Module C – Lessons 31 to 40


Click here for Lesson 31
Click here for Lesson 32
Click here for Lesson 33
Click here for Lesson 34
Click here for Lesson 35
Click here for Lesson 36
Click here for Lesson 37
Click here for Lesson 38
Click here for Lesson 39
Click here for Lesson 40
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Kids Excel

Lesson 31 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: Castro, Pibwell, Val’s, counts, explaining, finishes, flame, gain, groaned, hup, marks, notebook, practicing, presses, program, rested, shorter, speedsters, spellings, sprint, sprinter, sprinters, sprints, stake, swimmer, swimmers, taper, versus

Miss Baker
I was sitting with spelling champ Gail Day. I asked her, “How did this Miss Baker make you into a good speller?”

“Well,” said Gail, “Miss Baker had a cool way of explaining English spelling. She made spelling trees.”

“Spelling trees?”

“Yes,” said Gail. “Here, I’ll make one for you.” Gail got a sheet of paper and made a tree. She pointed at the trunk of the tree and explained, “The trunk stands for a sound, like the sound /ae/ as in ‘cake.’ The branches stand for the spellings for that sound.”

“There’s one branch for words with the ‘a_e’ spelling like “flame” and “stake.” There’s one branch for words that have the ‘ay’ spelling like “play” and “stay.” There’s one branch for words that have the ‘ai’ spelling like pain and train. And so on. Get it?”

“Got it.”


“So Miss Baker would make a big spelling tree for a sound. Then we kids would add words to it. When we found words with the sound in them we would stick the words on the branches of the tree. We would stick all of the words with the ‘ai’ spelling on this branch. We would stick all of the words with the ‘ay’ spelling on that branch.”

“I see. And this helped you get better at spelling?” Gail nodded.

“The spelling trees helped us see the patterns and keep track of the spellings. They helped us see which spellings are used a lot and which ones are used less. There were a lot of good spellers in Miss Baker’s class.”

“But not all of them went on to win the state spelling bee,” I said. “Why did you?”

Gail shrugged. “I was good at spelling. But I did not understand why English spelling was so hard. Once I asked Miss Baker why it was so hard. ‘Miss Baker,’ I said, ‘why are there five or six spellings for some sounds? That makes no sense. Why isn’t there just one spelling for a sound?'”

“Miss Baker explained as much as she could. Then she gave me a book on spelling. It was a cool book. It explained how English has taken in lots of spellings from French, Latin, Greek, and Spanish. When I finished that book, Miss Baker gave me a longer book. Then I found the next book by myself. One book sort of led to the next. So that’s how I got started.”


The Swimming Sisters
Kim and Val Castro are swimming sisters. Kim is sixteen. Val is fifteen. The sisters swim for the Red River Swim Program (RRSP). Both of them are fast. In fact, they are two of the fastest swimmers in the state.

I went to see the two sisters at the pool where they swim. They were training for a big meet. “So,” I said, “do I dare ask which of you is faster?”

Kim smiled. “I am faster in the sprints,” she said. “But Val is faster in the long races.”

“So what counts as a sprint in swimming?”

“The 50 Free is a sprint,” said Kim.

“50?” I said. “Is that 50 feet?”

“No,” said Kim, “it’s 50 yards.”

“Gosh!” I said. “50 yards? That’s a sprint? It sounds long to me! You see, I am not much of a swimmer.”


“The 50 Free is an all-out sprint,” Kim said. “It’s like the hundred yard dash in track. It’s over in a flash. The 100 Free is a sprint, too.”

“So what counts as a long race in swimming?”

“The 500 Free is a long race,” Kim groaned. “It’s too long for me. I start to get tired after 150 yards or so. But not Val! The longer the race is, the better she is.”

“The 500 Free is my best race!” said Val.

“500 yards?” I said. “What’s that, a hundred laps?”

“Um, no,” Val said. “In a 25-yard pool, it’s up and back ten times.”

I jotted notes in my notebook.

“So let’s see,” I said. “100 yards counts as a short race. Kim is good at the short races. 500 yards is a long race. Val is good at the long races. Is there a race that is longer than 100 yards and shorter than 500?”

“Yes, there is,” said Kim. “The 200 Free.”

“So which of you speedsters wins that race?” I asked.


Kim looked at Val. She had a smile on her face. It was a sister-to-sister smile, and there was something else in it. There was a sort of challenge in the look. Val smiled back. She had the same look on her face. I waited.

At last Kim spoke. “It’s hard to say who is faster in the 200 Free. Sometimes Val wins, and sometimes I win.”

“I see,” I said. “It sounds like the 200 Free is the race to see. When will that race take place?”

“It will be on Sunday,” said Val, “the last day of the state meet.” I got out my pen and wrote: “Sunday the 25th. 200 Free. Castro versus Castro!”

After I met with Kim and Val, both sisters jumped in the pool and started swimming. Kim jumped in Lane 3. Val jumped in Lane 9.

“Why don’t they both swim in the same lane?” I asked RRSP coach, Stan Pibwell.

“They don’t have the same training program,” Coach Pibwell explained. “Kim is a sprinter. Val swims the longer races, like the 500. The races are not the same, so the training is not the same.”


Val’s Training
We stood next to Lane 9, where Val was swimming. She swam back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

“When will she get to stop?” I asked.

“Not for a while,” said the coach. “Val is training hard for the big meet. She has been swimming a lot of yards. In a week or so she will start to swim less, so that her arms and legs feel loose and rested for the big meet. But it’s not time for her to taper off yet. This morning she has a lot of yards to swim.”

“Do I dare ask what counts as a lot?”

“She’s been swimming 7,000 or 8,000 yards a day,” said the coach.

“Yikes!” I said. “That’s like five miles!”

“Yep,” said Coach Pibwell. “That’s what it takes to be the best.”


“When she finishes swimming, will she get to go home and sleep?”

“Nope! Later on, after she gets out of the pool, she will do bench presses and leg presses. She will do sit-ups and chin-ups.”

“Oh man,” I moaned. “It makes me tired just to hear all of that!”

“It’s like they say: there’s no gain without pain!” said Coach Pibwell.

Coach Stan Pibwell smiles at the swimmers.

After seeing Val train, I went to Lanes 3–5, where Kim and the rest of the sprinters were training. They were not swimming lap after lap like Val. They were practicing their starts.

“Swimmers, take your marks!” a coach yelled. Kim and the rest of the sprinters bent down. They grabbed the starting blocks with their fingers.

Hup!” yelled the coach.

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Kids Excel


Lesson 32 – Part Three

NEW WORDS: Dickens, Grover, Pinkers, blisters, booming, bouncing, bounds, chargers, closing, coasting, exploded, goalkeeper, kick, kicking, leaders, listing, mitts, passing, petted, racked, scoring, sidelines, slipping, sloshed, sloshing, smacked, stopping, strokes, underlined

Kim’s Training
The sprinters exploded off the blocks. They dove into the pool. Kim was the fastest off the blocks. She sprang like a cat. Her hands seemed to make a hole in the pool. Then her arms and her legs went in the same hole.

Kim went under. She started kicking with her legs like a fish. Then she popped up and started swimming. She took five fast strokes. Then she stopped. She swam to the side of the pool, got out, and went back to the starting blocks.

“Why did she stop?” I asked.

“We are just practicing the start,” said Coach Pibwell. “You see, the start is a big thing in a sprint like the 50 Free. If you are fast off the starting blocks, you have a good chance of winning the race. But if you trail off the blocks, it’s hard to win. You end up back in the waves, getting sloshed from side to side. That’s why we have the sprinters do lots of starts. Kim’s start has been getting better and better.”


“So, Coach,” I said, “do you think Kim can win the 50 Free at the state meet?”

“She should win it,” said the coach. “I think she is the best overall swimmer in the state. Plus, as you can see, she has a strong start. But the 50 Free is so fast. A lot of swimmers could win it.”
“And the 100 Free?”

“She should win that, too.”

“And the 200?” I asked.

Coach Pibwell smiled. “Well,” he said, “the 200 Free should be one heck of a race. Kim could win all three, the 50, the 100, and the 200. That’s her goal. But Val will be swimming that race, too.”

Coach Pibwell looked to see if Kim was looking. She was not. Then he whispered, “I think Val gets a kick out of swimming faster than her big sister. And she has been training hard. The 200 is like a short jog for her. So, it should be a good race!”


I got out my notebook. I looked at the page where I had written: “Sunday the 25th. 200 Free. Castro versus Castro!” I underlined it twice.

I got to the pool in time for the 200 Free. I sat in the stands with Grover and Joan Castro, Kim and Val’s parents. “I am so proud of Kim and Val,” said Grover Castro. “But I have a bad case of nerves. I hate it when the two of them swim in the same race. They have both been training so hard. They would both like to win this race. But they can’t both win. I don’t like to think that one of them may be upset.”

A man’s booming voice filled the air. “It’s time for the last race of the meet!” the man said.


The Big Race
Fans clap for the Castro sisters. “Let’s meet our swimmers!” The man started listing the swimmers in the race. “In Lane 2,” he said, “from Red River Swim Program, we have the winner of the 500 Free, Val Castro.” Cheers rose up from the RRSP swimmers on the deck and from fans in the stands.

“In Lane 3,” the man said, “from Red River Swim Program, the winner of the 50 and 100 Free, Kim Castro.” There were shouts and cheers for Kim, as well.

The swimmers got up on the starting blocks.

A man in a white coat said, “Swimmers, take your marks.” The swimmers bent down and grabbed the starting blocks. Then there was a beep. The swimmers shot off.

Kim’s start was perfect. She did her kick. Then she popped up and started swimming. Her arms went so fast. She seemed to be coasting.


Kim was the fastest swimmer for a hundred yards. She made a big wave. The rest of the swimmers were trailing her. They seemed to be bouncing and sloshing in Kim’s waves. I was starting to think it would not be such a close race after all. But just as I was thinking this, Grover Castro said, “Wait for it!”

“Wait for what?” I said.

“You’ll see!” said Grover.

I looked back at the pool. Kim was still winning. But Val was closing in on her. The gap was five feet. Then it was three. The swimmers flipped one last time. Kim was starting to look a bit tired. The gap was down to two feet. Then it was one foot. Then the two sisters were swimming side by side. As they came to the finish line, it was too close to pick a winner. Kim and Val smacked the side of the pool at what looked to be the same moment.

A hundred parents in the stands looked up at the clock. A hundred swimmers on the deck looked up, as well. This is what the clock said:

Val Castro Lane 2 1:45

Kim Castro Lane 3 1:46

Val was the winner!


The Soccer Twins, Part One
I was standing on the sidelines while the Clark Bees got set to play their last soccer game of the year. The Clark team had racked up sixteen wins without a loss. They had just one game left to play. They were getting set to play the Dickens Chargers.

The Clark team has two team leaders this year who happen to be twin sisters. Their names are Les and Pat Pinker. As I stood on the sidelines, I spoke with the twins’ dad, Ted Pinker. He was holding the Pinkers’ dog, Princess, on a leash.

“Which one is Les?” I asked.

“That one,” said Ted Pinker, pointing.

Ted Pinker explained that Les plays wing. Her job is to take shots on the goal. Les is a fast runner. She is good at passing the ball, too. Les came to the sidelines to visit with us. We shook hands. I asked her, “Let’s say you could offer just one tip to kids who would like to be better at soccer. What would you tell them?”

Les said, “I think I would tell them to get good at passing. If a team can’t pass well, it will never get good shots on goal. You have to get so good at passing that you do not have to think what your feet are doing. Your feet just sort of think for themselves.”


Les petted Princess and ran off. I went to chat with her twin sister, Pat. Pat is the goalkeeper for the team. It’s her job to stop shots and keep players from scoring on the Clark goal.

When we spotted her, Pat was slipping on mitts. She explained, “Without these mitts, my hands would get red. I would get blisters. Plus, the mitts help me get a grip on the ball.”

“What’s the best tip for stopping a shot?” I asked.

“Well,” Pat said, “You need to have soft hands.”

“Soft hands?” I said. “You mean you have to use a lot of hand cream?”

Pat grinned. “No, what I mean is that your hands need to bend back when the ball hits them. They need to bend so they can take the shock. If they don’t bend, the ball will bounce off your hands and then you will have to get set to stop the next shot. It’s better to catch the ball if you can, or knock it out of bounds.”

Just then a buzzer went off. It was time for the big game. Les and Pat ran off to play in their big game. Their dog, Princess, tugged on the leash, hoping she could play, as well. Ted held her back. He petted Princess and got her to sit on the sidelines.

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Kids Excel


Lesson 33 – Part Four

NEW WORDS: Agee, August, Jaylin, Palmer, blacktop, dawn, draws, feetball, goalpost, goddess, groan, hips, jumpers, muffed, nailed, paused, playgrounds, teammate, teammates, ticked

The Soccer Twins, Part Two
We looked on as Les and Pat played soccer. We say soccer here in the United States. But outside of the United States, they say football. The name football makes a lot of sense since the players use their feet to kick the ball. The goalkeeper can use her hands to stop the ball, but the rest of the players can’t use their hands. But maybe an even better name would be feetball. After all, you use both feet. Soccer, football, or feetball — which name do you think is best?


At one point, Les made a nice pass. Her teammate had a shot on goal. She kicked the ball hard, but it bounced off the goalpost. Pat played well, too. She had to block two shots by the Dickens players. She knocked one out of bounds and grabbed one with her mitts.

Both teams had shots on goal, but for a long time there was no scoring. The clock ticked down. It started to look like the game would end in a 0-0 tie. Then Les got the ball. She passed to a teammate. The teammate ran a bit and then passed the ball back to Les. Les took a shot. The ball went zipping past the Dickens goalkeeper and into the net! Goal! The Clark Bees ran and jumped on top of Les. Clark was in the lead, but there was still time left in the game.

The Dickens players got the ball back. They ran and passed the ball. A Dickens player took a shot, but Pat grabbed it. Just then the horn went off. The game was over! The Clark Bees were the winners. They were the state soccer champs!


Drive down Tenth Street in the summer and you will see them — the jumpers. You will see kids jumping rope on playgrounds and street corners. Jumping rope is something lots of kids like to do. But most kids are not as good at it as the Jumping Stars. The last time I met with the Jumping Stars was in August. They were jumping at the playground where they hang out. Two of them were spinning the rope. Two of them were jumping over the rope as it spun past. The rope was spinning so fast it was hard to see it. The jumpers’ feet went pit-pat-pit-pat-pit-pat on the blacktop.

This sport is named jumping rope. But that makes it sound much less cool than it is. The kids don’t just jump. They dance. They twist and spin. They hop and skip. They flip. They land on their hands and then pop back up on their feet. They do all of this while jumping over a rope at top speed. It is an art form, like dancing.


There are four jumpers on the Jumping Stars, Kit Winter, Jo Palmer, Kate Agee, and Jaylin Smith. Kit and Jo are the top jumpers. Kit is sixteen. She is an awesome jumper. She has been jumping rope since she was five. She is also one of the most cheerful kids I know. Kit has a great smile. She is always quiet. She always keeps her cool. I have never seen her get mad. Jo is something else. She jumps like a goddess, and sometimes she acts like one, too. She plans the tricks they do. She says who goes where. She is the boss.

The day I visited, the Jumping Stars were practicing a trick Jo had made up for herself and Kit. It was called the flip. When the Stars do the flip, Jo starts out jumping next to Kit. Then she draws near to Kit. Then she flips over Kit’s back and lands on the far side. Both of them keep jumping all the while. It’s a cool trick.

I looked on as the kids did the flip six times. Three times they nailed it. Three times they missed it. You could see Jo was upset when she and Kit muffed the trick. Jo would moan and groan. She would cross her arms and sulk. Jo would set her hands on her hips like a mom who is mad at her kids. But Jo was mad at herself, so she went and sat on the lawn.


After a bit, the Jumping Stars paused for a rest. That gave me a chance to chat with them.

“There’s a big jumping contest next week,” Kit explained.

“Think you can win it?” I asked.

“I hope so,” said Kit. “Last time we were seventh.”

“Nice job!” I said.

“Seventh is not good!” Jo said. Kit and the rest of the Jumping Stars nodded. But they did not seem to feel the pain of seventh place quite as much as Jo.

“That flip you were practicing — will you be doing that one in the meet?”

“I hope so,” said Jo. “We need to get good at it. We need to get to the point where we nail it nine times out of ten.” Then Jo said to her teammates, “Let’s do it! We are going to keep practicing from dawn until dusk, until we can do the flip in our sleep!”


I could not make it to the jump rope contest. I had to go to a wedding. But I told Jo and Kit I would speak to them after it was over to see how the Jumping Stars did. But that is not what happened. They rang me.

“Mark?” Kit said. “Hey, it’s Kit Winter.”

“Hey, Kit! How did it go?”

“Well, not quite as well as we had hoped,” said Kit.

“We made it to the last round, but when we did the flip, we sort of muffed it when my foot got caught in the rope.”

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Kids Excel


Lesson 34 – Part Five

NEW WORDS: Jethro, Jethro’s, arched, backyard, cascading, dispute, eggplants, enter, excelling, intense, mag, nickname, opener, otter, pouncing, profile, sending, sipping, splashes, squads, switch, trellis, wilted

The Dispute
“Aw,” I said, “that’s too bad. What place did you get?”


“Fifth? Fifth is good, Kit! That’s two spots better than last time!”

“Well,” Kit said, “don’t tell Jo that fifth place is cool. She’s here, and she wants to tell you something.”

Jo got on the line. “Fifth is no good!” she said. “We need to keep practicing. We need to do better tricks. I need to land the flip!” This is classic Jo. She is intense and hard on herself. She always wants to be better. Jo went on. “It’s a bummer. But I felt like we had to tell you that we can’t be in Kids Excel after all.”

“Why not?”

“Fifth place is not bad — but not bad is not the same as excelling,” said Jo.


“I think fifth place is good. I think you told me there were a hundred jumping squads in the contest.”

“One hundred and ten,” said Jo. “But still, fifth stinks. We can do better! And when we do, then you can run something on us in Kids Excel. But not until then.”

I had to smile. “Hey, Jo,” I said, “you are not the boss of me! Kids Excel is my mag. I get to say who gets to be in it. I happen to think that you and Kit and the rest of the Jumping Stars do excel.”

“Please don’t run a profile of us yet!” Jo said. “Wait until we excel!”

“I’ll think it over,” I said. Jo hung up. I did think things over. I think that Jo and Kit and the Jumping Stars are cool. I don’t care that they came in fifth place. Jo is awesome, and they all train so hard, that I bet they will not be in fifth place the next time they enter a contest. So here they are — the Jumping Stars! (Jo Palmer, if you are looking at this, don’t be upset at me. I can tell when kids excel. It’s my job!)


The Splash Artist
When Jethro Otter jumps into his pool, a wave jumps out. Or rather, it is driven out by the force of Jethro landing. You see, Jethro is a splash artist.

“For a long time, my nickname was The Splash King,” Jethro explained as I sat with him and his dad on the deck in their backyard.
“But then I switched it to The Splash Artist,” said his dad.

“Why the switch?” I asked.

“Well, you see,” said Jethro’s dad, “Jethro is not just good at making a big splash. He can also make the splash shoot this way or that. He can pick a target and hit it within a foot or two. If you ask me, it’s an art form. And that’s why I gave him the nickname The Splash Artist.”

“Wait a minute!” I said. “Are you saying that if you and I pick a target, he can jump in the pool and make the splash hit the target?”

“Yep — as long as it’s in his splashing reach.”


“I would like to see that!” I said.

“Will do!” said Jethro. “Which bed do you want me to hit, Dad?”

“Um, why don’t you hit the one with the green peppers,” said his dad.

“No problem,” said Jethro. He went to the pool house to get his swim trunks. While Jethro was getting his swim trunks, his dad and I looked at the yard. He pointed out some shrubs, a wooden trellis, and a set of garden beds he had planted on one side of the pool. The garden beds were filled with lots of lettuce, peppers, and eggplants. Jethro’s dad pointed out that the green peppers in one of the beds looked a bit wilted.

“It was hot the past two days,” he said. “The peppers could use a splash.”

Jethro came out of the pool house with his trunks on. “We had better step back a bit,” said Jethro’s dad, “unless you are in the mood to get wet.” We took five big steps back.


Jethro went out to the pool. His two sisters were floating on pool rafts. One of them was sipping a drink. They did not see Jethro. Jethro snuck up on them. He bounced once. He bounced twice. That was when his sisters spotted him. They shouted and went to the end of the pool. But they were not Jethro’s target.

At the last moment, Jethro grabbed one knee. Then he tilted himself back, and jumped so his back hit the pool. A great wave rose out of the pool and arched into the air. It rose up and came crashing down, like a cat pouncing on a mouse. His sisters winced, thinking the wave would land on them. But it did not hit them. It landed, just as Jethro had said it would, on the garden bed with the green peppers.

“Nice one!” said Jethro’s dad. “That should keep those peppers moist!”

Jethro, also known as The Splash Artist, had a lot of splashes that he could do. He tucked his legs up into his chest and smacked into the pool, sending a splash cascading onto the shrubs. Then he did a “can opener” and sent a big splash onto his sisters. It was a hot day, so they were not too upset.

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Kids Excel


Lesson 35 – Part Six 

NEW WORDS: Brucker, Dutch, Hans, Maud, Netherlands, aced, aiming, booklet, divide, facing, jotting, latest, matters, outsplash, slanted, spends, splashman, subtract, texted, translate, winner’s, wrapping

The Art of the Splash
When Jethro finished splashing, we sat down to chat. “So how did you get into splashing?” I asked.

“I have been splashing since I was five or six. You see, Dad and I like to swim. In the summer we are out here by the pool all weekend,” said Jethro. “We swim and splash from dawn to dusk. When I was six or seven we started to have splash contests.”

“Dad was bigger than me. He still is. So he makes a big splash. I saw that if I wanted to outsplash him, I had to be smart. I found out there is an art to how you land in the pool. If you bend at the moment you hit, that helps a lot. If you hit the pool sort of slanted, you can make a big, big splash. And, best of all, you can target the splash. What matters the most is how your back is facing when you hit. You can bend it and tilt it all sorts of different ways. Once you get the hang of it, you can make the splash shoot off to one side and start aiming at targets, like garden beds, or sisters. Sisters are harder to hit since they can run and swim. Also, sometimes they splash you back.”


“How long did it take you to get good at splashing?” I asked.

“It took a long time. I’d say five summers. I made hundreds and hundreds of splashes. Lots of them were lame.”

This is something almost all of the kids I meet tell me. Whether they excel at making splashes or spelling words, they all say it takes time to get good. If you want to be good at something, you have to keep at it. If you want to be one of the best, you have to keep at it day in and day out.

“So you used those tricks to win the big contest?”

“Yep. The Splashman Contest was last week. Dad and I went down for it. On my last splash I landed a nice one. I soaked the deck. All the fans were dripping wet. At the Splashman Contest that’s a good thing. The fans there want to get wet. They think you are awesome if you soak them to the skin. It’s not like when you get your sisters wet and they run off to whine to Mom. Boo, hoo!”


“It was a great splash,” said his dad. “One of the best I’ve ever seen!”
“What was the prize?” I asked.

“A hundred bucks,” said Jethro.

“What are you going to spend it on?”

“Um,” Jethro said, “Mom says we have to use it to fill the pool.”

Jethro’s dad nodded. “Man, you should see our pool bill!” he said. “We have to fill the pool each day to make up for what Jethro splashes out. A splash here, a splash there. After a while, it starts to add up.”

It was getting late. I had jotted down all the facts. It was time for me to go. I shook hands with The Splash Artist. Then I went back to my car. As I drove off, I saw Jethro do one last splash. He sent a huge splash shooting onto one of the garden beds. I think it was the one with the eggplants.


The Math Contest
There were lots and lots of kids taking the state math test as part of a math contest. I grabbed a test booklet and a pencil. I sat down. This is what I saw in the test booklet:

Problem 1. Three runners are running a ten-mile race. Runner 1 runs a mile in six minutes. Runner 2 runs a mile in seven minutes. Runner 3 runs a mile in ten minutes. After five miles, Runner 1 and Runner 2 sit down to have lunch. Runner 1 spends fifteen minutes eating her lunch. Runner 2 spends ten minutes eating her lunch. Runner 3 keeps running. Who wins the race?

A lot of time has passed since I took a math class. I had to sit and think. It took me ten minutes, but in the end I did get Problem 1. (Runner 1 wins.) After I did Problem 1, I was feeling proud of myself. Then I looked at the kids sitting next to me. They had finished lots of problems in the time it had taken me to do one. One of them was on Problem 10. One was on Problem 15.


I looked at Problem 2. There were numbers and letters all over the place. You had to add. You had to subtract. You had to divide. You had to take the square root of a number. I kept at it for ten minutes. But I got mixed up. At last I wrote so much that my pencil broke! The problem was just too much for me. I closed the test booklet and handed it back to Dr. Maud Chang.

“What did you think?” she asked.

I think I didn’t do so well,” I said. “I did Problem 1, but Problem 2 was too hard for me.” By this point, I was not feeling proud of myself.

But Dr. Chang was sweet. She smiled and patted me on the back. Then she said, “You should be proud you got one. This is a hard test.”

Dr. Chang and I sat down to chat.

“The kids taking the test are sixteen or seventeen,” she explained. “There are 60 of them. There are 100 problems on the test.”

“Are all of the problems as hard as the two I did?”

Dr. Chang smiled. “Well, yes. The problems get harder and harder as you go on.”


“I see!” So, if Problem 1 and Problem 2 were that hard, then just think of what the rest must be like! “How much time do the kids get?” I asked.

“180 minutes.”

“And who will grade the tests?”

“I will,” said Dr. Chang. “We should have the winner’s name by the end of next week.”

“Good,” I said. “Let me know who wins.”

Dr. Chang texted me the next week. “We have a winner!” she texted. “The winner of the math contest is Hans Brucker!”

I met Hans not long after. We met in his math classroom. Hans is sixteen. He is Dutch. His mom came with him to the United States when he was twelve. He is blond and thin.

“I am from the Netherlands,” Hans said. “My English, sad to say, it is not so good.”


The Winner
“Well,” I said, “my math is not so good. I could not get past Problem 2 on that test.”

“Problem 2?” said Hans. “That was this one, I think.” Hans wrote out the problem.

“Yes,” I moaned, “I tried that problem and I lost.”

I watched as Hans started jotting down numbers and letters. He got the problem in less than a minute. “See?” he said. “It is not so hard!”

“Hans,” I said, “Dr. Chang tells me you aced that test. She says you missed just six problems out of a hundred. That is fantastic! Tell me. How did you get so good at math?”

Hans sat down and told me the tale of his life. He spoke good English, but with a thick accent. “When I was a kid in the Netherlands, math was the subject I liked best. When I was seven I found that doing math problems was a lot of fun. So I would check out math books and do the problems in them, just for fun.” I jotted down notes.

“In life there are some problems you can take care of,” Hans explained. “Then there are some problems you can’t. But math problems are not like that. If you think hard and stick with it, you can get the math problems.”


“Well,” I said. “Maybe you can! But not all of us can, as I found out last week.”

Hans went on, “I never made a plan to get good at math. I just did problems for fun. I did a lot of problems. And after a while I got good at it.”

“The test was in English. Did that make it harder for you?”

“I used to think the word problems would be hard, but they were not so bad. I had to translate the words from English into Dutch. But the numbers are the same in English as in Dutch. They look the same on the page, and they stand for the same things. So there is no need to translate. That is part of why I like math so much. It is the same in all places. 3 + 3 = 6 in the Netherlands. It is the same here in the United States. It is the same on the moon, or on Mars!”

I was wrapping up my meeting with Hans Brucker, who happens to be the latest state math champ. I asked him, “Has winning the state math contest made your life different?”

“Overall, my life is the same,” said Hans. “I was in the paper. Then that stopped. The main thing that is different is that I have been getting a lot of mail.”

“What sort of mail? Fan mail?”

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading 

(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view.)
Kids Excel


Lesson 36 – Part Seven 

NEW WORDS: Cayman, Cornell, Denmark, Penn, Ping’s, Poland, Wisconsin, Yale, ace, begging, bravo, colleges, handful, hooked, kingdom, misspelling, patting, plonk, pondering, reeled, sidearm, skiffers, skiffing, skips, skittering, sling, smutting, snapshot, starters, subtitles, whitecaps, wincing

Too Much Mail
“Well, sort of. The mail I am getting is from colleges where math is taught. I got a letter from a college in the United States. The name of the college is Yale. Is Yale a good place to take math classes?”

“I’m not an expert on math, but I’ll bet it is,” I said.

“Yes? Yale is good? OK, I will . . . what is it you say in English? I will make a note of that. But you see, there is a problem.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“Too much mail! You see, it is not just Yale. I am getting lots of letters. Yesterday I got a letter from a college named Penn State. Last week I got letters from Wisconsin and Cornell. So, this is the problem: lots of colleges. They all write to say: ‘Pick us! Take a math class with us!’ Which one should I pick?”

“Hans,” I said, “this is what we call a good problem to have. If you think hard and stick with it, I just bet you will get this problem, too!”


How to Skip a Rock
I was standing by the side of Lake Cayman with ace rock skipper Moe Keller. Moe, who is eleven, was telling me how to skip a rock. “For starters,” he said, “you have to pick a good rock. You want one that is smooth and flat.” Moe bent down and scooped up some rocks. He held them in his hands for me to see.

“Here are some rocks that are just begging to be skipped! See how nice and flat they are?” Moe picked one of the rocks. It was small, thin, smooth, and gray. It was two inches from end to end. He held it in his hand so I could see it.

“You want to hold it in your hand, with the flat side down. Wrap the side of the rock with your index finger, like this. Then sling it. It’s best to toss sidearm. You don’t want to aim it down at the lake too much. You want the rock to be whizzing just inches from the top of the lake. And, as you let go of the rock, you want to snap your wrist so the rock starts spinning.”

I looked on as Moe tossed the rock. It went skittering on the lake. Pitter-pat, pitter-pat, pitter-pat, pitter-pat. It must have skipped ten or twelve times. “You want to skip one?” Moe asked.

It did not look hard when Moe did it. So, I bent down and picked up a rock. I wrapped the rock in my finger. Then I flung it sidearm at the lake. The rock struck the lake and sank. I can’t say it sank like a rock since it was a rock. The point is, it did not skip.


“When the rock sinks like that, we say it’s a plonk,” said Moe. “That’s not what we want to see.” I picked up a rock and tossed it. Plonk! “Snap your wrist!” Moe called. I snapped my wrist as well as I could. Plonk!

“You are so close,” said Moe. “Let me help you.” He came up to my side and pointed out how to toss the rock. I tossed the rock. This time it was different. The rock hit the top of the lake and went pitter-pat. It was just three skips, but it felt awesome. “Rock solid!” shouted Moe.

I soon found out that Moe, as a rock-skipper, likes to use the word “rock.” He sticks it in whenever he gets a chance. I skipped a bunch of rocks. I got one to skip five times. Moe yelled, “You rock!”

The next rock I tossed skipped six times. “It’s like magic!” I said. “It’s cool! I’m hooked!”

As we roamed by the lake, Moe Keller gave me a lesson on rock skipping as a sport. “What matters?” I asked. “Is it how far the rock skips or the number of times it skips?”

“Well,” said Moe, “here in the United States what matters is the number of times the rock skips. But in the United Kingdom it’s not like that. Over there what matters is how far the rock goes. Also, over there in the United Kingdom it is not named rock skipping.”


Letting the Ducks Out
“What is it named?”

“Stone skiffing.”

“Skiffing? I like the sound of that!”

When Moe saw that I liked the word “skiffing,” he reeled off a list of names for skipping rocks. “In Denmark, it is named ‘smutting.’ In Spain, it’s ‘making whitecaps.’ In Poland it’s ‘letting the ducks out.'”

“Letting the ducks out? Are you kidding?”

“No joke. That’s what they say.”

“Why do they say that?”

Moe shrugged, “I’m not sure.”

“Let’s focus on the number of skips,” I said. “What’s a good number?”

“15 is not bad. 20 is good. 30 is awesome. The record number of skips ever is 51.”

“51? And I was so proud of my six skips!”


“Well,” Moe said, “you are just starting out.”

“I think you said you went to a stone skiffing contest in the United Kingdom. How did it go? Did you skiff your way to a prize?” I asked.

“I had one great skiff,” said Moe. “It landed me in fifth place.”

“Out of?”

“Out of a hundred or so skiffers.”

“That’s so cool!” I said, patting him on the back.

Bravo! That’s the way to let the ducks out!”

Moe smiled. “Want to see a snapshot?” he asked. I nodded. Moe got out a snapshot of him with his prize. “My goal for the next trip over there is to be in the top three,” he said.

“Rock on!” I said.

Photo subtitles for the entire unit:

Nate Griffin, Craig Ping, Gail Day. Craig Ping’s last stand. Nate Griffin spelling in the air. Gail Day thinking. Nate Griffin pondering the spelling of “penicillin.” Nate Griffin wincing after misspelling “penicillin.” Gail Day smiles with her prize. The Day home is in West Beach. Gail’s dad, David Day. Gail’s mom, Karen Day. A spelling tree for “ae.” Kim Castro. Val Castro. Val Castro. Coach Pibwell. Val swimming. Coach Stan Pibwell smiles at the swimmers. Kim Castro excels in the sprint races. Fans clap for the Castro sisters. Kim Castro (on the left) smiles at her sister, Val, after Val’s win in the 200 free. Les and Pat Pinker. Kit Winter. Jo Palmer. Kate Agee. Jaylin Smith. Jo. The Jumping Stars. Bed of Lettuce. Jethro’s dad. Jethro splashes his sisters. Jethro grows up. The test. Dr. Maud Chang. Winner Hans Brucker. Hans works on a math problem. Hans doing the problem that I couldn’t do. Hans grows up. Yale. Too much mail. A handful of good skipping rocks. Moe skips a rock. My plonk. Mark’s second try.


Lesson 37 – Poems And Rhymes

NEW WORDS: Henry, almanac, beak, beggarmen, bringing, chosen, crinkles, dairy, dell, elevator, game’s, giggling, gloomers, gobbles, grims, groceries, hovering, hurried, icicle, kafir, knave, millet, packages, peeking, porridge, pouts, preach, prey, pulpit, rests, scowls, sittin, steamboat, strain, swine, tarts, upward

An Icicle
Lives in winter, dies in summer,
And grows with its roots upward!


A Ship’s Nail
Over the water, and under the water,
And always with its head down.


A Sunshiny Shower
A sunshiny shower,
Won’t last half an hour.


The Farmer In The Dell
The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the farmer in the dell.

The farmer takes a wife, the farmer takes a wife,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the farmer takes a wife.

The wife takes a child, the wife takes a child,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the wife takes a child.

The child takes a nurse, the child takes a nurse,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the child takes a nurse.

The nurse takes a cat, the nurse takes a cat,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the nurse takes a cat.

The cat takes a rat, the cat takes a rat,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the cat takes a rat.

The rat takes the cheese, the rat takes the cheese,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the rat takes the cheese.

The cheese stands alone, the cheese stands alone,
Hi! Ho! The dairy, Oh, the cheese stands alone.


The Elevator
The elevator in the store has a door that slides open, closed.

Then the man pushes a button, and up and up the elevator slips, and stops.

And out go some people, and in come some people.

And up and up the elevator slips, and stops.

And out go some people, and in come some people.

And down and down, the elevator drops, to the floor where I get out.

Poem by Dorothy Baruch

Little Birdie
What does little birdie say, in her nest at peep of day?

Let me fly says little birdie, Mother let me fly away.

Birdie, rest a little longer, till the little wings are stronger.

So, she rests a little longer, then she flies away.

Poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Uncle Henry
When Uncle Henry was a little tiny boy, a-sittin‘ on his daddy’s knee,

He said, “When I grow up to be a man, a steamboat man, I want to be!”


Little Ant
This little ant worked with might and strain, bringing in wood till it started to rain.

Then to his ant-hill, off he hurried, heading into his little house, to there he scurried.


Birds Of A Feather
Birds of a feather flock together, and so will pigs and swine.

Rats and mice will have their choice, and so will I have mine.


Blow, Wind
Blow, wind, blow, and go mill, go!

That the miller may grind his corn, that the baker may take it,

And into rolls make it, and send us some hot in the morn.


Five minutes, five minutes more, please! Let me stay five minutes more!

Can’t I just finish the castle I’m building here on the floor?

Can’t I just finish the story I’m reading here in my book?

Can’t I just finish this bead-chain, it ALMOST is finished, look!

Can’t I just finish this game, please?

When a game’s once begun, it’s a pity to never find out whether you’ve lost or won.

Can’t I just stay five minutes? Well, can’t I just stay four?

Three minutes, then? Two minutes? Can’t I just stay ONE minute more?

Poem by Eleanor Farjeon

Open Your Beak
Open your beak, my little bird, open your beak, my little bird!

Stir the porridge, do not spill it. Mother, I will eat the millet!

Give my bird the Kafir corn, let us eat, for it is morn.


The store around the corner has groceries to sell.

I go there with my mother, I like that very well.

We look in the store windows, as we walk down the street.

We bring home many packages of groceries to eat.

Poem by James S. Tippett

Singing Children
Here we come, we children come, from door to door we sing.

See! We’ve found a swallow, the first to come this Spring!

So give us something good to eat, give us cakes or cookies sweet,

Bring us bread, too, if you please, and we’d like a piece of cheese!

Open the door, open the door, take in the swallow of Spring!

For we’re no beggarmen out here, we’re only children who sing!

Poem by Theognis (500 B.C.)

The Zoo in the Park
Here we go to the zoo in the park, the zoo in the park, the zoo in the park.

Here we go to the zoo in the park, so early in the morning.

This is the way the elephant walks, the elephant walks, the elephant walks.

This is the way the elephant walks, so early in the morning.

This is the way the kangaroo hops, the kangaroo hops, the kangaroo hops. 

This is the way the kangaroo hops, so early in the morning.

This is the way the monkey jumps, the monkey jumps, the monkey jumps.

This is the way the monkey jumps, so early in the morning.

This is the way the birdie flies, the birdie flies, the birdie flies.

This is the way the birdie flies, so early in the morning.


The Queen Of Hearts
The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all in a summer’s day.

The Knave of Hearts, he stole the tarts, and took them clean away.

The King of Hearts, called for the tarts, kicked the Knave out the door.

The Knave of Hearts, brought back the tarts, and vowed he’d steal no more.


Brown and furry,
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk,
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you,
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

Poem by Christina Rossetti

Rooster And Turkey
A woman had a rooster, a rooster, a rooster.

She put him in a shoe, in a shoe, in a shoe.

Oh my little rooster, rooster, rooster,

How do you like it, in the shoe, in the shoe?

A woman had a turkey, a turkey, a turkey.

She put him in a sack, in a sack, in a sack.

Oh my little turkey, turkey, turkey,

How do you like it, in the sack, in the sack?


Someone’s Face
Someone’s face was all frowned shut, all squeezed full of grims and crinkles,

Pouts and scowls and gloomers, but, I could see behind the wrinkles.

Even with her face a-twist, I saw Someone peeking through.

And when Someone’s nose was kissed, guess who came out giggling? – YOU!

Poem by John Ciardi

The Greedy Man
The greedy man is he who sits, and bites bits out of plates.

Or else takes up an almanac, and gobbles all the dates.


July Fourth
Go ask your mother for fifty cents, to see the elephant jump the fence.

He jumped so high, he touched the sky, and he never came down, till the Fourth of July!


The Pulpit
I stand in the pulpit and preach, the animals I must teach.

My rooster and my hen, my sermon I begin.

My cow and my calf, my sermon is half.

My cat and my mouse, you can all leave the house!


Lesson 38 – Inf./Deriv. Builder

NEW WORDS: African, Africans, Australians, Babs, Barack, Bert, Gwen, Lowes, Obama, Oscars, Swahili, abilities, abodes, accidents, ache, aches, aching, acids, acres, actions, actress, actresses, addresses, advanced, advances, advancing, aged, agents, aims, airplanes, alarming, alerted, alerting, ales, allergy, allowed, allowing, altercations, amaze, amazes, amidst, amounting, amuse, amused, amuses, angles, angling, announces, annoyed, aped, apexes, aping, aprons, arches, arching, arguments, armed, arrives, artists, asking, aspens, asters, athletes, athletic, attacking, attics, automatic, autos, autumns, avidly, avoid, await, awaits, axles, banana, baying, beau, boll, border, candle, careers, carwash, ceilings, choir, coaster, couple, cowards, damaged, deadline, driest, funeral, head’s, massage, oven’s, prisoner, prune, rate, reads, singer’s, songbirds, spreading, toddler’s, tornado, traitor, wadded, wadding, waddles, waddling, wads, wagged, wags, wail, wailing, wails, waists, walling, walnuts, wandering, wanders, wanes, warble, warbled, warblers, warbling, warehouses, warmest, warming, warned, warns, wart, wasted, wastes, wealth, weapon, webs, weddings, weeded, weeding, weep, weeps, weevils, weighing, weirder, welcomed, welcoming, weld, welder, welds, wetter, wettest, wheelbarrows, where’d, whining, whisker, whisks, whistles, whistling, whiter, whitest, whizzed, wicks, wider, widest, wiggled, wigs, wildest, willows, wines, winged, winking, winters, wisest, wit, wobbled, wobbles, wobbling, wolves, worded, wording, wormed, worming, worries, would’ve, wraps, wrecks, wrens, wrinkled, writers, wussies, yams, yanking, yanks, yapped, yardbird, yellower, yellowest, yelp, yelped, yodel, yowl, yowling, yowls, zagged, zagging, zags, zigged, zigging, zigs, zinger, zingers, zipped   

She has the yellowest teeth!

Whose dog is yowling?

The baby wails when she gets a shot.

That couple has too many altercations.

He has lots of athletic abilities.

That joke was a real zinger.

I hear wolves baying.

His life’s not amounting to much.

I’m not asking for much.

I’ve never seen wetter spider webs.

Their driveway is wider than ours.

I need that list of addresses.

The toddler’s wobbling when he walks.

She’s not amused by that joke.

I’ll wail if you hit me!

Their abodes were damaged by the tornado.

She worries too much.

That’s a long cat whisker.

You’re allowed to stay up till 11:00.

That’s the wildest roller coaster!


Taste these English ales.

That cop has an automatic weapon.

Mom’s aprons are stained.

Babs has the widest smile!

The wheels came off of their axles.

What tune is Beau whistling?

A problem is weighing on me.

Uncle Bert is a welder.

Clean our autos at that carwash.

These candle wicks are too short.

He’s angling to get that new job.

My body aches all over.

I wasted my time on that.

I would’ve done something different.

Mom’s annoyed with us.

Weld the pipe where you see a crack.

He has a wealth of knowledge.

Mom weeded the garden.

Warehouses have tall ceilings.

I wonder what awaits us.


My dog wags his tail a lot.

A prune is wrinkled.

They have a welcoming home.

Some winged creatures can’t fly.

Australians have a neat accent.

The bunny zigged and zagged.

We advanced to the next round!

Will your dog yelp at me?

Attics are creepy.

The dog yapped all night.

I’ve never known a weirder guy.

I wormed my way through the crowd.

I’ve been in two car wrecks.

Those actresses won Oscars.

I bet he warns you to stop.

Gramps is the wisest man I know.

This is the warmest day of the year.

They look like secret agents.

Your arguments are weak.

You could be wording this better.


Are the willows in bloom?

Mom will weep at the end of this film.

I bet he zigs before he zags.

I have an allergy to nuts.

Stop yanking my hair!

I zipped up my coat.

She’ll yowl if you pinch her.

Writers at the paper went on strike.

I bet he announces the good news today.

We’ve made many advances in science.

Are there walnuts in this ice cream?

Why’s she winking at me?

They’re attacking the enemy at night.

The cat’s arching her back.

He wastes his days watching TV.

He has a dry wit.

The crowd laughed at his zingers.

She reads avidly.

Dad’s weeding the garden.

Boll weevils attack cotton plants.


The duck wobbled to the pond.

The baby wiggled in her lap.

The bird warbled a nice tune.

I’ve never seen a yellower banana.

Airplanes fly over our house.

He’s zig-zagging around the yard.

I’m alerting you about the storm.

Our waists have gotten bigger.

Those wussies are cowards.

They’re at the apexes of their careers.

Watch how that goose waddles.

I’ll await your call.

They’re walling up the border.

We had the wettest summer.

She aims to please!

Wrens are in the birdbath.

She always amazes me.

Warblers are songbirds.

Many Africans speak Swahili.

A fly whizzed by.


There’s a wart on his hand.

My head’s aching!

I warned you about that!

He welds metal carefully.

You haven’t aged a bit!

The oven’s warming up.

He’s wadding up the paper.

She’s worming her way to the front.

I bet he yanks out his tooth.

She yelped when he gave her a shot.

The baby aped my smile.

Throw away these wads of paper.

He’s a wandering gypsy.

Stop your whining!

Your actions will get you in trouble.

I hope it arrives soon!

Ducks look funny when they’re waddling.

Thanks for allowing me to do that.

Aspens are pretty in the fall.

These artists were famous.


These whistles are shrill.

He died three winters ago.

Mom weeps at weddings.

We’ll serve red and white wines.

A yodel is a type of warble.

My energy wanes by 9:00 P.M.

My feet have weak arches.

These acids could burn you!

I went to Lowes to look at wheelbarrows.

Those scholar athletes get good grades.

I wish my teeth were whiter.

I hope this tale amuses you.

That singer’s become an actress.

Their dog yowls like a wolf.

She was wailing at the funeral.

He worded his speech well.

It’s one of the driest autumns I’ve seen.

I hear a choir of warbling birds.

The flu is spreading at an alarming rate.

I armed the alarm.


 They live on four acres.

That about wraps it up.

Gwen is aping her older sister.

Mom whisks eggs like this.

He wadded up her “Dear John” letter.

She grows purple asters.

My magic will amaze you.

A bee is zigging around my head.

Please avoid having any accidents.

There’s a traitor amidst us.

Amuse yourself for the next hour.

Which of my wigs should I wear?

I was welcomed with open arms.

We learned about angles in math.

Where’d he run off to?

You’ll ache after I give you this massage.

He’s got the whitest hair among us.

This table wobbles.

Yardbird” is a nickname for “prisoner.”

They alerted us about the deadline.

Mom cooks yams for Thanksgiving.

Barack Obama was our first African-American president!

Ten to one, she wanders over here.

The line is advancing forward.

Fido wagged his tail when he saw me.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading 

(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Let’s Explore Our World

Lesson 39 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Arctic, Boston, Canada, Canadian, Canadians, Colorado, Inuit, Iowa, Maya, Mayans, Mexican, Mexicans, Niagara, Quebec, Utah, acrobats, annual, antlers, breathtaking, central, components, continents, costumes, countries, destination, domicile, eagle, elongated, event, expanse, farthest, fireworks, frigid, globe, grandest, holiday, holidays, horseshoe, independence, intimidating, landscape, lofty, majestic, maps, menacing, metropolitan, model, monument, ocelot, ocelots, parades, peering, renowned, reside, residents, ruins, rural, scenery, southwestern, sustain, temples, treetops, waterfall, waterfalls, waterway

Chapter One: Where Do You Live?
People live in lots of kinds of homes. What about you? What’s your domicile like?

Do you live in a house? Is it in a town? Do you live in an apartment? Is it in a metropolitan area?

Do you live on a farm? Is it in a rural area? Do you reside in a houseboat? Is it on a waterway?

What’s your neighborhood like? Do you have friends there? Can you play outside there?

Do you live in a U.S. state? A state is a big place. It’s way larger than your neighborhood. Which state are you in?

And you live in a country. That’s a place with a government. There are laws. They’re for all the people. They help you know right from wrong. They say what you can do. They say what you can’t do. Countries have names. What’s your country’s name?


Chapter Two: Finding Your Way Around
Maps help us to understand our world. Maps help us to find our way around. They show you how to get to your destination.

There are maps of lots of places. There are maps for all of the U.S. states. Here’s a map of California.

This is a map of the United States. It shows our 50 U.S. states.

The world has lots of countries. Most are found on large areas of land. We call these “continents.” There are seven of them. You can see those seven on this world map. The U.S. is on the continent of North America.

The map also shows the world’s oceans. They’re in blue. Look for the two grandest ones. One’s the Atlantic. One’s the Pacific.

This is a globe. It’s not the same as a map. It’s a round model of our world. We call our world “Earth.” Earth is round! What do we call the farthest northern point? It’s the North Pole. And the farthest southern point? It’s the South Pole. This is Earth. Earth is our home in space. It’s the only planet in our solar system that we believe can sustain life.


Chapter Three: Let’s Explore North America: The United States
North America is a continent. It has four major components. They’re the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Would you like to explore them? Good! First stop is the U.S.

The U.S. has big cities. Boston is one of them. The U.S. has farmland in many states. Iowa is such a place. Here, corn and wheat are grown. The U.S. has breathtaking scenery. It has majestic, snowy mountains. The Rocky Mountains are such a place. It has wide, rushing rivers. The Colorado River is one of these.

Check out Monument Valley. It’s a red-sand desert area. It’s on the Arizona-Utah border. It has giant hills of stone. They stand tall on the dusty, desert landscape.

The Navajo people live here. They’ve been on these desert lands for a long time. How long? Thousands of years! The desert is their home!

The U.S. has thousands of kinds of animals. Here are a few. There’s a mother black bear. She’s with her cubs. Then, there’s a bald eagle. Then, a rattlesnake, and a river otter. How would you describe each animal?


Chapter Four: Let’s Explore North America: Mexico and Canada
Let’s explore some more!

Mexico has a big holiday each year. It’s September 16. They celebrate their Independence Day. They dress up. They have parades. Can you think of a day like that in the U.S.? You’re right if you said July the Fourth!

Mexico has another big holiday. It’s November 1 and 2. It’s the “Day of the Dead.” Children dress up in menacing-looking costumes. They eat lots of candy! Does that sound like an annual event in the U.S.? You’ve got it! Halloween.

There are deep forests in Mexico. There, you’ll find ruins of great cities. They were built long ago. Those people were called the Maya. They were “Mayans.” The Maya built huge temples in their cities. They went high up. They had steps. No one lives in these cities now. But the Mayans do still live in Mexico.


There’s a giant city in Mexico. It’s one of the largest in the world. It’s called Mexico City. Millions of people live there. And Mexicans speak Spanish. 

What might you find in a Mexican forest? You might catch sight of this. It’s a small, wild cat. It’s called an “ocelot.” It might be waiting to pounce. Ocelots live and hunt in Mexican forests. An ocelot is twice the size of a house cat.

What if you looked up? What might be in the lofty treetops? You might see a spider monkey. It could be peering down at you. Spider monkeys have elongated arms and legs. They have tails that grip. They swing like acrobats through the high treetops!

Now we’re off to Canada! What will we find there? July 1 is one of their big holidays. They celebrate “Canada Day.” On this day, Canadians are proud of their country. They have parties. They have parades. They watch fireworks.

English is the language in much of Canada. But lots of folks speak French. Some folks speak both languages. Most French speakers live in “Quebec.” What does the sign on the school bus say?


Canada has a renowned waterfall. It’s Horseshoe Falls. Right next to Horseshoe Falls is Niagara Falls. That’s in the U.S. What if you stand close to these waterfalls? You’ll hear a loud sound. That’s the rushing water.

What’s in the north of Canada? It’s cold there! Lots of the broad expanse is frozen for much of the year. There are residents there called the “Inuit.” This is their home. They hunt fish. And they build their homes on this frozen land. They’re like the Navajo in the southwestern U.S. The Inuit have lived in Canada for thousands of years.

This is an intimidating animal. It’s the Canadian bull moose. It lives in woodlands. Those are in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. How big is a fully grown bull moose? It’s taller than a horse! Its antlers can be five feet wide!

Here’s an arctic rabbit. It lives in the frigid areas of northern Canada. There’s often lots of snow there. This rabbit has thick, white fur. That helps to keep it warm.

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading 

(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view. This lesson is a “READ-ALOUD” Core Knowledge (R) passage that has been rewritten to be at a lower-grade independent reading level complexity than the original, largely by shortening and simplifying sentence structures while maintaining the richness of the text content.)
Let’s Explore Our World

Lesson 40 – Part Two

NEW WORDS: Aboriginal, Aborigines, Amazon, Andes, Antarctic, Antarctica, Anzac, Asia, Asian, Brazil, China’s, Chinese, Colombia, December, Eiffel, European, Everest, Germany, Harbin, Hohenzollern, Holi, Inca, India, Italy, January, Kilimanjaro, Malayan, Medellin, Mediterranean, Nepal, Paris, Peru, Sahara, Saharan, Tanzania, Tibet, Tunisia, Uluru, Venice, Yanomami, Zealand, ancestors, approximately, arrangement, arrangements, arrival, ascertain, astounding, balance, bamboo, beaks, beloved, brazilwood, bulky, camels, carnival, castle, celebrated, competition, connects, constructed, crimson, customs, empties, enemies, epicenter, eucalyptus, explorers, extensive, female, festival, flows, globetrot, grasslands, groups, growers, hedgehogs, higher, honors, hoppers, includes, incredible, international, investigate, joeys, judges, kangaroos, koala, koalas, krill, llamas, mammal, marten, martens, masks, meticulously, mountaintop, multiple, national, obtain, oddly, pandas, peaks, penguins, people’s, perches, poppies, prides, queens, quetzal, quetzals, rainbow’s, related, remembrance, responsibility, rhinos, rotting, sandstone, sculpture, sculptures, seabirds, shrimplike, snaking, snouts, sojourn, solemn, somber, source, spiky, spring’s, structure, tapir, tapirs, tourists, towering, tusks, tuxedos, varying, venerate, vision, windiest, woodland

Chapter Five: Let’s Explore South America
There are twelve countries in South America. Let’s explore some!

The largest is Brazil. The name “Brazil” comes from a tree. It’s called “brazilwood.”

There’s a beloved sport in Brazil. It’s soccer. It’s also known as “football.” Kids play it every chance they get!

The largest rainforest in the world is in South America. It’s the Amazon Rainforest. It’s HUGE! It would cover much of the U.S. Most of the rainforest is in Brazil. The Amazon Rainforest is home to thousands of people and animals.

A river flows through the center of the rainforest. It’s the second longest river in the world. It’s the Amazon River.

The Yanomami live in the rainforest. They’re far away from towns and cities. They’ve lived there for thousands of years. They obtain lots of things they need from the forest. This includes food and medicine. What are these children doing?


The beautiful quetzal lives in the rainforest. Quetzals use their strong beaks. They carve out nests in rotting trees. They have crimson and emerald feathers.

Let’s go high up in the Andes Mountains. They’re in southern Peru. There are ruins of an ancient city there. It was built by the Inca. They lived there long ago. The city perches on a mountaintop. It was constructed out of very meticulously cut blocks of stone. They were cut to fit together perfectly.

Llamas are useful there. They’re good at climbing. They’re good for walking long distances. They’re used by the folks who live in the Andes. They carry bulky loads. People have to watch out though! Llamas can get mad. Then they spit at you!

Let’s go to the city of Medellin. It’s in Colombia. The Flowers Festival takes place here. That’s each year in August. The flower growers come to the city. They parade down the streets. They carry their flower arrangements with them. Then, there is a competition. There are judges. You try to win the best flower arrangement.


Chapter Six: Let’s Explore Europe
Europe has forty-four countries. Each has their own government, laws, and language.

Let’s globetrot to our first stop. That’s the United Kingdom. A solemn holiday is on November 11. It’s to venerate soldiers. Lots of people fought in World Wars 1 and 2. And lots of people died in those wars. This day is called Remembrance Day. People wear red poppies. That’s a sign of remembrance.

Let’s go to Venice, Italy. In early spring, there’s a carnival. It lasts for several days. They dress up. They wear incredible costumes and masks. This celebration is hundreds of years old.

Let’s go to Germany. There are lots of castles. They’re just like in fairy tales! This is Hohenzollern Castle. Castles were built for kings and queens to live in. Some still DO live in castles!


The Eiffel Tower is in Paris, France. It is a towering, metal structure. It’s at the epicenter of the city. It’s higher than a one-hundred-story building!

Look at this spiky creature. It’s the European hedgehog. It lives in people’s yards. It’s in the countryside. And it’s in woodlands. Hedgehogs are found across Europe. What do hedgehogs do when they’re scared? They roll up into a tight ball!

This is a European pine marten. It has a coat of dark brown fur. It has a patch of white fur around its throat. Pine martens can climb trees. They hunt at night. They live in dark woodland areas.


Chapter Seven: Let’s Explore Africa
Africa is our second largest continent. There are fifty-four countries there. Let’s explore!

Africa Day comes on May 25. It’s celebrated in many African countries. It’s about the varying customs of Africa.

Let’s check out Tunisia. They have an International Festival of the Sahara. It’s in December each year. The Sahara is the most expansive desert in the world. The festival is about the Saharan way of life. People play music. They eat food. They race camels and horses across the desert sands.

Here’s Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s in Tanzania. It rises above the plains of the country. It’s the highest African mountain. It has snowy peaks. They can be seen far and wide.


You’ve heard of the world’s second longest river. That’s the Amazon. Well, the Nile River is the longest river in the world. It flows north across Egypt. It empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

Here are some African elephants. They live in multiple parts of Africa. This is the largest land mammal in the world. They have very large ears. They have long, curved tusks. African elephants flap their ears. That can be when they’re either happy or sad.

Lions live on grasslands. And they live in the open woodlands of Africa. They live together in groups called “prides.” They spend most of the day sleeping! It’s the responsibility of the female lion to hunt for food.


Chapter Eight: Let’s Explore Asia
Asia is the largest continent in the world. There are forty-eight countries there. One of them is India.

Indian people celebrate Holi. It’s the festival of color. Holi marks spring’s arrival. People throw colored powder and water at each other. Kids practice their aim, as they try to cover their friends with the rainbow’s colors.

You’ll need to dress warmly at our next stop. It’s the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, in China. It begins each year on January 5, and it lasts for four weeks. People create astounding snow and ice sculptures.

Let’s take a sojourn to the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. It’s on the Asian continent, on the border between Nepal and Tibet. It’s approximately five and a half miles high!


Here’s the Great Wall of China, snaking its way across China’s mountains. This wall was built long ago, and it was built to keep the people of China safe from enemies.

Now let’s take a peek at some giant pandas, which are found only in Chinese forests. They’re actually black and white bears. They spend their days playing, and they love to munch on bamboo.

Here’s the Malayan tapir, which is now found only in some forested areas. These tapirs have long snouts, and they don’t have very good vision. But they do have a strong sense of smell. They might look like pigs to you, but they’re actually related to horses and rhinos!


Chapter Nine: Let’s Explore Australia and Antarctica
Look on a map, and you’ll ascertain that Australia is a large island. But it’s not JUST a large island. It’s its own country AND its own continent!

April 25 is a somber holiday there, that’s called Anzac Day. That’s a national day of remembrance, because it honors soldiers from Australia and New Zealand. It’s a day of saying, “thank you!” to those who have fought for their nation.

Australia has large areas of desert lands, and let’s go there next. There’s a large sandstone rock called Uluru Rock. There are native people there called Aborigines, and the Aboriginal people named that rock. It has special meaning for them, as they believe it connects them to their ancestors.

Kangaroos live in Australia. They’re great hoppers, and they’re also quite fast. Oddly, they don’t WALK very well. They must use their tails for balance. We call baby kangaroos “joeys,” and mother kangaroos carry them in a special pouch that’s near mom’s stomach.


Koala bears live in Australian forests. They eat only one thing, and that’s eucalyptus leaves. They come from a type of tree. Koalas hardly ever drink water, as they get everything they need from the leaves. Koalas also have pouches for their young.

Antarctica is the end of our trip. It’s the coldest, windiest continent, and not a lot of people live there. Scientists and explorers go there. They like to investigate this frozen land. Some tourists go there, too.

Penguins are birds that live there. They do have feathers, but their feathers are quite short. They’re shorter than those of most other birds. Penguins can’t fly, but they’re expert swimmers. Both mom and dad penguins care for their young. Penguins are fun to watch, and many of them look like they’re dressed up in tuxedos!

Krill are shrimplike creatures that live in Antarctic waters. They’re a key food source for whales, penguins, seabirds, and sharks.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this extensive world tour! Where will you travel to first?

Click on this link to move forward to Module C, Lessons 41 – 50




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