United States doubled in size during his time in office. He represents the geographical expansion (growth) of the nation.
  • Abraham Lincoln was in office during the Civil War. He represents the time when the nation stayed together after almost separating.
  • The fourth president is Theodore Roosevelt. He was in office at the beginning of the 20th century, which was a time of great economic growth for the United States. Cars were being produced (the Ford Motor Company was established in 1903), men were learning to fly (the Wright brothers flew America’s first airplane in 1903), and more people were getting opportunities to succeed in business. Roosevelt also established the National Parks System, and Mt. Rushmore is a national park. For people in the early 1900s, Roosevelt would have represented the future of the nation.

How did they build it?

Four hundred men worked for 14 years to carve Mt. Rushmore. They used dynamite to break off giant pieces of rock. Then they used hammers and nails to make the details of the faces.

How much did it cost to build it?

It cost about 1 million dollars to build Mt. Rushmore. In today’s money, that would be more than $11 BILLION!!

How many people died while building it?

You might not believe this. NO ONE died while working on Mt. Rushmore. Well, the designer, Gutzon Borglum, died several months before the sculpture was completed, but he was 73 years old, so his death was not related to the construction of Mt. Rushmore. His son finished the project.

10 Fun Facts about the Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

photo credit: SimplySchmoopie via photopin cc

You know this lady. She stands in New York Harbor, and she welcomes people to our country. We call her the Statue of Liberty, or sometimes Lady Liberty, and if you are an ESL student, you have something in common with her. She’s not originally from the United States either! She came from France!

Are you surprised? Here are 10 more things you might not know about the Statue of Liberty.

  1. Her full name is Liberty Enlightening the World.
  2. She holds a torch in her right hand and a tablet in her left hand. The tablet has July 4, 1776 inscribed (written) on it. That was the day when Americans declared their independence from Great Britain.
  3. She is wearing a robe to look like Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.
  4. The statue is 128 years old.
  5. Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi designed the statue, but the idea for it came from Edouard de Laboulaye. Laboulaye also suggested that France give the statue to the United States as a gift.
  6. The statue has an iron frame, but the outside is copper. When it was new, the statue was a golden-brown, copper color (like a penny), but over time, she turned green.
  7. Her shoe size is 879.
  8. From the feet to the top of the torch, the statue is 305 feet (93 meters) tall.
  9. The statue is hit by lightning about 600 times each year.
  10. It cost $500,000 to build the statue in 1886. In today’s money, that would be more than 10 million dollars!

Your Turn

Search the internet for more interesting facts about the Statue of Liberty. Then tell us what you learned in the comments. Let’s learn more together!

Carolina Bluegrass at the History Museum

Bluegrass is a kind of traditional American folk music. It comes mostly from the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. In the 1700s, many people from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales moved to this area of the United States, and they brought their music with them. Over time, traditional music from the UK changed into what we call bluegrass music. In NC, there are many bluegrass music concerts and festivals. A big bluegrass festival is coming to Raleigh soon, and I will tell you about it next week. This week, I want to introduce you to bluegrass music and tell you about an opportunity to learn more.

In this video, you will hear a bluegrass song and see some of the instruments typical of bluegrass. The man on the left is playing a small instrument called a mandolin. The woman in the middle is playing a guitar. The man on the right is playing a banjo. The man in the back is playing an upright bass. These instruments are all very common in bluegrass songs.

If you like this kind of music and want to learn more about it, you can visit the North Carolina Museum of History to see a FREE exhibit! When you visit the exhibit, you can learn more about the history of bluegrass and how it became popular. You can also see instruments that were played by famous bluegrass musicians. And on October 1 and 2, you can attend free concerts!

The U.S. Constitution

Did you know that the Constitution of the United States just had a birthday? It was created on September 17, 1787, so it is 227 years old! Happy birthday, Constitution! Here are some other facts you might not know about the Constitution:

It created our system of government.

The Constitution explains that the government of the United States will have three branches (parts). The Executive Branch is the President, the Vice President, and the Cabinet. The leaders of 15 government departments are in the Cabinet. These department leaders are called secretaries. For example, John Kerry is now the Secretary of State. Here’s a list of the 15 executive departments:

  1. U.S. ConstitutionDepartment of Agriculture
  2. Department of Commerce
  3. Department of Defense
  4. Department of Education
  5. Department of Energy
  6. Department of Health and Human Services
  7. Department of Homeland Security
  8. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  9. Department of the Interior
  10. Department of Justice
  11. Department of Labor
  12. Department of State
  13. Department of Transportation
  14. Department of the Treasury
  15. Department of Veterans Affairs

The Legislative Branch of the government is the Congress, which has two parts – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The people in the Senate are called senators. Each state has two senators who represent that state in the federal government. The people in the House of Representatives are called state representatives, delegates, or congressmen/congresswomen. The number of representatives for a state depends on the number of people living in that state. North Carolina has 13 delegates who represent the state in the House of Representatives. The Congress is responsible for making new laws.

The Judicial Branch of the government is the Supreme Court and other federal courts. There are nine judges in the Supreme Court, and their job is to decide what is legal (allowed, permitted) and illegal (not allowed, not permitted) based on the Constitution.

Other parts of the Constitution explain how decisions are made in the government and the rights and responsibilities of the states.

It has been changed 27 times.

Over the last 227 years, 27 amendments (changes) have been added to the Constitution. These amendments give people more rights, take some rights away, or make rights more clear. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. These amendments tell us about the rights of all Americans. Other amendments give people the right to vote. Men, women, African Americans, and people under the age of 21 all got the right to vote at different times. In 1917, an amendment to the Constitution made alcohol illegal in the United States, but in 1933, a new amendment made alcohol legal again.

More than 11,000 amendments have been suggested, but only 27 have been approved by Congress.

You need to know about the Constitution if you want to become a U.S. Citizen.

If you want to be a United States Citizen, you need to know several things about the Constitution. Can you answer these questions:

  1. What is the supreme law of the land?
  2. What does the Constitution do?
  3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
  4. What is an amendment?
  5. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
  6. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
  7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?

If you don’t know all the answers, watch these videos to find out.

Capitalization Rules

You might have noticed that in English, some words start with a capital letter, and others don’t. The rules for capitalization are not the same in every language, which can confuse students. Here are some rules to help you understand when you need to use a capital letter, and when you don’t.

1. Capitalize the first word of a sentence – even a quoted sentence.

When she arrives, offer her a cup of tea.
Treat her as you would your own daughter.
He said, “Treat her as you would your own daughter.”
Look out! You almost ran into my child!
“Look out!” she screamed. “You almost ran into my child.”

2. Capitalize a proper noun. Capitalize the abbreviation of a proper noun.

Golden Gate Bridge
George Wilbanks
G. Wilbanks
Lake Johnson
United States of America

3. Capitalize a person’s title when acts like part of the person’s name. Do not capitalize when the title is acting only as a description of the person.

Vice President Romanov
Mr. Romanov, the vice president of the company, will speak to us at noon.
The president will address Congress.
All senators are expected to attend.
The governors, lieutenant governors, and attorneys general called for a special task force.
Governor Purdue, Lieutenant Governor Harrelson, Attorney General Malek, and Senators Rumson and Flavin will attend.

4. Capitalize the person’s title when it follows the name on the address or signature line.

Ms. Callahan, Chairperson

5. Capitalize any title when used as a direct address.

Will you take my temperature, Doctor?
You won’t leave, will you, Father?

6. Capitalize points of the compass only when they refer to specific regions. Do not capitalize when they refer to directions

I have lived in the South for most of my life.
Go south three blocks and then turn left.
We live in the southeast section of town. (Southeast is just an adjective here describing section, so it should not be capitalized.)

7. Capitalize the first and last words of titles regardless of their parts of speech. Capitalize most other words within titles, including the short verb forms Is, Are, and Be.

Do not capitalize little words within titles such as articles (a, an, the), coordinating conjunctions (but, as, if, and, or, nor), or prepositions, regardless of their length.

“Come to the Water”
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Muppet Movie

8. Capitalize “federal” or “state” when used as part of an official agency name. If they are being used as general terms, do not capitalize.

That is a federal offense.
The State Board of Education has made a decision.
We visited four different states during our vacation.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation belongs to the US Department of Justice.
You must obey all county, state, and federal laws.

You may capitalize words such as “department,” “bureau,” and “office” if you have prepared your text in the following way:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (Bureau) has taken over the investigation. The Bureau is making progress in its investigation and plans to release a statement later today.

9. Do not capitalize names of seasons.

I love autumn colors and spring flowers.

10. Capitalize the first word of a letter’s greeting and the first word of its close.

Dear Ms. Klein,
My dear Mr. Peterson,
To whom it may concern:
Very truly yours,

11. Capitalize words that come from proper nouns, including proper adjectives.

I must take English and math.
Paco is Spanish, Olga is Russian, and Miriam is French.

12. Capitalize the names of specific course titles.

I must take history and Algebra 2. (We do not know which specific history course is required, but Algebra 2 is the name of a specific math course.)

13. Capitalize “I” when it is used as a personal pronoun.

Susan and I always enjoy watching movies.
When I was young, I loved jumping rope.

14. Capitalize days of the week and months of the year.

The semester will end on Thursday, March 27, 2014.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to practice. Correct the capitalization in each sentence:

  1. on january 2, 1905, Japanese general nogi received from russian general stoessel a letter formally offering to surrender, ending the russo-japanese war.
  2. on january 5, 1914, henry ford, head of the ford motor company, introduced a minimum wage scale of $5 per day.
  3. on january 13, 1990, douglas wilder of virginia became the nation’s first elected black governor as he took the oath of office in richmond.
  4. on february 7, 1964, the beatles arrived in the united states for the first time.
  5. on april 2, 1917, president woodrow wilson asked congress to declare war against germany, saying, “the world must be made safe for democracy.”
  6. on april 14, 1865, president lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by john wilkes booth while attending the comedy “our american cousin” at ford’s theater in washington, d.c. he died the next day.
  7. on july 29, 1981, britain’s prince charles married lady diana spencer at st. paul’s cathedral in london.
  8. on september 1, 1939, world war ii began as nazi germany invaded poland.
  9. on november 8, 1960, massachusetts senator john f. kennedy defeated vice president richard m. nixon for the presidency.
  10. on december 22, 1864, during the civil war, union general william t. sherman sent a message to president lincoln from georgia, saying, “i beg to present you as a christmas gift the city of savannah.”

All of these history sentences came from The Learning Network (part of The New York Times). You can check your answers and read more about history here.