Happy Thanksgiving

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On the fourth Thursday of November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, a national holiday honoring the early settlers and their harvest feast known as the first Thanksgiving. Today Thanksgiving is a very important holiday in the USA, families get together around a traditional meal and give thanks. 

What are the origins of this holiday?

Native Americans

Long before settlers came to the East Coast of the United States, the area was inhabited by many Native American tribes. The area which is now known as southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Rhode Island was the home of the Wampanoag people for over 12,000 years . The native people knew the land well and fished, hunted, and harvested for thousands of generations.

The Settlers

A group of English Protestants wanted to break away from the Church of England. These ‘separatists’ initially moved to Holland and after 12 years of financial problems, they received funding from English merchants to sail across the Atlantic to settle in a ‘New World.’ The ship spent 66 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean, intending to land where New York City is now located. Due to the windy conditions, the group had to cut their trip short and settle at what is now called Cape Cod.

Settling and Exploring

As the Puritans prepared for winter, they gathered anything they could find, including Wampanoag supplies. One day, Squanto, a Wampagnoag who knew how to speak English, visited the settlers.  After several meetings, a formal agreement was made between the settlers and the native people and they joined together to protect each other from other tribes in March of 1621.

The Celebration

The first  harvest celebration took place between the Wampanoag natives and the English men, women and children. The meal consisted of deer, corn, shellfish, and roasted meat, far from today’s traditional Thanksgiving feast. They played ball games, sang, and danced. Although prayers and thanks were probably offered at the 1621 harvest gathering, the first recorded religious Thanksgiving Day in Plymouth happened two years later in 1623. On this occasion, the colonists gave thanks to God for rain after a two-month drought.

The Myths

Unlike the pictures we see, the settlers didn’t have silver buckles on their shoes. Nor did they wear somber, black clothing. Their clothes were actually bright and cheerful. Many portrayals of this harvest celebration also show the Native Americans wearing woven blankets on their shoulders and large, feathered headdresses, which is not true. The Englishmen didn’t even call themselves Pilgrims.

Here are a few links to videos about Thanksgiving:

– kids explain what Thanksgiving is about on Newsround

– President Obama makes his last turkey pardon with a lot of jokes!

– a cartoon about the story of Thanksgiving http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faUYJ9fMiGg

– a song by Nicole Westbrook about Thanksgiving (I didn’t say it was a good song!! but it’s very funny!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSBq8geuJk0

– things you maybe didn’t know about Thanksgiving here: http://www.history.com/videos/bet-you-didnt-know-thanksgiving#bet-you-didnt-know-thanksgiving

– learn all about Thanksgiving Day (with vocabulary and text on screen) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG4XyNqUQxg

– The American Thanksgiving story (with subtitles) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BQSOkkoDjc

Modern Day Thanksgiving Traditions

Today Thanksgiving has become an important family occasion. Many people live far from family members and travel long distances by car, train, or plane to be with their loved ones. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year!

Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie. Before the meal begins, families or friends usually pause to give thanks for their blessings, including the joy of being united for the occasion. Some families include breaking the turkey’s wishbone as part of their celebration. The wishbone is found attached to the breast meat in the turkey’s chest. After the meat has been removed and the wishbone has had a chance to become dry and brittle, two people each take one end of the bone, make a wish, and pull. Whoever ends up with the larger part of the bone gets their wish!

Each year at Thanksgiving, the President of the United States receives a gift of a live turkey . At a White House ceremony, the president traditionally « pardons » two National Thanksgiving Turkeys , allowing them to live the rest of their lives on a farm!  Or so they say!!!

Television also plays a part in Thanksgiving celebrations. Many families watch the New York City Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade includes marching bands, floats, songs and performances from Broadway musicals, and giant helium-filled balloons!

Watch about it here:http://live.wsj.com/video/macy-thanksgiving-day-parade/5F923FFE-A2AF-408E-81D6-7D73D9F1FFA9.html#!5F923FFE-A2AF-408E-81D6-7D73D9F1FFA9

and learn about the history of the parade here: http://video.about.com/travelwithkids/History-of-the-Macy-s-Thanksgiving-Day-Parade-in-NYC.htm

 

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The heroes of 9/11

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On the morning of 11 September 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial passenger jets flying out of airports on the east coast of the United States.

Two of the aircraft were deliberately flown into the main two towers (the Twin Towers) of the World Trade Center in New York, with a third hitting the Pentagon in Virginia.

The fourth plane never reached its intended target, crashing in Pennsylvania. It is believed that the passengers and crew overpowered the hijackers and took control of the plane.

The Twin Towers were widely considered to be symbols of America’s power and influence. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

Both 110-floor World Trade Center towers subsequently collapsed and substantial damage was caused to one wing of the Pentagon. Numerous other buildings at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan were destroyed or badly damaged.

The total loss of life on 9/11 was nearly 3,000, including the 19 hijackers. It was the worst loss of life due to a terrorist incident on US soil.

The days that followed saw a significant effect on world economic markets and international confidence.

 

Here are a few links to videos and articles about the events of 9/11 but also about the stories of the heroes we will never forget.

Various articles and videos of the events of 9/11 : History Channel

Stories of heroism : Business Insider

Heroism on 9/11 (video) : History Channel

Remembering the heroes: article

The lost hero of 9/11 : BBC radio programme  – excellent for listening practice (MYTHS AND HEROES)

Understanding the US Presidential Elections

One of the most covered topics in the news at the moment is the US Presidential Elections. So to start off this new school year let’s take a look at the process:

An election for President of the United States occurs every four years on Election Day, held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The 2016 Presidential election will be held on November 8, 2016.

The election process begins with the primary elections and caucuses and moves to nominating conventions, during which political parties each select a nominee to unite behind. The nominee also announces a Vice Presidential running mate at this time. The candidates then campaign across the country to explain their views and plans to voters and participate in debates with candidates from other parties.

During the general election, Americans head to the polls to cast their vote for President. But the tally of those votes—the popular vote—does not determine the winner. Instead, Presidential elections use the Electoral College. To win the election, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes. In the event no candidate receives the majority, the House of Representatives chooses the President and the Senate chooses the Vice President.

The Presidential election process follows a typical cycle:

  • Spring of the year before an election – Candidates announce their intentions to run.
  • Summer of the year before an election through spring of the election year – Primary and caucus debates take place.
  • January to June of election year – States and parties hold primaries and caucuses.
  • July to early September – Parties hold nominating conventions to choose their candidates.
  • September and October – Candidates participate in Presidential debates.
  • Early November – Election Day
  • December – Electors cast their votes in the Electoral College.
  • Early January of the next calendar year – Congress counts the electoral votes.
  • January 20 – Inauguration Day

 

Here are a few links to articles and web sites to learn more about the Presidential elections and also the candidates

  1. The road to the White House – what influence do the media/social media have on the election? Why is money so important during the campaign?
  2. Meet the candidates
  3. Simple videos about the Presidential Elections
  4. Full description of how the election works on the BBC news page
  5. The latest results and a poll tracker : The Telegraph
  6. Donald Trump’s speech outlining his immigration policy: Arizona speech
  7. Where Hilary Clinton stands on immigration: immigration issue
  8. Where both candidates stand on immigration: video  (could be used for the notion spaces and exchanges)
  9. Detailed articles and debates on the CNN website
  10. The US presidential election explained : Euronews
  11. The electoral college: definition
  12. The power of the social media in the presidential debate: social media

Has the US media helped Trump get where he is?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UK General Election – Thursday 7th May 2015

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On Thursday 7th May the General Elections take place in the UK. It is traditionally held on the first Thursday in May once every five years in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The 650 members of parliament (MPs) will be elected through 650 individual elections for a constituency. Each voter chooses a candidate in their area. The candidate with the most votes wins a seat in the House of Commons in the UK parliament, Westminster, London.

The main parties taking part in the election are the Conservatives (led by David Cameron), Labour (led by Ed Miliband), Liberal Democrats (led by Nick Clegg) and the United Kingdom Independance Party (led by Nigel Farage). The current Prime Minister is David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party. In the last General Election a coalition government was formed (also known as a hung parliament) with the Liberal Democrats because the Conservatives didn’t have an outright majority.

If one party wins more than half the seats (326) in the House of Commons, its leader becomes Prime Minister and forms a government. The Prime Minister’s official residence is at 10 Downing Street, London.

According to the Independant newspaper « Britain is heading for the most unpredictable general election in a generation as voters turn their backs on the established parties ». Support for the three main political parties is at an all-time low. So much so that it is possible that no single party will win a majority of seats in Parliament. The two main candidates are David Cameron – leader of the Conservatives and who has around a score of around 32% in the polls and Ed Miliband – leader of the Labour party who has around a 33% lead in the polls.  However there is growing support for smaller parties like the UKIP and the Greens. The UKIP wants to cut immigration to the UK and quit the European Union – according to some polls they could win 15% of the vote. The Green party could possibly win 15% of the vote.

To learn more about the General Election here are some videos:

How does the General Election work?

The General Election explained (Election 2010)

How does Parliament work?

What happens if no-one wins?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32235317

Red Nose Day – Friday 13th March 2015

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On Friday 13th March 2015 it’s Red Nose Day in the UK! But what exactly is Red Nose Day and why does it take place?

The first Red Nose Day (RND) was held on 5 February 1988, when it was launched as a National Day of Comedy, and since then they have been on the second or third Friday in March. Red Nose Day is often treated as a semi-holiday for example, many schools have red-themed non-uniform days. The day culminates in a live telethon event on BBC One, starting in the evening and going through into the early hours of the morning, but other money-raising events take place. As the name suggests, the day involves the wearing of red noses which are available, in exchange for a donation, from supermarkets and charity shops.

Here are a few articles and links about this fun day!

A reading comprehension on the British Council website

The Official Red Nose Day Page

The official Comic Relief Page

Have some fun here

The Christmas Number One

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One of the less-well known Christmas traditions in the UK is the countdown to the Christmas « number one »: which song will be number one in the charts for Christmas? It may seem surprising but the British take a great interest in the charts, more so than any other country in the world. This interest has been fuelled by the media – newspapers and magazines publish articles about the « contentenders » for the number one position and TV programmes such as X-Factor finish just before Christmas, giving the winner a good chance of taking the number one position.

Very often several charity records are released just before Christmas to raise money for different causes. For example this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Day Truce, during World War 1. This event inspired The Farm’s 1990 hit All Together Now and many of the UK’s biggest music stars have united as The Peace Collective, to re-record the song. The new track features a backing choir of schoolboy footballers from the Premier League and German Bundesliga. All profits from the release, will go to the British Red Cross and the Shorncliffe Trust.

Read the article about it here

and watch the video here:

Another charity song is the well-known hit « Do they know it’s Christmas? »  a song that was initially written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in 1984 to raise money for relief of the famine in Ethiopia. The original version became the biggest selling single in UK Singles Chart history.  The song was re-recorded in 1989 by Band Aid II and in 2004 by Band Aid 20, again raising funds for famine relief.  The song was again re-recorded in 2014 by Band Aid 30, to raise funds for the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Do they know it’s Christmas (2014)

Another contender for the number one spot is the song which accompanies the annual John Lewis advert (see also https://anglaispourlebac.com/2013/12/03/john-lewis-christmas-ad-another-christmas-tradition/)

This year it a story about Monty the penguin , and the song is « Real Love » by Tom Odell

Article in the Daily Telegraph about the annual John Lewis advert.

Notions that could be linked to this topic

Spaces and exchanges: young German and British footballers coming together to give a message of peace 100 years after the Christmas truce and raise money for charity

Places and forms of power: The power of the media