Unit 2: Social Studies Connection

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The Shocking Truth

Here's a shocking story about Ben Franklin. The story that he discovered electricity while flying a kite is not exactly correct, historians say.

“Even if he did do it, we don't know exactly when or where, which is also part of the problem,” said historian Richard Rosen.

According to an old legend, Franklin and his son, William, set out one cloudy day in June 1752 to prove that lightning was electrical in nature.

They tied a metal key to a kite string and flew the kite in a storm. Lightning struck the kite and the key, shocking Franklin.

The actual truth may be less shocking. Franklin's friend Joseph Priestly wrote that lightning didn't zap Franklin's kite.

Priestly said Franklin had a silk ribbon wrapped around his hand. Franklin saw that the strands of the ribbon were standing up. Franklin recognized that as a characteristic of static electricity. Franklin then reached out to test the key and was shocked.

Word Wise

Be the first to observe something: A scientist named Newton discovered gravity.

A natural form of energy: We use electricity to run computers, lamps, and radios.

A person who writes about and studies history: A historian came to talk to our class about the American Civil War.

A special feature or quality: Freckles were one of Amy's many characteristics.

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Many words have related or similar words that share the same word roots. For instance, the word discover is related to the words discovery and discoverer.

What related or similar words can you find for the other three words listed above? Make a list of related words for each word. You may use a dictionary to make your lists.

Data Hunt

Benjamin Franklin
Age Accomplishment
8 Attended School
10 Left school to work for his father
13 Worked as a printer in Boston
15 Published his first article
17 Moved to Philadelphia
25 Founded the first public library in America
38 Invented the Franklin stove
41 Starts experimenting with electricity

The table shows some of the things that Benjamin Franklin did, and the age at which he did them. Work with a partner. Use the table to write questions for your partner. The questions should use addition or subtraction to solve.


How many years after he published his first article did Ben Franklin move to Philadelphia?

Answer: 17 − 15 = 2

Write three questions, then take turns solving with your partner.