Module D – Lessons 31 to 40


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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.) 

A New Nation: American Independence 

Lesson 31 – Part Three

NEW WORDS: Betsy’s, Cornwallis, Germans, Mississippi, Ross’s, Rosses, York’s, Yorktown, adopted, bullets, bunks, captured, colleagues, daring, forge, general’s, madame, moods, patriot, patriotism, rectangle, rumor, scoffed, sews, sketch, spirits, spool, stitches, struggled, successes, surrendering, treaty, unprepared, voted, warships, width

Chapter Five: The Legend of Betsy Ross
Let’s meet Betsy and John Ross. They were married in 1773. They opened their seamstress shop. It was in the port town of Philadelphia. A seamstress is a person who sews with needle and thread. They make or repair things made of cloth. John hung a sign outside their house. It was at 239 Arch Street. The needle and spool of thread helped folks find their shop.

Betsy and John had a party. That was to celebrate their wedding. What was going on about the same time? The Boston Tea Party! And what a party that was! The Patriots used the sea as a giant teapot. They dumped shiploads of tea into it. After that night, the colonies would work together. They’d come up with a plan. They’d respond to the British demand for taxes. They held the First Continental Congress. That was in the Ross’s hometown. It was in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania was midway between the New England and the Southern colonies. It was a key meeting place. Colonists from all over came there. The Rosses found it to be an exciting city. It got more exciting as the Patriots gathered there. John agreed with the Patriots. He wished to break from England. But one night, Betsy’s husband, John, died. This was a sad surprise to all. They’d been married just three years.


Betsy would now run the seamstress business on her own. She took great pride in her work. She was now well-known throughout the colonies. She sewed with tiny, even stitches. She used pretty cloth. Men would come to Philadelphia to meet. They’d often buy clothes from Betsy. They’d take it with them to their families at home. No order was too hard for her. Now, war approached. Betsy was asked to make flags for the Pennsylvania navy. The Continental Army flew one of her flags, too.

There’s a well-known legend about her. Here’s the tale. She sat in her shop. She was sewing. She was enjoying the light of a warm summer evening. It was June 1776. She heard a loud rapping. John’s uncle, George Ross, was at the door. He was with two men. One of them was George Washington himself.

“Good evening, Madame,” he said. “We have an important job. It needs to be done fast. I know your husband, John, was a Patriot. And you are known as the best seamstress in the land. We feel that you are the right person for the job.”

“Do come in,” Betsy said. “I’ll heat the pot for tea. You can tell me your business.”


“Thank you kindly, Betsy,” said George Ross. The men came in the house. He continued, “but I’m afraid we do not have time to sit. The Congress is meeting here in town. It’s for the second time. We’re on our way to a meeting this very night. Soon, we will declare our independence from Britain. We must have a new flag. We no longer want to fly the flag of the king.”

Betsy stood still. She heard his words. She turned to Washington. He had taken a scrap of paper from his pocket.

“Mrs. Ross,” Washington said. “This is your chance to show your patriotism. It would make your late husband, John, proud. I’ve drawn a rough sketch for the flag. Please take a look. What do you think? We’d like for you to sew the first flag of a new nation. We are thirteen colonies, united against England.”

Betsy took the slip of paper from his hand. On it was a square drawing. There were thirteen stripes. There were thirteen stars. Betsy nodded her head. She looked up into the general’s face.

“Yes,” she smiled. “I will do it. I will make this flag. Might I ask one thing, sir?”


Washington liked her suggestion. She preferred a five-pointed star. He had drawn a six-pointed one. The plan was in place. Then the three men turned and left.

Betsy set to work on the flag the next day. She took down a red bolt of cloth from the shelf. She measured and cut seven strips. They were of equal length and width. Then she did the same thing with a bolt of white cloth. This time she cut six strips. She used her famous even stitches. They were along the length of each strip. First was a red one. Then, there was a white one. When done, there were thirteen stripes. They were of alternating colors. They were joined to form a large rectangle. Next, Betsy measured and cut a square. That was from a bolt of blue cloth. She stitched it into the upper left-hand corner of the flag. Days later, she was done. The thirteen white stars almost twinkled. They were in a neat circle against the dark blue background.

Betsy showed Washington and his colleagues the flag. They were all pleased. They knew this flag would represent the new country well. This new flag would stand as a key symbol. It was with the men who gathered under it on the Fourth of July. That’s when they voted. That’s when they approved their letter of independence to King George. Let’s turn to one year later. It’s July 1777. The Congress officially adopted Betsy’s flag. They called it the “Stars and Stripes.” It was now the national flag of a new country. It was the flag of the United States of America.


Chapter Six: George Washington, Commander-in-Chief
George Washington left the second Congress. He went north to Boston. There, he’d fight the British. His was a tough job. His army was mostly farmers. They had no military background at all. They had no uniforms. They had only old guns, called muskets. They hardly knew how to fire them. There weren’t enough guns. There was hardly any gunpowder.

The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776. Five days passed. Copies had now reached New York. That’s where the army was camped. The army heard the words of the Declaration. It rallied them in support of independence. They got a statue of King George. They melted it down into bullets for the army to use!

The men soon knew that they’d never have enough bullets. Later that summer, British warships were seen. They entered New York’s harbor. King George had gotten help from the Germans. More than thirty thousand trained troops arrived. The unprepared U.S. soldiers would have a tough fight on their hands.


Washington nearly lost his army early on. There was fierce fighting. That was in New York and New Jersey that fall. The Redcoats chased the army south. They had to cross the Delaware River. The British thought they had scared the Americans off. So, they left only a small force to guard things. They stayed on the other side of the river. It was December. They thought that no one would fight in the dead of winter. But they were wrong.

Washington had a daring plan. It was Christmas night. He brought his men together. It was snowing and cold. He had the men get in their boats. They rowed quietly across the ice-filled river. More than two thousand soldiers crossed the river! This took nine hours! They marched through wind and sleet. They reached the British troops. It was just before dawn. The Redcoats were still sleeping. Washington’s men launched a surprise attack.

The Redcoats were surprised, all right! Some of them came out of their bunks in their underwear. They just held up their hands. It was a total win for Washington. No one in his army had been killed. Washington and his army returned to Philadelphia. There were shouts of joy. But the war was not over yet.

The Congress knew that they needed more help. German soldiers fought with the British. Would the French help them? This was no secret. The French and British had long been enemies. The Congress sent some men to France. They asked for help. Seventy-year-old Benjamin Franklin was on this team.


The French did not like to lose in battle. They had lost to the British in an earlier war. At first, they did not want to support the U.S. They thought the Americans were crazy. How could a bunch of farmers defeat one of the greatest armies in the world? But there was a key American victory. It was in New York in the fall of 1777. The French changed their minds overnight. They would help with gunpowder, soldiers, and ships.

Washington’s army was camped in Pennsylvania. It was a place called Valley Forge. This was in the winters of 1777 and 1778. Snow lay on the ground. The army arrived. They pitched tents. They built log cabins. But neither of these kept out the cold. The men were dressed in rags. Many of them had no shoes. They walked barefoot in the snow. There was hardly any food. There was little to eat and drink. They might have just bread and water. Disease spread through the camp. Lots of men died. The men missed their families. They wished to go home. Washington struggled to keep up his men’s moods. He camped in a tent next to them for a time. He earned their respect. No battles were fought at Valley Forge that winter. And the men were cold and hungry. But that did not stop them. They spent hours in hard training. They planned to be ready when they’d meet the British again in the spring.


Chapter Seven: Will This War Never End?
It was the spring of 1778. The men at Valley Forge were in better spirits. Soldiers and supplies had arrived from France. The army was better prepared. The bitterly cold weather was behind them. They were ready to take on the British once more.

Fighting continued all across the colonies. Battles were on land and on sea. Fighting spread to the wilderness west of the Mississippi River. People kept wondering. “Will this war never end? Is it worth the loss of so many lives?” The war was shifting south now. The British were now under the command of General Cornwallis. They felt that they could now win the war. They had won quite a few battles in the South. But little did they know what was coming. Their successes were about to end.

It was 1781. The war was now six long years old. Things were looking up for the Continental Army. Washington received great news. Twenty-eight French ships were on their way. They were headed to the coast of Yorktown, Virginia. That’s where Cornwallis had camped his army. George was excited. He came up with a plan. He’d try to trap the British.


Washington’s troops were now in New York. They went on a long march. Many days they marched through the night. They were headed to Yorktown. This was a town built on the banks of the York River. It was just a little inland from the Atlantic. Washington moved his troops over land. At the same time, French ships moved in by sea. The British could not escape by land. The Continental Army was blocking them. They could not escape by sea. The French ships had them blocked there. Washington and his forces had the British blocked from both sides!

British drummer boys waved a white flag. That showed that they were surrendering. There was a rumor. That was that bands then played a tune called “The World Turned Upside Down.”

It must have seemed like an upside-down world to the British. They were used to winning wars. They were used to ruling colonies. Now they had lost a war. They would no longer rule over the Americans. The British army was captured at Yorktown. All the fighting soon stopped. The British sailed home. Washington stepped down as commander-in-chief of the army.


It was now time to plan for peace. This took two years of meetings in Paris, France. It was 1783. Franklin was there to sign the peace treaty. This gave the Americans their freedom. They were now out from under British rule. They’d no longer have to pay taxes to the British king. Their new nation reached to Canada in the north. It reached to Florida in the south. It spread to the Mississippi River in the west.

Now the British were no longer in charge. The colonists did not have to obey the rules of a distant king. So, who would rule the new nation? Some said that Washington should be made king. George scoffed at that. “King? We’ve been fighting to rid ourselves of a king. Our new government must be one where the people rule.” But how?

Washington was exhausted by six years of battle. He just wished to go back to his family. He loved Mount Vernon. That was his home on the Potomac River in Virginia. He dreamed of being able to ride peacefully about his farm. He wanted to listen to birdsong instead of shouting out orders to his men. Washington’s wife, Martha, had been a great help to him during the war. She would bring food and clothes to his troops. She had even camped out with them in their field tents. She, too, looked forward to spending time with her husband. They both wished to be in the comfort of Mount Vernon. But Washington was not able to relax on his farm for too long. You’ll soon learn why.

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.) 
A New Nation: American Independence


Lesson 32 – Part Four

NEW WORDS: Franklin’s, Presidency, Richard’s, Virginians, Yorkers, almanack, almanacs, anytime, apprentice, bifocal, busiest, businessman, capital’s, constantly, constitution, constitutional, creative, disappearing, divers, flippers, forecasts, founder, founding, governed, inventions, permanent, personally, printing, published, puzzles, raging, revolution, rightly, sayings, signer, unfairly

Chapter Eight: A Young Nation Is Born
The first few years after the Revolutionary War ended went by. The former British colonies could not seem to agree on a thing. They had not yet come up with a name for themselves. Some said they should be called “The Union of States.” Others liked the sound of “The American Nation.” Others simply wanted to call themselves by the names of the states in which they lived. They’d be Virginians, if they lived in Virginia. They’d be New Yorkers, if they lived in New York. And so on. There was no plan for how they would be governed. So, lots of people were making up lots of different rules. States were taxing one another unfairly. It was just like the British had done before the war. What a big mess!

Washington was enjoying life at Mount Vernon with his wife, their children, and grandchildren. He was fifty-seven. He felt that he’d served his country well. He was not looking for any more jobs away from his farm. But four years after returning home from the revolution, he was called on. He was asked to come to Philadelphia for another big meeting.

He joined many of the same men with whom he had worked in the Continental Congress. These men are called our Founding Fathers. That’s because they helped found, or start, our new country. Franklin, now eighty-one years old, was the oldest man there.


Washington was elected president of the convention. It was called the “Constitutional Convention.” That’s because the men were writing a “constitution.” This would be a plan for how the new nation could live together in peace.

“Stop arguing,” Washington told the men. “We have an important job to do.” It was hard work. They met for four long, hot months. This was from May to September. The men continued to argue. Some walked out. But most of them stayed. Their hard work had paid off. They wrote lots of rules that summer. And think of it. That was more than two hundred years ago. And those rules are the ones we still use today. So, our Founding Fathers left Philadelphia that September. At that time, our country had a new name.

“We, the people of the United States,” they wrote. The thirteen former British colonies were now called the United States of America.


One thing they discussed that summer was their need for a leader. They came up with creative ideas. They decided on having a president, not a king. This person was to be chosen by the people. They could serve for only a few years. This would be better than a king who was not elected, and who served for his entire lifetime. And guess who they wanted to lead them?

You guessed it. George Washington! Once again, he had wanted to settle down at Mount Vernon. But once again, he had been called to serve his country.

In 1789, Washington left his home in Virginia. He became the first president of the United States of America. He had no idea what he was going to do. He knew that his presidency would set an example for all future presidents. While president, he stayed very busy. He helped organize a permanent national army and navy. And he set up a national banking system.

As president, he lived first in New York City. Then later, he lived in Philadelphia.


He worked hard on plans for a city that would be our nation’s capital. Washington personally chose the capital’s site. It was along the Potomac River. It was on land that is between Maryland and Virginia. This capital city would not be in any state. Thus, no state could say that it was in charge of the country. The capital was designed to have a house in which the president and his family would live. It would also have many government buildings. Washington was no longer president when the capital was finally built. But the city was named in his honor. It was called Washington, D.C.

Washington served as president for eight years. He packed up and headed home to Virginia. He died at Mount Vernon at the end of 1799. This was about two and half years later. He was a Patriot, a Founder of our nation, a military commander, and our first president. Washington has rightly been called the “Father of Our Country.” Lots of places have been named for him. Monuments and statues have been built in his honor. You can even find his picture on our money. He’s on both a paper bill and on a coin.


Chapter Nine: Never Leave Until Tomorrow What You Can Do Today
Like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of our country. He was never a president. But he was a very wise man with wonderful ideas. You will remember that Franklin was a part of the Continental Congress. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was a representative of our country in both Great Britain and France. He was all over the place!

Long before his days in government, Franklin was a successful businessman. This was in Philadelphia. He had always been a good reader and writer. As a boy, he had been an apprentice in his brother’s printing shop in Boston. So, when he moved to Philadelphia, Franklin set up his own printing shop. He started his own newspaper. He became the busiest printer in the American colonies.


For more than twenty-five years, Benjamin Franklin published a series of books called “Poor Richard’s Almanack.” His almanac was often the only book that people bought. It contained lots of practical information that they wanted to know. For example, the almanac had a calendar with the times of the sunrise and sunset. Today, we listen to weather forecasts on the radio or television. But back then, people looked in their almanacs to find out what the weather would be like. The almanac had stories and poems as well as puzzles, jokes, and lots of advice. Franklin included many wise sayings. We still use many of these today. Have you ever heard anyone say this? “Never leave until tomorrow what you can do today?” What do you think that means? Franklin must have lived by his own words. That’s because he got so much done! He was never still for a minute. His brain was working constantly. He was always spilling over with questions and ideas.


Franklin had a keen interest in science and the way things work. As a young boy in Boston, Benjamin spent much of his time swimming in the harbor. He was pretty good. But he wanted to be even better and faster. One day he thought of a way that he could be a faster swimmer. He found some wood and carved some wooden paddles to fit over his hands and feet. These were kind of like the flippers that divers use today. When he swam with those, he was much faster. He was probably faster than all the other children his age.

As Franklin grew older, he continued to invent new things. Anytime he saw a problem, he tried to invent a way to fix it. He had two pairs of glasses. One was for reading, and one was to help him see things far away. He didn’t like having to switch glasses all day long. So, he asked a glass cutter to slice all of his lenses in half. He made one new pair of glasses. The distance lenses were on top. The close-up lenses were on the bottom. Franklin had just invented bifocal glasses! They’re still worn by lots of people today.


Franklin was sitting by the fire one night. He watched warm air disappearing up the chimney. He wondered how he could trap more warm air inside the house. He made a wood-burning stove out of iron. It put out twice as much heat as a regular fireplace and burned less wood. This stove was named the Franklin stove, after its inventor.

Lightning was another thing that fascinated Franklin. He had watched houses and barns burn to the ground when struck by lightning. Could it be, he wondered, that lightning was electricity? He was going to find out. There’s a legend about Franklin’s experiment. It was about him flying a kite during a lightning storm. It goes like this.

One day, Franklin took his son William out in the middle of a thunderstorm. Lightning was raging all around them. He tied a little metal key near the end of the string of a kite. If lightning was electricity, flying the kite in the thunderstorm would cause the key to become charged with electricity. He kept touching the key, as the kite flew above their heads. As fibers on the kite string stood on end, Franklin felt a little shock. He was right! Lightning was electricity! Franklin used his discovery to invent the lightning rod. That was a pole that helps carry electricity away from buildings and into the ground. His invention is used today to prevent fires caused by lightning strikes.


Franklin’s list of inventions goes on and on. The next time you rock back and forth in a rocking chair, thank Franklin for helping you to relax. This clever man invented the rocking chair.

It was 1790, just three years after Franklin helped to write the Constitution for our country. He died peacefully in his sleep at the age of eighty-four. Twenty thousand people attended his funeral. At the time, it was the biggest funeral ever held in Philadelphia. Bells rang and flags flew at half-mast. These were signs of respect for one of America’s greatest heroes.


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.) 
A New Nation: American Independence

Lesson 33 – Part Five

NEW WORDS: Adams, Deborah, Leviticus, Pluribus, Samson, Shurtleff, Unum, allegiance, alongside, anniversary, architecture, banner, colonial, crest, detective, domed, dumbwaiter, fiftieth, forgetting, founders, inhabitants, logo, mechanical, nickels, paperwork, plantations, pledge, proclaim, pulley, recognizes, reminders, repaired, representing, reread, roles, scroll, shipped, symbolize, thereof, unto

Chapter Ten: Building a Nation with Words and Ideas
Benjamin Franklin enjoyed the company of another Patriot, Thomas Jefferson from Virginia. Jefferson was often the youngest person in the room when the Founders met in Philadelphia. But Franklin was often the oldest.

Like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson was always ready to serve his country. But the place he most liked to be was at home with his family.

When Jefferson was a young lawyer, he started building a house close to the farm where he grew up in Virginia. Built on a hill, he named it Monticello. That means “little mountain” in Italian. He worked on it for many years, before, during, and after the war. Jefferson traveled in Europe and brought back many ideas from France and Italy. Because of Monticello and some other buildings that he designed, Jefferson is called the father of American architecture. In fact, Jefferson was one of the people who worked on the design of Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital.


Like Franklin, Jefferson liked to invent things. For his house, he invented a pulley system that opened doors. He invented a mechanical clock that kept track of the days of the week.

He also invented a dumbwaiter, a shelf that could be piled high with food dishes. It was raised from the kitchen downstairs up to the dining room. It was then lowered back down with empty dishes when the meal was over.

Jefferson was one of the most important writers in the colonies. Remember, he was the author of the Declaration of Independence. Because he wrote so many important papers and letters, he wanted to be able to make copies of them for himself. So, Jefferson invented the first copy machine. As he wrote at his desk, a second pen was automatically writing the same thing right beside him. He also invented a lap desk that he could carry with him on horseback. This held all of his paperwork and office tools. That way, he could continue his work away from home.


It was after the Constitutional Convention and the election of Washington as the country’s first president. Jefferson returned to Virginia to work on Monticello. When he was not at Monticello, often he was off representing his country, sharing his ideas both in America and in Europe.

Washington served as president of the United States for eight years. When he retired to Mount Vernon, another one of the Founding Fathers named John Adams took his place. He became America’s second president. Jefferson became Adams’ vice president. Four years later, Jefferson became our nation’s third president. In the eight years that he was president, he did many things to help the young nation grow.


One of the things that Jefferson believed in most was public education. He realized how fortunate he had been, having the chance to attend excellent schools all his life. But he knew that not everybody could afford to do so. Perhaps Jefferson’s greatest project was planning for a public college in his state of Virginia. He designed the buildings, chose the subjects to be taught, and raised money to build the University of Virginia. The university was built on a friend’s farm. It was just down the hill from Monticello. So, Jefferson could watch it being built.

Jefferson died on the afternoon of July 4, 1826. This was just hours before the death of his friend John Adams. The second and third presidents of the U.S. died on the fiftieth anniversary of Independence Day.

Like Washington and Franklin, Jefferson is remembered in lots of ways today. Some of our nickels, or five-cent coins, have a picture of Jefferson on one side of them. There’s a picture of a domed building on the other. Can you guess what building that is? Right! It’s his beloved Monticello.


Chapter Eleven: Liberty and Justice for ALL?
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Where have you heard those words before? Listen again and see if you remember who wrote these words.

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Jefferson wrote them as part of our Declaration of Independence. Remember how the Founders felt that they were being treated unfairly by the British? They did not feel that they were being treated equally as the British on the other side of the ocean. The colonists wanted liberty, or freedom, from the rules of the British. And so, when Jefferson sat down to write these famous words, he wanted to make sure that the new American nation would treat its people fairly.


Again, when the Founders met to write our Constitution of the U.S., they wrote about liberty and justice. When we hold our hands over our hearts and pledge allegiance to our country today, our final words are “with liberty and justice for all.” These are important words written by our Founders. But not all people were treated fairly in the American colonies.

Let’s look back at the 1700s, during and after the war, when the Founders were busy writing these important words. Whom did they mean by, “we,” when they wrote in the Constitution, “We, the People of the United States?” Some people say they must have just been thinking about themselves. They were a group of white men who made the laws of the land. Were they forgetting the other people on the continent? What about the Native Americans who had lived there the longest? What about women? What about African-American slaves? These were very smart men, writing words that they knew would be read and reread by others for many years to come. They were writing for the future. But it is true that not everyone in colonial times was treated equally. Even today, people are still seeking liberty and justice for all.


During the Revolutionary War, women had different roles than they have today. Today, many women serve in our military and help protect us by fighting in wars. But this wasn’t the case during the Revolutionary War. Some women wanted to be soldiers. But they were not allowed to join the army. We know that some women actually disguised themselves by dressing like men so that they could fight alongside them. One of the most famous of these women was Deborah Samson. She fought in the war under the name of Robert Shurtleff. Women also were not allowed to vote. In fact, all women did not receive the right to vote in America for nearly one hundred and fifty years after the Constitution was written! Was that liberty and justice for all?


There were many people from Africa who were brought to America as slaves for the colonists. When the colonists decided to fight for their freedom from Great Britain, they themselves were keeping freedom from a large number of African slaves. That’s because the slaves did not have the freedom to choose how to live their lives. Slavery was especially common in the South, where huge plantations had large amounts of land to farm. Those colonists depended upon the work of the slaves. In the New England and Middle states, slavery started to disappear after the Revolutionary War. But it continued for a long time in the South, where these large farms were located. Slaves also were not allowed to vote. Was that liberty and justice for all?


For a long time, Native Americans lived on the North American continent alone. Yet life for them began changing when the first European explorers arrived hundreds of years before the Revolutionary War. You will remember that some of them chose to help the colonists and trade with them when they first arrived. However, it wasn’t long before the colonists started exploring lands to the west. They pushed Native Americans off of their land. Native Americans also were not allowed to vote. Was that liberty and justice for all?

So, what do you think? Was the decision of our nation’s Founders to fight a six-year war for independence a wise decision? It probably was. The government they set up two hundred years ago has served as a model for the rest of the world ever since. It was certainly not fair to all people in the early years. And there are still many ways in which it can be improved. But it is up to us, WE, THE PEOPLE, to make each day a better day for all of us. After all, liberty and justice have a lot to do with how we treat one another every day.


Chapter Twelve: What Do a Flag, a Bell, and an Eagle Have in Common?
What do a flag, a bell, and an eagle have in common with each other? All three are symbols of the United States of America. A symbol is a sign that everybody recognizes, and it stands for something else.

People see a symbol and know what it stands for. For example, does your school have a mascot, logo, or banner? That would be something that makes you think of your school every time you see it? Many sports teams have symbols. Can you think of any? We have symbols all around us. Before you even learned to read words, you probably learned to read symbols. Let’s find out how a flag, a bell, and an eagle came to be symbols of, or represent, the U.S.

You already know a little bit about our flag from the legend of Betsy Ross. The flag with its circle of thirteen stars was not the first flag to be flown in America. During the early days of exploration, flags of many different countries were used to represent land claims. The first official flag of our nation was the one you learned about. It was flown on Independence Day, July 4, 1776. It was adopted by the Continental Congress a year later, on June 14, 1777. Do you remember what the thirteen stars and stripes stood for? Yes, they were symbols for the thirteen colonies that became thirteen states.


As the country grew, more states were added. With each new state, a new star was added to the flag. Pretty soon, there were too many stars to fit in a circle. So, the patterns changed over the years. Now we have fifty states and fifty stars arranged in rows. They’re still on a blue background like the original flag. The same thirteen red and white stripes remain as reminders of the original thirteen colonies. June 14 is National Flag Day in the U.S. But our flag is flown every day all across America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, as a symbol of the land of freedom.

It is pretty easy to understand how the Stars and Stripes became a symbol for our nation. But what about a bell? The Liberty Bell, another well-known symbol, is actually older than the U.S. itself. In 1751, the mostly copper bell was made in Great Britain. It was shipped to Philadelphia where it was rung to call people to meetings in the town square.

According to legend, the Liberty Bell may have been rung from the State House steeple after the Declaration of Independence was first read in July of 1776. But we don’t know that for sure. During the Revolution, the colonists feared that the British might melt down the bell for cannonballs. So, it was moved and hidden in a town north of Philadelphia, until the war ended.


Over the years, the bell cracked and was repaired several times. It was rung for the last time on Washington’s birthday in 1846, when it cracked beyond repair. Today, the bell sits outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It is only about three feet tall. But it weighs as much as a hippopotamus! If you visit the Liberty Bell, be sure to look for the words of freedom. They were taken from the Bible and written on its side. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).

So, we have a flag and a bell. The third symbol is a bald eagle, a large bird of prey with a white head and tail, found only in North America. Who chose the American bald eagle as a symbol of our country? To find out, we must return once more to our friends Jefferson and Franklin.


When the Second Continental Congress met and declared independence from Great Britain, they also decided that they needed an official seal. Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams met to design the seal. They talked about using an eagle on the seal. But Franklin said, “No! I don’t agree. I think that a turkey would be a much better symbol of our country than an eagle!” As there was not much time, the men only agreed on part of the seal that year. They agreed on a statement that read “E Pluribus Unum.” That’s Latin, and it means “out of many, one.” They chose this saying because they were making one nation out of many separate states.

It was not until six years later, in 1782, that the bald eagle, a symbol of long life, strength, and freedom, was officially added to the seal. On the seal, the eagle holds an olive branch, for peace, in one of its talons. In the other, it grips a bundle of thirteen arrows. Those symbolize the power of war. Covering its breast is a shield of red and white stripes. And around its head, there’s a crest with thirteen stars. If you look carefully, you might be able to read the words written on the scroll in its bill. “E Pluribus Unum.” “Out of many, one.”

Now that you know what to look for, try being a symbol detective. As you go through your day, be on the lookout for flags, bells, and eagles. These are symbols of freedom, and reminders of our country’s Founders, who fought for our freedom long ago.

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The War Of 1812

Lesson 34 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Madison, Napoleon, Tennessee, controlled, earful, impressment, involved, joining, merchants, monarchy, naval, opposed, serving, sided, sunken, traders, voters 

Chapter One: Trouble with the British
In 1812, James Madison had a hard choice to make. Many Americans were angry with the British. Some of them were saying that the United States should declare war on Great Britain. But others disagreed. They said the United States should not go to war. Madison was president of the United States. He had to decide what to do. Should he ask the U.S. Congress to declare war? Or should he try to keep the peace?

At the time, Great Britain was already at war with France. The two countries had been fighting for years. Most of the countries in Europe were involved in the war. Some sided with the British. Others sided with the French. The French were led by a man named Napoleon. He was a brave leader. He had beaten the British in a number of battles. Still, the British kept fighting.

The United States tried to stay out of this big war. At first, most Americans did not care to get involved. American traders wished to trade with both Great Britain and France. But this led to problems. When United States ships traded with the British, the French got upset. They did not want Americans trading with their enemies. When United States ships traded with the French, the British got upset for the same reason.


Sometimes British ships would stop American ships to keep them from trading with the French. Sometimes French ships would stop American ships to keep them from trading with the British. The Americans had problems with both the French and the British. As time went on, the problems with the British increased.

The British had a strong army, and an even stronger navy. But serving in the British Navy was a hard job. Some people quit. Others ran away. This was a problem for the British. They needed all the men they could get. How else could they defeat the French? The British spent a lot of time looking for men who had run off. From time to time, they would stop American ships. British officers would come on deck to look for British men. They would grab men and force them to serve in the British Navy. This was called “impressment.” The British said that they took only British men who had run away. But they were not always careful. Sometimes they grabbed Americans. Stories about men taken by the British were printed in the papers. How do you think Americans felt when they read them? They felt angry. Some of them felt that the United States needed to fight back. They said the United States needed to declare war on Great Britain.


Impressment was one problem. But there were others. Many in the United States were also upset with the British for trading with Native Americans. In 1812, most Americans were farmers. At first, most farmers had homes near the East Coast. But then the country began to grow. People went west. They settled in places far from the coast. They set up farms. They planted crops. There was just one problem: there were already people living there! The settlers were moving onto land where Native Americans hunted and made their homes. Native Americans did not like this. There were many fights between settlers and Native Americans.

The British controlled Canada. They sent traders south from Canada to trade with Native Americans. These traders sold all sorts of things to Native Americans. The British said they had a right to trade with Native Americans. But lots of people in the United States did not see it that way. They said the British were helping Native Americans attack American settlers. They felt that they needed to fight back.

You can see there were many reasons for Americans to be angry with the British. But there were also good reasons for not declaring war. A war causes death, wrecks towns, and costs a lot of money. Plus, Americans felt that the British would not be easy to defeat. President Madison and the men in Congress would have to think long and hard about declaring war.


Chapter Two: The War Hawks
At first, President Madison tried to keep America out of the war. He tried to make a deal with the British. He asked them to stop taking American sailors. He asked them to stop trading with Native Americans. But he did not ask Congress to declare war. This made some people happy. There were many people in the United States who did not care to go to war. Most merchants and traders felt this way. They traded with Great Britain, as well as other countries. A war would mean less trade between countries. It would mean sunken ships and lost goods. A war would cost them money. For this reason, as well as some others, most merchants opposed the war.

But others felt that a war was needed. The states out west – like Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee – were closer to Native American land. The settlers in these states were scared of Native Americans. They were also angry with the British. These people were called “War Hawks.” They made loud, angry speeches. They complained about impressment. They complained that the British were selling guns to Native Americans. They felt that the United States needed to declare war.

When some War Hawks found out that the British were selling guns to Native Americans, it made them angry. These War Hawks gave President Madison an earful. They got up in Congress and made angry speeches. They said that the United States should stand up to Great Britain. They said that Madison should ask Congress to declare war.


Chapter Three: The War Starts
Presidents have to make hard choices. James Madison had to decide whether to side with the War Hawks, or with the merchants who hoped for peace. In the end, he sided with the War Hawks. Madison asked Congress to declare war. On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain. The Americans were in for a hard fight. The British had a huge army. They also had the world’s biggest navy. But the British were already at war with France. They could only send some of their troops to fight the United States. That was a good thing for the Americans. It meant that the United States would have a better chance of winning.

Even so, not a lot of people at the time could imagine that the United States could win. Today, the United States is a strong nation. It has been around for many years. It has a strong army and navy. But that was not the case in 1812. In 1812, the United States was not very old as a country. It had broken away from Great Britain only about 30 years before. The United States had a different kind of government, too. At the time, most of the nations of Europe were monarchies. That means they were ruled by kings or queens. A king or queen would rule until he or she died. Then, in most cases, the oldest son would take over. The United States was not a monarchy. It did not have a king or queen. Instead, it had a president. The president was chosen by voters. He did not get to serve until he died. He served for four years. Then the voters got a chance to pick their president. If they voted for a different president, the old one had to step down. In 1812, most people in the world felt that the American government had a very strange way of doing things. They were not sure that the system would last, and that the United States would be able to survive.


In 1812, the United States did not have a strong army. In fact, the U.S. Army was tiny. It had about 4,000 soldiers. The navy was tiny, too. George Washington, the first president, had set it up. He didn’t think the United States needed a big navy, but just a small number of ships to protect merchants from pirates. President Madison found a way to make the army bigger. He got farmers to join. Many Americans were farmers. They used guns to hunt and to defend their homes. Madison called on these farmers. He asked them to grab their guns and join the army. Farmers were paid money and given land for joining.

The United States soldiers were not well trained. Still, Madison was sure they could win if they attacked the British in Canada. He sent the army north to Canada. The attack on Canada did not go well. The army lost a string of battles. The United States lost forts along the border. The army was simply not ready for war.

No one expected much from the tiny U.S. Navy. But things went better on the seas than they did on land. The United States battled bravely. They beat the British in a number of naval battles.

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The War Of 1812

Lesson 35 – Part Two 

NEW WORDS: Baltimore, Dolley, Madison’s, Madisons, McHenry, Pickersgill, President’s, anthem, blasting, blazed, bursting, capitol, construct, explode, ironsides, mortars, nieces, puzzling, ransacked, referred, rockets, smashing, streaking, stitching, stripe, supreme, surge, toasted 

Chapter Four: A Famous Ship
The ship on the right is the USS Constitution. It was one of the ships that battled in the War of 1812. The letters “USS” stand for “United States Ship.” The USS Constitution was named for a very important document, the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution lays out the laws of the land. It states what people serving in each branch of the U.S. government can do. It says what the president, the Congress, and the Supreme Court can do — and also what they cannot do. James Madison had helped write the Constitution. He had also played a key role in getting states to accept it. The people of the United States were proud of the Constitution. So, they named one of their fighting ships the USS Constitution.


During the War of 1812, the USS Constitution had a string of battles on the high seas. In one battle, the USS Constitution attacked a British ship. It was a hard fight. The sailors on both sides fired cannons. The guns blazed and smoked. The two ships drifted closer. Once, they even bumped into each other. Cannonballs from the USS Constitution smashed into the side of the British ship. They made big holes in it. They ripped off a sail. They knocked down the ship’s masts. The British ship fired back. But its cannonballs did less damage to the U.S. ship. In fact, some of them bounced off the thick walls of the American ship! When the American sailors saw this, they cheered. “Hooray!” one of them shouted. “Her sides are made of iron!” In fact, however, the sides of the ship were not made of iron, but of very thick planks of wood. The wooden sides of the USS Constitution were much thicker than most ships.

The USS Constitution won the battle. The British ship was so smashed up that it could not be fixed. The British had to sink it. When people were told about the battle, they became excited. They yelled and shouted. They waved flags and had parties. They treated the sailors on the USS Constitution as heroes. They also gave the ship a nickname. They called it “Old Ironsides,” because its wooden sides seemed as strong as iron. Old Ironsides kept on fighting. It battled more than twenty times and never lost a battle!


Chapter Five: The Attack on Washington, D.C.
In August of 1814, President Madison was upset. Two years had passed. The war was still going on. The U.S. Army had won some battles, and it had lost some battles. The British had landed an army near Washington, D.C. British soldiers were marching. Madison hoped the U.S. Army would be able to stop them. At the time, Washington, D.C., was a young town. Some buildings had just been finished, such as the Capitol. Others were not finished yet. Still, it was an important place. It was where the U.S. Congress met to make laws. It was where the Supreme Court met. It was the home to President Madison and his wife, Dolley.

The President’s House was a special house that had been constructed for the president. (Today it is called the White House.) It was only about ten years old at the time. It was home to President Madison and his wife, Dolley. President Madison was aware that there was going to be a big battle outside the city. He planned to go support the troops. He ordered some soldiers to protect Mrs. Madison and the President’s House. Then he jumped on his horse and rode off. The battle outside the city did not go well. The U.S. Army was beaten. People quickly found out about the defeat. The army had lost! The British were coming! People in the city panicked. They grabbed their things and ran away. The roads were jammed with people and carts.


President Madison could not get back to the President’s House. His wife, Dolley, was left there with servants and soldiers. The soldiers ran away. Mrs. Madison could not stay in the President’s House. The British would be there soon. She had to flee. Mrs. Madison hoped to take as much with her as she could. But which things should she take? There were many fine things in the President’s House. She loved a lamp that hung in one room. But there was no way she could take that. It was too heavy. She had a big closet of fancy dresses. She loved them, too. But there were more important things for her to carry away.

In the end, Mrs. Madison left most of her own things behind. Instead, she carried away things that were important to the American people. She grabbed papers and letters. She stuffed as many of them as she could into a trunk. Mrs. Madison was ready to leave. Then she remembered one last thing. It was a painting of George Washington. There was no time to gently take it from its frame. She ordered the slaves and servants to cut out the painting. “It is done!” said Dolley Madison. Then she ran out the door to safety.


Chapter Six: The Burning of Washington, D.C.
The British Army marched into Washington, D.C. The British soldiers were angry because the U.S. Army had burned York, the capital city of Canada. They planned to get back at the Americans by burning the U.S. Capitol Building. The British soldiers went to the Capitol Building. This was where the U.S. Congress met. They set it on fire. Then they marched down the hill to the President’s House. The British arrived just after Dolley Madison left. They broke down the doors and charged inside.

The President’s House was empty. In the dining room, the table had been set for dinner. The British general sat down with some of his men. They ate dinner. They drank some wine, too. As a joke, they toasted President Madison. They lifted up their wine glasses and thanked him for the wine. After dinner, the British soldiers started smashing things. They smashed the dishes. They smashed the table. They smashed the chairs. The soldiers ran up and down in the President’s House looking for things to steal.


They took the spoons and forks. They took the buckles from Mrs. Madison’s shoes. They even took the love letters her husband had sent her! The house was ransacked. Then the British general ordered his men to set the house on fire. The soldiers lit their torches. Then they went from room to room. They lit the drapes on fire. They burned the beds. They burned the desks and chairs. They even burned Mrs. Madison’s dresses.

Then the British marched away. They did not care to take over the city. They just planned to burn it. Burning the city would be a heavy blow. The British hoped the Americans might feel like there was no longer hope and stop fighting. Later that day, a storm rolled in. The rain stopped most of the fires. But it was too late. Many of the buildings were already lost. Later in the week, the Madisons came home. The President’s House was still standing. But it was a mess. The walls were black with soot. The windows were broken. All of their things had been stolen or burned. They felt they would never call the President’s House home again.


Chapter Seven: The Attack on Baltimore
Washington, D.C. took ten years to construct. It took less than one day to destroy it. Next, the British planned to attack Baltimore. Baltimore was a big city north of Washington, D.C. At the time, it was the third largest city in the United States. It was also a key port.

Baltimore was protected from naval attack by a large fort. It was called Fort McHenry. The British focused on Fort McHenry. They hoped that if they could take the fort, they could take the city. They planned to attack the fort by land and also by sea. The people of the city were aware that an attack was coming. They got ready. They piled up supplies. They set up walls. They even sank ships in the harbor to keep the British ships from getting too close to the city. All of the people in the city pitched in. Even the children helped.

A year earlier, the soldiers in Fort McHenry felt like they needed a flag they could fly over the fort. They asked a local woman named Mary Pickersgill to make a flag. “Make it big,” they told her. “Make it so big that the British will be able to see it from miles away!” The U.S. flag is covered with stars and stripes. Today, the U.S. flag has fifty stars and thirteen stripes. Each star stands for one of the fifty states of the United States. Each stripe stands for one of the thirteen original colonies. Sometimes America’s flag is referred to as “the stars and stripes.”


The flag that Mary Pickersgill made for Fort McHenry was different. It had fifteen stars and fifteen stripes. The Fort McHenry flag was different in another way, too. It was huge! Each star was two feet across. Each stripe was two feet tall and forty-two feet long. Mrs. Pickersgill could not do all the stitching herself. The flag was too big. She needed help. She got her daughter to help her. But she still needed more help. She had her servants help with the stitching. Still she needed more help. She sent for two of her nieces. That did the trick. She and her five helpers stitched day and night until the flag was finished. When it was done, the flag was as large as a house. It was hung on a giant pole over the fort. You could see it from miles away.

The British arrived later in the week. They sent troops to attack the city. But this time, the U.S. soldiers were ready. They stopped the British Army. The British commander was killed during the attack. The British went back to their ships. They decided to attack Fort McHenry with their navy instead.


Chapter Eight: Francis Scott Key and the National Anthem
On September 13, 1814, British ships opened fire on Fort McHenry. They fired rockets and mortars. The soldiers in the fort would have fired back, but there was not much point. The guns in the fort were old. They could not hit the British ships. The British ships kept firing for a long time. They fired all day. They fired on into the night.

An American named Francis Scott Key watched the British attack. He was on a boat in the harbor. Key was not a soldier. He did not fight in the battle. But he was able to see it. He could see the British ships blasting away. He could see Fort McHenry. He could also see the huge flag that Mrs. Pickersgill had made. Key kept his eye on the American flag. As long as the flag was still flying at the fort, America was still in the battle. It meant that the troops in Fort McHenry had not given up. If the flag went down, that would mean that America was no longer fighting. That would mean that the troops in the fort had given up. Key watched all day. He was still watching when the sun set. He was proud that the flag was still flying.


At night, it was harder for Key to see. But there were flashes of light. Sometimes a rocket would go streaking through the darkness. Sometimes a bomb would explode and light up the sky. The flashes of light allowed Key to see the flag. The firing went on until just before dawn. Then it stopped. The sun had not come up yet. It was still dark. There were no rockets blasting. There were no bombs bursting in the air. Key could not see much. The silence was puzzling. What did it mean? Was the battle over? Had the soldiers in the fort given up? Key could not tell. Key waited nervously. At last the sun rose. Key looked at the fort. And what did he see? The soldiers had raised the huge flag that Mrs. Pickersgill had made. It was not the U.S. soldiers who had given up. It was the British sailors! They had stopped firing on the fort. Key felt a surge of joy. He felt pride, too. The brave men in the fort had not given up!

Chapter Eight to be continued …

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The War Of 1812

Lesson 36 – Part Three 

NEW WORDS: Andrew, Jackson, Jackson’s, Orleans, dawn’s, emails, events, glare, gleaming, highways, inspired, knotty, losses, o’er, orphan, patriotic, proof, proudly, ramparts, rocket’s, salute, saluting, spangled, sporting, starved, streaming, twilight’s

Chapter Eight, continued 

Key felt inspired. He hoped to share with others what he had seen. He needed to tell what it was like to wait and wait — and then see the flag still flying in the morning. Key reached into his pocket. He found an old letter. On the back, he wrote a poem. Here is the first part of his poem:

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Key did not know then that, one day, his poem would become our national anthem.


Chapter Nine: Andrew Jackson
After the Battle of Baltimore, both sides began to get tired of the war. They called a meeting. Men from both sides sat down to try to form a peace treaty. But in the meantime, the war went on. The British sent troops to attack the city of New Orleans, on the Gulf of Mexico.

You can see why New Orleans is an important place if you look at the map on the next page. The city is located at the mouth of the Mississippi River, right where the river drains into the Gulf of Mexico. From New Orleans, you can travel north along the Mississippi River. You can also turn off onto other rivers that feed into the Mississippi, like the Ohio River. These rivers are like highways that lead right into the middle of North America. In 1814, New Orleans was already an important, big port. Lots of ships landed there. Farmers could ship their goods down the river and sell them in New Orleans. Traders could unload goods in New Orleans and ship them up the river. New Orleans was an important city, not only for the people who had homes there, but also for the farmers up the river in places like Ohio and Kentucky. If the British took New Orleans, they could control trade along the Mississippi. Farmers in Ohio and Kentucky would be cut off. The Americans could not let this happen. They sent an army to defend the city. The army was led by a man named Andrew Jackson.


Andrew Jackson was from Tennessee. He had joined the U.S. Army during the American Revolution. At the time, he was just a boy. He was too young to fight. He carried notes from place to place. During the Revolution, Jackson and his brother were taken prisoner by the British. It was a difficult time for them. They were treated badly. They almost starved to death. Jackson’s brother got sick and died. While he was a prisoner, Jackson had a run-in with a British officer. The man ordered Jackson to clean his boots. Jackson was proud and stubborn. He refused. The man shouted at Jackson. Still Jackson refused. The man struck Jackson with his weapon. Jackson was left with a scar on his face. As a result of this, Andrew Jackson had no love for the British. He was happy to fight them again, as an army general, when the War of 1812 broke out.

Jackson had not been trained as a soldier. But he was bold and strong. His mother had died when he was young. He had gotten by on his own as an orphan. He had made his own way in life. During the first part of the War of 1812, Jackson battled against Native Americans in the west. Many Native Americans had sided with the British. Jackson’s men called him “Old Hickory,” because he was as strong as a knotty old piece of hickory wood. In 1814, “Old Hickory” was given an important job. He was told to raise an army to protect New Orleans. Jackson rushed to the city. He picked up new troops along the way. Many of the men who joined him were farmers. But there were also free African-Americans, Native Americans, and even pirates. When Jackson arrived, he ordered his ragtag army to set up walls and get ready for an attack. Then they waited.


Chapter Ten: The End of the War
On January 8, 1815, the British attacked New Orleans. They planned on winning without much trouble. But they did not know how brave Andrew Jackson and his men were — or how good they were with their weapons. The British soldiers had on bright red coats. A wave of them charged. Jackson’s men crouched behind their walls. They took careful aim. Then they fired. Their bullets hit the first wave of British soldiers. The British kept coming. Jackson and his men kept firing. The wall helped to keep them safe. When it was all over, the U.S. flag was still flying. The British gave up their attack.


The British took heavy losses. Two thousand of their men were killed or hurt. The U.S. Army lost no more than one hundred men. New Orleans was safe! Americans cheered for Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans. After time passed, a letter arrived. It said that the war was already over. On December 24, 1814, the United States and Great Britain had signed a treaty to end the war. This was two weeks before the Battle of New Orleans! But Jackson and his men did not know that. In those days, news traveled slowly. There were no radios or television sets. There were no phones. There were no computers to send emails. A letter could only travel as fast as the man who carried it. It took a couple of weeks for news of the treaty to get from Europe to the United States. That is why Jackson and his men did not find out about the treaty until after the battle. America’s greatest victory in the War of 1812 came after the war was already over!


The War of 1812 lasted three years. It’s hard to say who won. Both sides won battles. The British burned Washington, D.C. But the Americans won the Battle of New Orleans. “Old Ironsides” won a number of battles on the sea. But other U.S. ships were sunk. All in all, there was no clear winner. It might seem as if the war was for nothing. But some things had changed. The Americans had battled together as a nation, and they had done it well. They had taken on the mighty British and had held their own. The world saw that they were strong. The end of the war marked the start of a new age in U.S. history. It was an age of national pride. The War of 1812 showed that the United States of America was here to stay.


Chapter Eleven: Our National Anthem
A national anthem is a special patriotic song. Many countries have a national anthem. People sing a national anthem to show that they are proud of their country. In the United States, our national anthem is “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The words to this song were written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The song describes what Key saw during the attack on Fort McHenry. After the attack, he saw the U.S. flag, or in his words, the “star-spangled banner.”

We sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before baseball games and other sporting events. We sing it on holidays like the Fourth of July. We sing it on special days when we gather together. Sometimes we sing it at school. We sing it to show that we care about our country. In the United States, we always stand when we sing or hear the national anthem. If you are playing or talking and you hear this song, you should stop what you are doing and turn to face a flag. You may wish to place your right hand over your heart. You should stand still and look at the flag until the song is over. You should never talk or giggle or fool around during the national anthem.


During the national anthem, you will see men taking off their hats. You may also see soldiers saluting the flag. They salute by bringing their right hand up to their head or the tip of their hat. Also, the flag should never touch the ground. These are all ways of showing respect for the U.S. flag and pride in our country.

You know that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key. But did you know that it was not always our national anthem? In fact, it took more than one hundred years for it to become our national anthem. When it was first written, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was not a song. It was a poem. A little later, people took the words and set them to music. They sang the words to a tune that was popular at the time. Do you ever change the words to songs you know? That’s what people did with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” They took an old tune and gave it different words. Soon, lots of people were singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was a big hit!


“The Star-Spangled Banner” became a popular national song. People all over the nation liked to sing it. But they also liked to sing lots of other songs, and we still sing some of them today. Do you know “Yankee Doodle?” What about “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee?” Have you ever sung “America, the Beautiful?” These are all patriotic songs that we sing to show how we feel about our country. If you went to a big state dinner at the White House one hundred years ago, the band might have played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Or it might have played “Yankee Doodle,” or “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” At that time, the United States did not have a national anthem. It had a set of national songs. Then, in 1931, Congress made “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sung to show that we love our country. It is one of the things that unite us as a people. So, when you sing it, sing it with pride!

Core Knowledge (R) Independent Reading 

(Review guidelines for publishing Core Knowledge (R) materials at the bottom of this page-view.) 
The War Of 1812

Lesson 37 – Part Four

NEW WORDS: Payne, Pickersgill’s, Quaker, Quakers, Todd, anchors, battle’s, chiefs, commanders, conceals, conquer, defended, delightful, desolation, dimly, diplomat, diplomats, discloses, disorganized, drape, encouragement, enters, entertaining, entertains, exchanges, fitfully, foe’s, footstep’s, formal, freemen, glossary, halls, havoc, heav’n, hireling, hosted, hostess, impressively, indoor, key’s, lov’d, meets, mentions, missile, mists, morning’s, motto, outgoing, pollution, preserv’d, rampart, ranking, refuge, relating, reposes, ripple, rippling, simpler, streak, trader, upbringing, vauntingly, vict’ry, war’s, wash’d  

Chapter Twelve: Making Sense of the National Anthem
Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner” almost two hundred years ago. There are some old words in the poem. Some parts can be hard to understand. Let’s look at the words and try to make sense of them. On the next page is the first verse of the song, the part that we sing before a sporting event. Can you read it two or three times? “O’er” is a short form of the word “over.”

O say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


To make sense of the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” it helps to think of what Francis Scott Key was doing the night he wrote it. Key was watching the attack on Fort McHenry. In the poem he describes the attack as a “perilous fight.” That means it was a dangerous battle. During the battle, Key kept his eye on Fort McHenry. In the poem, he mentions the ramparts, or walls, of the fort. But what Key talks about the most is the U.S. flag that he could see flying over the fort. Key says the flag is “spangled,” or dotted, with stars. He also talks about its “broad stripes.” When the wind blows, Key says that these stripes blow back and forth. They look like they are “streaming” or rippling in the air. Have you ever seen a flag look that way?


In the poem, Key describes three different times when he looked for the flag. First, he tells us that he looked for the flag at “the twilight’s last gleaming,” or just as the sun set. Since it was not dark yet, Key could see. He saw that the flag was still flying over the fort. That was good. It means that the troops had not given up. Key tells us that he also looked for the flag at night. You might think he would not be able to see much at night. But Key explains that the “rocket’s red glare” and the “bombs bursting in air” lit up the night sky. These flashes of light helped him see. They gave him “proof” that the flag was still flying. Key looked for the flag again just before dawn. This time he could not see it. Remember, the attack on the fort had stopped just before dawn. There were no more “bombs bursting in air.” There was no more “rocket’s red glare.” It was dark. Was the flag still flying? Had the troops in the fort given up? Or had the British? In the time before the sun rose, Key did not know. At that time, he had a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers.


Look back at the words Key wrote. Do you see the question marks? There are three of them. An important thing to understand about our national anthem is that it starts with a set of questions. In the first lines, Key asks a question: “O say can you see by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?” Wow! That’s a long sentence. Suppose we broke it up into shorter sentences and used simpler words. Then it might sound like this: “The sun is coming up. Tell me, my friend, can you see the flag? Remember? We saw it last night at sunset. Now the night has passed. Is it still there?”


In the last lines of the song, Key asks another question. He says, “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” The “star-spangled banner” is the American flag. “The land of the free and the home of the brave” is what Key calls his country. It’s another name for the United States. So Key is really asking the same thing he asked before. He is asking, “Is our flag still waving?”

Key asks these questions, but it might seem like he never answers them. In fact, he does. If you ever get a chance to read the rest of the poem, you will see that Key answers his own questions a little later. There is a part later in the poem where he says, “Yes! The flag is still flying! Hooray!” But that is in a part of the poem that we don’t sing very much. Most of the time we only sing the part with the questions. We don’t sing the part with the answers. So, the next time you sing or hear the national anthem, think of Francis Scott Key. Think of him watching the bombs bursting over Fort McHenry. Think of him checking on the flag and wondering if it’s still flying. If you keep your eyes on the flag during the song, you will be doing just what Francis Scott Key was doing that night long ago.


On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,

‘Tis the star-spangled banner — O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.


No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto — “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Chapter Thirteen: Dolley Madison
Dolley Payne Madison was the wife of the fourth president of the United States, James Madison. The president’s wife is called the First Lady. Dolley Madison was one of the most famous First Ladies in history. Dolley Madison was born Dolley Payne in 1768. She had four brothers and three sisters. When she was a little girl, she and her family had a very simple life. They belonged to the Quaker church. Quakers believed in living simply. They went to plain meeting halls instead of fancy churches. They ate plain food. Dolley had a strict upbringing. She was not allowed to sit with the boys in church or in school. She was not allowed to dance or play cards.

When she was young, Dolley Payne loved books. She liked going to school. She had lots of friends. She loved the color yellow. She hoped to get a nice yellow dress, but her parents said no. They were Quakers, and they did not believe in fancy dresses. When Dolley Payne was an adult, she married a man named Mr. Todd. They had a little boy. They were married only for a little while. Then Mr. Todd got yellow fever and died. Mrs. Todd was a widow. People told James Madison about Dolley. They said that she was smart and charming. He was eager to meet her. Madison was not president at the time. But he was already an important person. In some ways, James and Dolley were very different. He was quiet and serious. Dolley was outgoing and cheerful. But, after meeting several times, they found that they liked each other very much. Soon James Madison asked Dolley Todd to marry him, and she accepted.


The Madisons were happy together. Dolley was a great help to her husband. When he was president, he had to host fancy state dinners for visitors. Dolley helped him. She was a charming hostess. She welcomed all sorts of visitors to the President’s House. There were diplomats and visitors from distant lands. There were Native American chiefs. Dolley Madison always served her ice cream. At that time, ice cream was something new. Lots of people had never tasted it before. When the British marched into Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812, Dolley Madison was very brave. She stayed in the President’s House as long as she could. Before she left, she grabbed many important papers. She even helped to save a painting of George Washington.

Glossary for The War of 1812

Anthem — an important song.
Army — a group of soldiers trained to fight on land.

Branch — one of three major parts of the government.
British — people who are from Great Britain.

Capitol — the building in Washington, D.C., where Congress meets.
Charge — to rush into (charged).
Charming — pleasing or delightful.
Commander — a high-ranking officer in the military.

Declare war — to officially say that one country will start a war with another country (declaring war).
Defeat — loss, such as in a battle or contest.
Diplomat — a person who represents his or her country (diplomats).
Distant — far away.
Document — an official or important paper.
Drape — curtain (drapes).

Flee — to run away from danger.
Fort — a large building constructed to survive enemy attacks (forts).

Gallantly — impressively.
General — a high-ranking officer in the military.

Hail — to greet or see (hailed).
Harbor — an area of calm, deep water near land, where ships can safely put down their anchors.
Heavy blow — a difficult loss to deal with.
Hickory — a tree with very hard wood.
Hostess — a woman who entertains guests at an event.

Imagine — to think or believe something.
Impressment — the state of being forced to serve in the British Navy (impressed).
Inspired — wanted to do something.

Knotty — having many dark marks on wood where branches once grew.

Mast — the tall pole on a ship to which the sails are attached (masts).
Meeting hall — an indoor space where many people can gather (meeting halls).
Merchant — a person who sells things (merchants).
Monarchy — a government ruled by a king or queen (monarchies).
Mortar — a type of cannon (mortars).
Mouth — the place where a river enters the ocean.

National — relating to a nation or country.
Navy — a group of soldiers trained to fight battles at sea on board ships.
Niece — the daughter of your brother or sister (nieces).

Open fire — to shoot a weapon in order to start a fight or battle (opened fire).
Oppose — to be against something (opposed).
Orphan — a child whose parents are no longer alive.

Panic — to suddenly become very scared (panicked).
Patriotic — having or showing support and love for your country.
Peace — a state of no war or fighting.
Perilous — dangerous.
Pile up — to collect (piled up).
Pitch in — to help with (pitched in).
Plank — a long, thick board (planks).
Port — a place on the water near land, where ships load and unload cargo.
Proof — something showing that something else is true or correct.

Quaker — a person who belonged to the Quaker faith, also known as the “Religious Society of Friends.” During colonial times, Quakers did not wear fancy, colorful clothing. They also did not think it proper to dance or attend parties.

Ragtag — disorganized and made up of many different types.
Rampart — the wall of a fort (ramparts).
Ransacked — searched in order to steal and cause damage.
Rocket — a type of missile (rockets).

Salute — to show respect (saluting).
Soot — the black powder left behind when something burns.
State dinner — a special dinner hosted by the president of the United States for important people (state dinners).
Stitching — sewing (stitched).
Streak — to move quickly (streaking).
String — a series.
Support the troops — to provide encouragement, and sometimes food and supplies, to soldiers.
Supreme Court — the highest court of law in the United States.

Toast — to raise a glass and drink in honor of someone or something (toasted).
Torch — a piece of wood that burns at one end (torches).
Trader — someone who exchanges something to get something in return (traders, traded, trading, trade).
Treaty — a formal agreement between countries.
Trunk — a large box or crate used to carry things.

Upbringing — the way a child is raised.
U.S. Congress — the people elected to make laws for the United States.

Widow — a woman whose husband has passed away.

Subtitles to images:

Christopher Columbus. The United States, Great Britain, and France. Great Britain. United States. France. The Revolutionary War. The Pilgrims. The Founding Fathers. The American Government. The Declaration of Independence. The Constitution. George Washington. John Adams. Thomas Jefferson. James Madison. Where Parliament meets. The British Government. King George III. Colonial farmers. Early Colonial Life. The 13 original colonies. American port. Westward expansion. Modern navy ship. The War of 1812. USS Constitution. American soldiers. Cannon from the 1800s. The President’s House and Capitol in the 1800s. Washington, D.C. The White House and Capitol today. James Madison was the fourth president of the United States. The French were led by a man named Napoleon. The British and the French were at war. British commanders (on the right) look on as men from American ships (left) are “impressed” — forced to serve in the British Navy. King George III. Napoleon. People continued the westward expansion. President Madison and the men in Congress would have to think long and hard about declaring war. Merchants in Boston (shown here) and other eastern cities wanted to avoid a war. War Hawks, like Henry Clay, made angry speeches in Congress. In 1812, the United States was much smaller than it is today. There were far fewer states. Many people who lived in the western states were War Hawks, who wanted to go to war with the British. The British were already fighting France, so they could only send some of their soldiers to fight the Americans. James Madison was an elected president at a time when most countries were ruled by kings and queens. Soldiers in the U.S. Army. American men in the navy during the War of 1812. The USS Constitution. A painting of the Constitutional Convention, where the U.S. Constitution was signed. The USS Constitution is still floating today. You can visit “Old Ironsides” in Boston Harbor. The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., as it looked in 1810. The President’s House was the home of the U.S. president. Dolley Madison. Dolley Madison helped to save a painting of George Washington. This painting shows the Capitol Building after it was set on fire by the British. The British burned the President’s House. This image shows how the President’s House looked after it was burned. Baltimore was a big city and a key port north of Washington, D.C. Fort McHenry as it looks today. The U.S. flag today. A year earlier, the soldiers at Fort McHenry asked Mary Pickersgill to make a flag to fly over the fort. A flag like Mary Pickersgill’s flag flying at Fort McHenry. This image shows the British firing on Fort McHenry from far away. Francis Scott Key. When the sun rose on Fort McHenry, Francis Scott Key saw that the American flag was still flying. The U.S. flag was still flying at Fort McHenry after the attack on Baltimore. New Orleans. New Orleans is located at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson on horseback. Andrew Jackson (with the sword) and his soldiers defended New Orleans from attack by the British. The Battle of New Orleans. Andrew Jackson went on to become the seventh president of the United States. His face appears on the twenty-dollar bill. An old poster about “The Star-Spangled Banner.” One way to show respect for the flag is to place your right hand on your heart. This soldier is saluting the American flag. This image shows deaf students singing — and signing — “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was taken in Ohio around 1920. Until 1931, the United States did not have a national anthem. It had lots of patriotic songs. The first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When the U.S. flag blows in the wind, its stripes appear to stream and ripple like waves. Key looked for the flag three times — “at the twilight’s last gleaming,” at night, and then “by the dawn’s early light.” The rest of Francis Scott Key’s poem. A Quaker meeting. James Madison. Dolley Madison. Dolley Madison entertaining visitors at the President’s House.


Lesson 38 – 4-Letter Vocab-Builder

NEW WORDS: Alaska, Angelou, Bator, Dipper’s, Erikson, Gobi, Greece, Leif, Magi, Marc, Mongol, Mongolia’s, Neve, Noel, Nome, Orcs, Pele, SARS, Tori, Tory, Ulan, Ursa, Yogi, Yule, alloy, blackened, brooch, cartoons, caves, city’s, coach’s, commons, corals, cowboys, dealer, dewlaps, ferments, firm’s, fizzle, gemstone, gout, gutter, hordes, humps, latrines, lids, lied, lien, lieu, lima, limn, limo, limy, linn, lint, lira, lisp, mach, macs, mags, maim, mako, malt, mans, mansion’s, marl, mart, maul, maxi, medicinal, newt, nibs, nobs, nogg, nogs, noir, noni, nook, nosh, nova, nubs, nude, nuke, nutritious, occurs, onus, onyx, ooze, oozy, opah, opts, opus, oral, orbs, orca, ores, org, oryx, orzo, otic, ouds, parmesan, pasta, pees, pelt, pent, peon, perfumes, perk, perm, perp, pert, peso, pest, pews, pfft, phew, sacs, salon, sane, saps, sari, sass, scam, scow, scry, scud, scut, scuttled, sear, secs, sect, seep, sheared, skeletons, suitcase, taters, tellers, tofu, toga, togs, toil, toke, toll, tome, toon, tope, tort, tout, tows, transports, tuber, ughs, ukes, umps, updo, urbs, urds, urge, uric, urns, user, vacs, vail, vamp, vane, vats, veal, veep, veer, vein, vend, vent, veto, vial, vibe, vied, vies, xyst, yack, yaks, yawl, yuan, yuca, yurt, zany, zaps, zeal, zebu, zest, zinc, ziti

Watch how he vies for power.

The new girl is named Neve.

Spider egg sacs can have 1,000 eggs!

See how that bunny zigs and zags.

I’m tall, so I can peer over the fence.

My cat’s named Toby.

There were loud “ughs” when she cut open the frog.

Soak these lids in the sink.

That jet can go mach-2.

You bear the onus to prove your case.

They ski in Vail, Colorado.

A newt scuttled up the gutter.

A sane person wouldn’t do that!

He’s a zany comic.

I love Yogi Bear cartoons.

My dog pees in our den.

There’s tofu in this Asian dish.

That guitar player owns some ukes and ouds.

Dad, I lied.

Get me two Big Macs.

Onyx is a pretty gemstone.

He’s too vain to wear glasses.


These tools have diamond nibs.

The hot sun saps my energy.

Right here, he zaps the alien with his ray gun.

Fix the yoke to the ox.

Square pegs don’t fit in round holes.

Ancient Romans wore a toga.

Ulan Bator is Mongolia’s capital.

Leif Erikson saw the New World before Columbus.

I love the “Gift of the Magi” story.

The dinner special is blackened opah.

The band will vamp to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

It’s nigh time you got to bed!

There have been no SARS virus cases since 2004.

He campaigns for office with zeal.

I hate runny egg yolk.

Pele was the best soccer player.

I’ve packed my togs in my suitcase.

Baseball umps have gone on strike.

There’s a lien against my house till I pay him back.

Mom, what’s a maxi-dress?

Watch this honey ooze into the tea.

The weather vane is pointed east.

Those nobs were born into wealth.


Hindu women often wear a sari.

Zebu cattle have humps and large dewlaps.

He likes books about cowboys and Indians of yore.

Hail will pelt your car.

After much toil, the latrines were dug.

It’s hard to undo a mistake.

In lieu of a test, you can write a report.

Toss this box of old mags from the attic.

That’s a nice opal brooch!

Vary your diet more.

I love the tune “The First Noel.”

Don’t you sass me!

You can’t divide by zero.

That cat will yowl till we feed him.

He has lots of pent-up energy.

He gave a toke to the card game dealer.

Peace be unto you!

She has a nice lilt to her voice.

That dog would maul and maim my cat.

I hope she opts to go on a date with me.

The beer here ferments in steel vats.

Use this nogg to shave those handles.

Our two saws aren’t sharp anymore.


This recipe calls for lemon zest.

The Chinese Yuan is worth close to 14 cents.

I’m a peon in the firm’s org structure.

There’s a toll to cross this bridge.

Mom, your hair looks good as an updo.

Eat each lima bean on your plate!

Mako” is short for “mackerel shark.”

This book was her grand opus.

This veal parmesan is great.

The nogs I fix contain beaten eggs.

Gran was a victim of a phone scam.

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc.

The yuca tuber is a nutritious starch.

An office with a view is a job perk here.

Scooby saw a mummy in the tomb.

They moved from the urbs to a rural farm.

A tree limb fell on the roof.

Most beer is made with malt and hops.

Where’s the oral care section in the store?

The Veep says he won’t run for President.

That was a creepy film noir!

That rusty scow transports coal.


Mom’s mac and cheese has ziti pasta.

Gran makes a great Yule log cake.

Mom got a perm at the salon.

She wrote a tome on Ancient Greece.

Urds look like black beans.

Is that limo 20 feet long?!

He mans the tower as the night watch.

This artist makes odd-colored orbs.

Veer from that guy on the bike!

Our ship stopped in Nome, Alaska.

Fortune tellers claim they can scry your future.

A yurt can be put up in two hours.

They caught the perp who robbed the bank.

A toon tree has red leaves.

I urge you to not do that!

Limn to me the story in this picture book.

I’m bad at reading maps.

Orca” sounds nicer than “killer whale.”

We found a vein of gold!

The noni (or nona) fruit is thought to have medicinal value.

Scud across the field and get the soccer ball.

Will he yack all night long?


She’s pert, and has a good sense of humor.

At a party, he’ll tope till he can’t see straight.

Gout occurs due to too much uric acid in the blood.

I can limp off of the field on my own.

Marc was not at school.

The “Orcs” in Lord of the Rings are creepy.

Let’s vend lemonade at the end of the driveway.

I have a favorite nook at the library.

The short tail of a bunny is a “scut.”

There are two yaks at our zoo.

What can I buy with one peso?

Tori will start 10th grade.

Get three coffee urns for this crowd.

Living corals build limy skeletons.

I use a marl-based fertilizer.

They found iron ores in these caves.

Aunt Vera is a nurse.

I’ll nosh on chips during the game.

Seal this envelope.

Mom’s cooking yams.

My brother’s a pest.

The tort lawyer won a big settlement.

Ursa Major has the Big Dipper’s seven stars.


Let’s swim in that linn at the base of the waterfall.

The Pet Mart has some good sales.

There’s an oryx at our city’s zoo.

The President will veto this bill.

Many massive stars will go super-nova.

My first step is to sear the meat.

My cat plays with yarn.

Church pews fill on Easter.

She’s a Tory in the House of Commons.

The dryer vent is stopped-up with lint.

Mash these taters with butter.

I’ll cook orzo, not rice.

Don’t spill this vial of acid!!

Coach’s practice routine wore us all to nubs.

I’ll be there in a couple of secs.

They like to sail on their yawl.

Firecrackers go “pfft,” then fizzle out.

Give me a tour of the complex.

Here are some lira that I got in Italy.

We go to Mass at church on Sundays.

That hearing expert knows all things otic.

That party had a good vibe to it.


I bet a sheared sheep feels nude.

There’s more than one sect in their religion.

They have a xyst on their mansion’s grounds.

Phew, it’s hot out there!

He’ll tout that he has a Ph.D.

She’s a user of fine perfumes.

He speaks with a strong lisp.

Maya Angelou was a great poet.

The alien spit out an oozy liquid.

She vied for his attention.

Nuke this in the microwave.

Let the water seep into the soil slowly.

Mongol hordes crossed the Gobi desert.

My uncle tows broken-down cars.

Lots of water vacs were sold due to the flood.


Lesson 39 – Poems And Rhymes

NEW WORDS: Cossack, Hindustan, Isabel, angleworm, anon, anvil, aspire, blindest, bliss, blundered, bole, boles, breadth, brigade, bulged, candlelight, cavernous, cherubs, childhood’s, clasp, concocter, convenient, coughs, coveted, cured, decree, deeps, delay, depth, disputed, diverged, doctor’s, eternal, exceeding, giant’s, griefs, grieved, grope, gunners, halves, haunted, hence, immortal, impart, inclined, inexplicably, merrily, migration, noble, pathless, pearly, perils, plashless, plover, preserve, punched, purely, quoth, rancor, ravenous, reliant, reverence, saber, sabers, sabring, saints, satchel, scope, seize, seizing, sidewise, sinews, sloth, spake, sparkle, squirming, steered, steersman, stormed, stoutly, straightened, sundered, swinging, symmetry, terrors, thievish, thine, troop, troublesome, tusk, tyger, undaunted, undergrowth, unrolled, volleyed, whence, zwieback

The Adventures Of Isabel
Isabel met an enormous bear.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care.
The bear was hungry.
The bear was ravenous.
The bear’s big mouth,
Was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, “Isabel, glad to meet you.
How do, Isabel? Now I’ll eat you!”
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She washed her hands.
And she straightened her hair up.
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.

Once in a night as black as pitch,
Isabel met a wicked old witch.
The witch’s face was cross and wrinkled.
The witch’s gums with teeth were sprinkled.
“Ho, ho, Isabel!” the old witch crowed.
“I’ll turn you into an ugly toad!”
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She showed no rage.
And she showed no rancor.
But she turned the witch,
Into milk and drank her.


Isabel met a hideous giant.
Isabel continued self-reliant.
The giant was hairy. The giant was horrid.
He had one eye in the middle of his forehead.
“Good morning, Isabel,” the giant said.
“I’ll grind your bones to make my bread.”
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She nibbled the zwieback that she always fed off.
And when it was gone,
She cut the giant’s head off.

Isabel met a troublesome doctor.
He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor’s talk was of coughs and chills.
And the doctor’s satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
“Swallow this, it will make you well.”
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She took those pills from the pill concocter.
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor.


Poem By Ogden Nash

A Bird Came Down The Walk
A Bird came down the Walk.
He did not know I saw.
He bit an Angleworm in halves,
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a Dew,
From a convenient Grass.
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall,
To let a Beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes,
That hurried all abroad.
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought.
He stirred his Velvet Head,
Like one in danger, Cautious.
I offered him a Crumb.
And he unrolled his feathers.
And rowed him softer home,
Than Oars divide the Ocean.
Too silver for a seam,
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.

Poem By Emily Dickinson

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.
And sorry I could not travel both,
And be one traveler, long I stood.
And looked down one as far as I could.
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair.
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear.
Though as for that the passing there,
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay,
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by.
And that has made all the difference.

Poem By Robert Frost 

The Tyger
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night.
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? And what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night.
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Poem By William Blake    

How Do I Love Thee?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose,
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! And, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Poem By Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Migration of the Grey Squirrels
(Note: a “bole” is “the stem or trunk of a tree.” A “dale” is a “broad valley.” “Anon” means “at once, immediately,” or “in a short time, soon.”)

When in my youth I traveled,
Throughout each north country.
Many a strange thing did I hear,
And many a strange thing to see.

But nothing was there, pleased me more,
Than when, in autumn brown.
I came, in the depths of the pathless woods,
To the grey squirrels’ town.

There were hundreds that in the hollow boles,
Of the old, old trees did dwell.
And laid up store, hard by their door,
Of the sweet mast as it fell.


But soon the hungry wild swine came,
And with thievish snouts dug up.
Their buried treasure, and left them not,
So much as an acorn cup.

Then did they chatter in angry mood,
And one and all decree.
Into the forests of rich stone-pine,
Over hill and dale to flee.

Over hill and dale, over hill and dale,
For many a league they went.
Like a troop of undaunted travelers,
Governed by one consent.

But the hawk and the eagle, and peering owl,
Did dreadfully pursue.
And the further the grey squirrels went,
The more their perils grew.


When lo! to cut off their pilgrimage,
A broad stream lay in view.
But then did each wondrous creature show,
His cunning and bravery.

With a piece of the pine-bark in his mouth,
Unto the stream came he.
And boldly his little bark he launched,
Without the least delay.

His busy tail was his upright sail,
And he merrily steered away.
Never was there a lovelier sight,
Than that grey squirrels’ fleet.

And with anxious eyes I watched to see,
What fortune it would meet.
Soon they had reached the rough mild-stream,
And ever and anon.

I grieved to behold some bark quite wrecked,
And its little steersman gone.
But the main fleet stoutly held across,
I saw them leap to shore.
They entered the woods with a cry of joy,
For their perilous march was o’er.

Poem By William Howitt  

The Blind Men And The Elephant
It was six men of Hindustan,
To learning much inclined.
Who went to see the elephant,
(Though all of them were blind).
That each by observation,
Might satisfy his mind.

The first approached the elephant,
And happening to fall,
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl,
“Bless me, it seems the elephant,
Is very like a wall.”

The second, feeling of his tusk,
Cried, “Ho! What have we here?
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an elephant,
Is very like a spear.”

The third approached the animal,
And happening to take,
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Then boldly up and spake.
“I see,” quoth he, “the elephant
Is very like a snake.”


The fourth stretched out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee,
“What most this mighty beast is like,
Is mighty plain,” quoth he.
“‘Tis clear enough the elephant,
Is very like a tree.”

The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said, “Even the blindest man,
Can tell what this resembles most.
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an elephant,
Is very like a fan.”

The sixth no sooner had begun,
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail,
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” cried he, “the elephant,
Is very like a rope.”

And so, these men of Hindustan,
Disputed loud and long,
Each of his own opinion,
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Poem By John Godfrey Saxe

Rover From Dover
There once was a plover from Dover.
Whose name, inexplicably, was Rover.
His life had been haunted.
So, more luck, oh, he wanted.
So, he coveted a four-leaf clover!


A Child’s Evening Prayer
Before on my bed my limbs I lay.
God grant me grace, my prayers to say.
Oh God! preserve my mother dear,
In strength and health for many a year.
And, Oh! preserve my father too.
And may I pay him reverence due.
And may I, my best thoughts employ.
To be my parents’ hope and joy.
And Oh! preserve my brothers both,
From evil doings and from sloth.
And may we always love each other,
Our friends, our father, and our mother.
And still, Oh Lord, to me impart,
An innocent and grateful heart.
That after my great sleep I may,
Awake to thy eternal day! Amen.

Poem By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Where Did You Come From, Baby Dear?
Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere, into here.
Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the sky as I came through.
What makes the light in them sparkle and spin?
Some of the starry spikes, left in.
Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.
What makes your forehead so smooth and high?
A soft hand stroked it as I went by.
What makes your cheek like a warm white rose?
I saw something better than anyone knows.
that three-cornered smile of bliss?
Three angels gave me at once a kiss.
Where did you get this pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out to hear.
Where did you get those arms and hands?
Love made itself into hooks and bands.
Feet, whence did you come, you darling things?
From the same box as the cherubs‘ wings.
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew.
But how did you come to us, you dear?
God thought about you. And so I am here.

Poem By George Mac Donald

Charge Of The Light Brigade
Half a league, half a league.
Half a league onward.
All in the valley of Death,
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death,
Rode the six hundred. 
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew,
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply.
Theirs not to reason why.
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death,
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them.
Cannon to left of them.
Cannon in front of them,
Volleyed and thundered.
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death.
Into the mouth of Hell,
Rode the six hundred.


Flashed all their sabers bare.
Flashed as they turned in air.
Sabring the gunners there.
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke,
Right through the line they broke.
Cossack and Russian,
Reeled from the saber-stroke,
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not,
Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them.
Cannon to left of them.
Cannon behind them,
Volleyed and thundered.
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well,
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell.
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
Oh, the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

Poem By Alfred Lord Tennyson
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.) 
More Stories And Fables  

Lesson 40 – Part One

NEW WORDS: Madrid, Medio, Peggy, Pollito, abandoned, abides, accrued, acquiesced, additionally, aghast, agreeable, aided, antennae, arises, aspired, atypically, au, avaricious, awakened, backbreaking, balancing, banqueting, begrudge, blunder, bona, bordered, brood, bygone, campers, caregiver, catnapping, cavalier, centered, chary, choked, choking, chowderhead, chucked, circumspect, companionless, composure, congenial, consequential, considerably, contraire, contrived, cookhouse, courtyard, cupola, customary, daydreaming, desirous, devilish, disastrous, discarding, discrepant, dishonesty, distributed, downsides, dubbed, dumbstruck, dutiful, engaged, engrossed, entertained, envious, erelong, escort, exasperated, explicitly, famishing, farm’s, feasting, features, feign, fide, fizzling, foothills, fritter, garner, gleaned, goose’s, gratification, hackneyed, haggle, harebrained, harm’s, hefty, hesitation, hideaway, honestly, hoodwinking, hungered, immobile, impenetrable, imprisoned, indulgent, industrious, infuriated, intentions, intertwined, intractable, investigating, jettisoned, joys, languid, lashing, lectured, likelihood, loiterer, manor, markedly, maturity, menacingly, milkmaid, misspend, momentarily, moneyed, monotonous, mulish, munchkin, murderous, nettled, obligation, oddity, offspring, outlying, outstripped, overcooked, palpitating, paralyzed, peeved, pester, petitioned, pinnacle, pitiable, pleasantly, plucked, plumpest, podgy, poo, prank, pratfall, preference, presupposed, proceeds, proclaimed, proclamation, promptly, proximate, ranted, reality, rebukes, recapitulate, reconsider, recumbent, regained, relinquish, relishing, repartee, retraced, rivulet, roadway, rotating, ruck, runnel, shameful, sightly, singularly, slumbered, smoldering, solitary, splattered, sporadically, sprayed, stickled, streamlet, strutted, stubbornly, supposition, surly, tarried, tended, thereupon, timorously, toiled, tomfoolery, transactions, trusting, tuckered, unalike, unbearable, uncaring, uncivil, undertook, untangled, unyielding, upheld, valued, vantage, verge, villa, waltzed, wayfarers, wearied, whimpered, willful, woolgathering, wreaked, youthful

The Boy Who Cried Wolf
This story arises from bygone days. The likelihood is that it is 1,000s of years old. There was a youthful shepherd boy. He tended a considerably large ruck of sheep each day. He had quite an obligation. He was to keep the sheep out of harm’s way. He would escort them to the outlying foothills. That was at the base of the town’s proximate mountain range. Where they grazed, they bordered a dark, almost impenetrable forest.

This was a solitary job for the lad. Watching the sheep all day was monotonous. And being companionless stole from him the joys of human repartee. No one was near. Sporadically, he could see three farmers. They’d be working in the fields. But that was still fairly distant from him. They were in the valley below.

One day, the boy was engrossed in woolgathering. He entertained himself with devilish thoughts. He contrived a plan. That would help him to get some company. It would be fun, too. He ran down toward the valley. He cried out. “Wolf! Wolf!”


The men outstripped the wind to get to him. But they found that there was no wolf after all. Two farmers retraced their steps. They went back to their fields. One of them remained. He lectured the boy for some time. He ranted on about the downsides of dishonesty. He told the boy that his trick was shameful.

Well, despite the lashing, the boy enjoyed the company. A few days passed. He maintained a cavalier attitude about the farmer’s rebukes. So, he shrugged his shoulders. Then, he said to himself, “Why not?” And he undertook to try the same prank again! The men ran to help him. They’d been tricked again! They were infuriated!

A few more days passed. This time, a REAL wolf came. It snuck out from the forest. It began to steal the sheep. The boy was aghast. His heart was palpitating. He was momentarily paralyzed. He was dumbstruck with fear. Finally, he regained his composure. He sprinted toward the valley. He cried out more loudly than ever. “Wolf! Wolf! I’m not tricking you this time. Honestly! Please! Help!”

But the men didn’t believe him. They’d been fooled twice before. They thought of a famous saying. “Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me!” They presupposed that the boy was hoodwinking them again. So, no one aided the boy. And the result was disastrous. The wolf wreaked major havoc on the flock’s population.

Moral: What if you often don’t tell the truth? Well, people just won’t believe ANYTHING you say! Even when you ARE telling the truth.


The Maid and the Milk Pail
Peggy was a milkmaid. She was going to market. There, she aspired to sell their farm’s fresh, sweet milk. She carried it in a pail. She had learned to carry it by balancing it on her head.

She went along. She began daydreaming. What would she do with the money she’d garner? “I’ll buy the plumpest chickens from Farmer Brown,” she said. “And they’ll lay eggs each morning. Those eggs will hatch. Then, I’ll have more chickens.”


“Then, I’ll engage in more transactions. I’ll sell some of the chickens and eggs. That will get me enough money to buy the blue dress I’ve wanted. And I’ll haggle for some blue ribbon, to match. Oh, I’ll look so sightly! And the fair comes soon. All the boys will want to dance with me. And the girls will be envious.”

“But I don’t care. I’ll toss my head at them, like this!” She tossed back her head. But, oh my! What a pratfall that was! The pail was promptly jettisoned off of her head. The milk splattered over the roadway. So, Peggy had to return home empty-handed. And, she had to timorously recapitulate to her mom what had happened.

“Ah! You’re a chowderhead, child,” said her mom. “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

Moral: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Or don’t count on having everything turn out explicitly as you plan. You may be surprised and upset.


The Goose and the Golden Eggs
Once, a farmer was investigating his goose’s nest. He found an egg there. It was all yellow. And it was shiny. He upheld the egg. Atypically, it was heavy. It weighed as much as a rock! He was on the verge of discarding it. He had a supposition. He thought that someone was engaged in some tomfoolery with him. He thought it was a harebrained prank.

But he had second thoughts. So, he took it home. Thereupon, he gleaned something quite to his gratification. It was made of bonafide gold! He sold it for a consequential sum of money.

Each morn, the goose laid a gold egg. The farmer would sell each egg. Erelong, he became moneyed from the accrued proceeds. But he grew greedy. He wanted more.


“Why should I have to wait to get just one egg a day?” he thought. “I’ll cut open the goose. I’ll take all the eggs out of her at once.”

Well! Guess what? The goose was circumspect. She was chary of trusting humans. So, her antennae were always up. She learned of the farmer’s murderous intentions. That night, she flew the coop. She abandoned her master. She fled to a nearby manor farm. The farmer would not lay eyes on her again!

So, what took place the next morn? The farmer came to the barn. What did he find in the goose’s nest? Nothing, of course!

Moral: He who wants more, often loses all. When you’re desirous of something, be patient. You’d best not be avaricious. You might relinquish all that you have!


The Dog in the Manger
There was once a self-centered dog. He napped on hot days. He slumbered in the cool barn. He had a preference. He liked to sleep in the manger. That was a long wooden box. It’s where hay was distributed for the farm animals to eat.

Let’s turn to a certain hot day. The oxen had toiled long and hard. They’d spent hours pulling the plow. They came back to the barn. They hungered for their dinner. But they couldn’t get to their food! That’s because the dog was recumbent in the manger. He was relishing his daily catnapping. He was on top of the hay.

One of the tuckered-out oxen spoke. “Excuse me. Please move. That way, we can eat our hay.” The uncaring dog was exasperated. He was peeved for being awakened. First, he growled menacingly. Then he barked at the ox.


“Please,” said the wearied, famishing ox. “I’ve had a backbreaking day. I’m starved.” The dog tarried. He stayed stubbornly immobile. Now the ox was nettled. He said, “Look. You’re a surly loiterer! You don’t even EAT hay. You just enjoy it for its comfort. And you won’t let us get to it.” The self-indulgent dog barked. He snarled. He snapped, in response. He stickled with the ox. Then he refused to budge.

At last, they acquiesced to their reality. They left, tired and hungry.

Now, the farmer came in. He had seen how the dog was acting. He got a hose. He turned the water on at full force. He sprayed the dog. He was unyielding. Shortly, the dog whimpered away. The oxen could now return for their meal.

Moral: Do not begrudge others what you cannot enjoy yourself. You should be nice and share. Especially when someone else needs something more than you do.


The Little Half-Chick (Medio Pollito)
Once there was a mother hen. She had a large brood. There were lots of chicks. They were all fine, pleasantly podgy little birds. But the youngest was an oddity. He was unalike his siblings.

He looked as if he had been cut right in half. His siblings had two wings, two legs, and two eyes. In other words, they had customary features for chicks. But the youngest had just one of each. One wing, one leg, and one eye! Additionally, he had just half a head. And he had just half a beak.

His mom looked at him. She shook her head sadly. “Pitiable offspring!” she said. “He’s just a half-chick.”

His mom gave him a name. She dubbed him, “Medio Pollito.” That’s Spanish for “half-chick.” She feared for him. Could he ever take care of himself? She made a decision. She’d keep him at home. Then she could be his caregiver.

But Medio had a discrepant vantage point. He was singularly mulish. He was an independent little munchkin. His siblings were dutiful. They did just what they were told to do. But au contraire with Medio! He was intractable.


His mom would call for him. She’d say, “Come to the chicken house.” He’d go to a favorite hideaway in the cornfield. Sometimes he’d feign that he could not hear her. Maybe she’d think it was because he had just one ear.

He got older. He got even more willful. He would not listen to his mom. And he was often uncivil with his siblings. This was despite the fact that they were always markedly congenial towards him.

One day Medio strutted up to his mom. He made a proclamation. “Life has become hackneyed in this languid barnyard. I’m going to Madrid. I have bold intentions. For instance, I plan to dine with the king.”

“Madrid!?” exclaimed his mom. “Good heavens! That is a long journey. It’s long even for a grown-up. You haven’t reached a stage of maturity where you can go to Madrid. Not just yet! Wait a bit. We’ll get you there when you’re a bit older. We’ll go to the city together. I promise!”


But Medio had made up his mind. He would not reconsider. He ignored his mom and his siblings. They all pleaded with him to stay. But he just proclaimed, “I’ll go to Madrid. I’ll dine with the king. And here’s what I’ll do when I get there. I’ll make my fortune. I’ll live in a fine villa. Perhaps I’ll even invite the rest of you. You can pay me a short visit sometime.” With that, he turned. He hopped off on his one leg.

His mom ran after him. She petitioned him, “Be sure to be kind to each person you meet!” But Medio did not listen. He was in a hurry. As usual, he thought only of himself.

Medio hopped on. He came to a rivulet of water. It was almost choked with weeds. “Oh, Medio,” the runnel called out. “Please help me. Pull some of these weeds. Then I can flow freely!”

“Help you?” exclaimed the half-chick. He tossed his head. He shook the few feathers in his tail. “I don’t have time to waste to do that sort of thing. Help yourself. And don’t pester industrious wayfarers like me. I’m off to Madrid. I’ll be dining with the king.” So, he hopped on.

A bit later, Medio came to an abandoned fire. Some campers had left it smoldering in the woods. “Oh, Medio,” the fire said. “Please toss some sticks on me. Then, I won’t burn out!”


Poo!” said Medio. “I can’t fritter away my valued time to do that sort of thing. I’m off to Madrid. I’ll be banqueting with the king.” He hopped on.

The next morning, he was nearing Madrid. Medio came to a large chestnut tree. The wind had gotten intertwined in it. “Oh, Medio,” said the wind. “Won’t you climb up here? Help me get myself untangled.”

Medio responded with an ugly tone. “It’s your own blunder. You shouldn’t have gone so high up there,” said Medio. “Besides, I can’t misspend my time to do that sort of thing. I’m off to Madrid. I’ll be feasting with the king.” He hopped on.

Medio entered the city. He saw the beautiful royal palace. He was so excited to meet the king. Without hesitation, he hopped right into the courtyard. The king’s cook spotted him. He yelled, “You’ll make an agreeable addition to the king’s dinner.”


The cook plucked up Medio in his hand. He took him back to the cookhouse. He tossed him into a pot of water! Then he set the pot on the stove.

Medio was getting very wet. “Oh! Water!” he cried. “Don’t soak me like this!” But the water replied, “You would not help me when I was a little streamlet choking with weeds. So, why should I help you now?”

Then the fire on the stove began to heat the water. Medio felt very hot. “Oh! Fire!” he cried. “Don’t cook me like this!” But the fire replied, “You would not help me when I was fizzling out. So, why should I help you now?”

The fire got hotter. The heat was unbearable. Medio grew more desperate to escape. Just then, the cook waltzed in. He raised the lid of the pot. He looked to see if the soup was ready.

“What’s this?” cried the cook. “I’ve overcooked the chicken. He is all blackened. He’s burnt to a crisp. I can’t serve this to the king!” The cook grabbed Medio. He chucked him out the window. With a hefty gust, the wind caught him. It carried him so fast that he could hardly breathe.


“Oh! Wind!” Medio cried. “Don’t push me around like this. Please! Set me down!” But the wind replied, “You would not help me when I was imprisoned in the tree. So, why should I help you now?”

The wind then lifted Medio up. Way up into the sky he went! The wind took him to the pinnacle of a building. It left him stuck atop the cupola. And that is where you’ll find Medio Pollito, to this very day.

Go to Madrid. Look for the tallest church. You’ll spy a black weather vane. It’s in the shape of half a chicken. It’s rotating in the wind. That’s Medio Pollito! That’s the chick who would not help others. Now he abides there and helps EVERYONE. He does so by showing them which way the wind is blowing. And, he’s stuck there forever!

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


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