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!

Wake County Public Libraries

Map of Wake County Public Libraries

Screenshot of Map of Wake County Public Libraries

Did you know that there is probably a library near your house? It’s true. Wake County has 20 libraries! Click the map to find the one closest to you.

The library is not just for books.

Yes, the library has LOTS of books for you and your family, but it has so much more too! Wake County Public Libraries have computers with internet access and FREE events for adults, kids, and teenagers. You can take a music class, join a discussion group, hear stories, learn job skills, work on your resumé, and more! You can also volunteer at the library. Just fill out the application, and take it to your nearest library.

How can I get a library card?

You must have a library card to use some of the library’s services. To get a library card, go to the nearest library with one of these:

  • a photo ID with a Wake County address on it (driver’s license or permit)
  • a photo ID (passport) and something to show that you live in Wake County (probably a bill – phone bill, electricity bill, water bill, etc. – or apartment lease)

Tell the librarian (person who works in the library) that you would like a library card. The librarian will ask you for your ID and proof of residency (something to show that you live) in Wake County. If you live in Wake County, your library card will be free. If you live in another county, you can get a Wake County library card for $25 per year.

For more information, visit the library’s website.

Your Turn

Do you have a library card? How often do you go to the library? Find one event that you would like to attend at the library. Ask your classmates to go with you!

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.

What do Americans do on Thanksgiving?

You know the history of Thanksgiving, and you’ve heard about some of the food that people eat at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. But maybe you’re still curious. What do Americans do all day? What is happening in an American home on Thanksgiving?

I asked some American friends to share with you their family traditions. Here’s what they said.


My favorite memories include my mom teaching me how to clean and prep a turkey, how to cook a pie without burning the crust, and how to do “the oven dance” with all the food so it all ends up hot and on the table at the same time.”  ~Chelsea

In this sentence, “prep” means prepare. Chelsea’s mother taught her how to prepare a turkey before putting it into the oven. “The oven dance” is the act of putting food into the oven, taking other food out, and putting some things in at the same time. You might need to move things inside the oven to make more room for other things. When the food moves around the oven and the kitchen so much, it’s like a dance.

One of my favorite recipes is the creamed Vidalia onions my grandmother used to make (my mom’s mom). I now make them.”  ~Webb

In many American families, several people make and bring food to share at Thanksgiving. Webb’s grandmother made a special onion dish when she was alive, but now Webb makes it.

Turkey Stuffing

photo credit: Alexandra Moss via photopin cc

We usually have turkey with dressing, green bean casserole, corn pudding, strawberry gelatin and sweet potato casserole. Desserts are pecan pie and apple pie with ice cream, of course!”  ~Kate

When you hear the word “dressing,” you probably think about salad dressing. Kate is talking about turkey dressing, which is also called “stuffing.” It is made with bread, broth, onions, spices, and sometimes pieces of turkey or sausage.


Grandma's Turkey Bowl

Grandma’s Turkey Bowl – Photo by WTCC Instructor A. Thompson

We usually watch football games on TV.”  ~Kate

Football is played mostly in the fall, and there are a lot of big football games on TV on Thanksgiving Day because nobody is working. Everyone is at home relaxing.

We have a big football game, with a trophy and everything. It’s Grandma’s Turkey Bowl.”  ~Angela

The most important football games of the year are called bowl games (the biggest one is the Super Bowl). The winner of a bowl game gets a trophy. Angela’s family plays football together on Thanksgiving, and the winner gets a trophy just like the professionals!


We do a big family shindig. My parents have been hosting these past few years, and every family unit brings something to contribute to the meal. Usually it’s assorted family members, but some years friends join as well. If it’s a large enough crowd (and when the whole family comes, it is), we set two tables, and the rule is you have to sit with different people for dessert.” ~Megan

A “shindig” is a party. Megan’s family is large, so they use two tables, and they change places between dinner and dessert. When she says, “every family unit brings something to contribute,” she means that she brings food, her brother and his wife bring food, her aunt and uncle bring food, her cousin and her husband bring food, and they share all the food.

My favorite is when all the family can visit.”  ~Kate

Kate and her husband have two children and four grandchildren. She loves the years when everyone can come to visit. Sometimes her children spend Thanksgiving with their in-laws, though, so they don’t always get to be together on Thanksgiving.


Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

photo credit: gigi_nyc via photopin cc

We watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!”  ~Olivia

Many cities have a parade on Thanksgiving, but the most famous one is in New York. You can watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV this year just like many American families!

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!

Election Day

Campaign Signs

photo credit: thisisbossi via photopin cc

You’ve probably seen signs everywhere – in yards, outside of stores, beside the street – with names of people on them. They are many different colors and have many different names. Why are these signs everywhere?

These are campaign signs (signs of people who want you to vote for them). They are everywhere right now because this Tuesday is Election Day.

Election Day is on the first Tuesday of November each year.

Why do we have Election Day every year?

You may know that we vote for a new president every 4 years. In North Carolina, we vote for the governor at the same time. However, other offices have longer or shorter terms (lengths of time one person can have that office/job). Senators, for example, can stay in their position for 6 years before they must run for re-election (try to get people to vote for them again). Representatives run for re-election every 2 years.

We have an Election Day every year because there’s always something or someone to vote for. Even if we do not need a new president, governor, mayor, or congressman, we sometimes need to vote about local or state laws.

What are people voting about this year?

This year, North Carolinians are voting for senators, representatives, and several judges. In Wake County, we are also voting for some local officials, including a sheriff.

Who can vote?

Voting is a right of United States citizens only. If you become a citizen, then you will be able to vote.

Where do people go to vote?

Each person votes in a place near his/her house. The place where you go to vote is called your polling place. If you move to a new house, your polling place will also probably change. If you see a polling place on Tuesday, you will know because there will be many people there and MANY campaign signs.

NC State Farmers Market

market veggies

photo by instructor ecparent

Where do you shop for food? Do you go to Food Lion? Harris Teeter? Wal-Mart? What about the NC State Farmers Market?

Where is the Farmers Market?

The Farmers Market is located near the corner of Lake Wheeler Road and Centennial Parkway in Raleigh. Click here to get directions.

What can I buy there?

At the market, you will find a large, covered area, where local farmers sell fruits, vegetables, and plants. The market also has other buildings where you can buy meat, cheese, wine, bread, candy, gifts, soap, and lotion all made in North Carolina.

When can I go?

The market is open Monday through Saturday 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

What else can I do there?

If you get hungry while you’re there, you can eat in one of three restaurants. Market Grill is open for breakfast and lunch (7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) Monday through Saturday. The Seafood Restaurant is open Monday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. And the State Farmers Market Restaurant is open Monday – Saturday 6:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and Sunday 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

If you want to meet American farmers, buy NC products, or try authentic North Carolinian food, visit the NC State Farmers Market. To find out what’s in season (which fruits/vegetables are ready to eat now), look at this chart. You might be able to buy everything you need at the Farmers Market to make one of these delicious salads!

Your Turn

Discuss with your classmates, or write a comment to answer these questions:

  1. What are your favorite fruits and vegetables? How do you like to prepare them?
  2. Where do you buy produce (fruits and vegetables)?
  3. How is shopping for food in the United States similar to shopping for food in your country? How is it different?
  4. Do you buy what’s in season, or do you buy what’s in the supermarket?
  5. Why is it important to buy food from local farmers?

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.