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for Grades 5-8

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For Grades 5-8 , week of Dec. 05, 2011

1. Nobel Laureates

Eleven people will be honored this week when the 110th annual Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden. The first Nobel Prizes were awarded on December 10, 1901, and were named for Alfred Bernhard Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. Nobel was conflicted about his invention and its uses, so he set up a fund to create prizes to give people who made great discoveries in the areas of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. The prizes come with a cash award of $1 million or more to continue the work. Nobel prizes are now considered the highest honor in these fields. Find a newspaper article about this year’s winners. Write an essay about the work of one of the recipients in one of the five categories.

Core/National Standard: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts and information.

2. Irish Free State

On December 6, 1921, Ireland gained its freedom from England and became an independent state for the first time since the 12th century. The Irish had longed for freedom for centuries. The effects of the Potato Famine in 1847, the unfairness of the tenant farmer system and changing attitudes around the world helped unify the people as they sought independence. Read about a people who want independence or a homeland in today's newspaper or on the Internet. Use the paper and other resources to learn more about the history of these people and why they may be seeking independence, particularly at this time. Discuss as a class.

Core/National Standard: Selecting contemporary problems in the world and composing historical narratives that explain their antecedents.

3. Twelve Days of Christmas

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.” These are the opening words of a famous Christmas song called “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” in which the songwriter tells about the gifts given to him/her by the person’s true love. If you were that “true love” today, it would cost you more than $24,000. According to a story from the Associated Press news service, the price of partridges, pear trees and turtle doves jumped 3.5 percent from last year. Six items on the list didn’t increase in price, including the French hens, calling birds, gold rings, maids-a-milking, ladies dancing and lords-a-leaping. The most expensive item on the list is the seven swans-a-swimming at $6,300. Using newspaper ads, make up your own “Twelve Days of Christmas” song, using items you find. Figure out the total cost of the items in your song.

Core/National Standard: Making sense of problems and persevering in solving them, using abstract and quantitative reasoning.

4. Wolf Adventures

OR-7 is on a long trek this year. So far, he has traveled from Idaho to southern Oregon by foot. That’s a long way for a young wolf on his own, but it’s better than the alternative. His father and a sibling are facing a death sentence for killing cattle near Idaho. Biologists shot the young wolf with a tranquilizer dart last year and tagged him with a GPS tracking unit to see where he would travel. Many conservationists are now rooting for OR-7 and hoping he won’t meet with the same fate as his family. Ranchers don’t view wolves in the same way as conservationists, however. “They don’t seem so majestic and beautiful when they are ripping apart calves and colts,” said rancher Nathan Jackson. Find a newspaper article about wildlife. Write an opinion piece about the pros or cons of preserving one species.

Core/National Standard: Writing arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

5. A Weighty Topic

Can the government govern how parents raise their children? They can if the child’s safety is in question. But what if the child is being overfed? That is the case of a Cleveland, Ohio, family. A third-grade boy who weighs more than 200 pounds was taken from his mother after officials said “she did not do enough to help the boy, who suffered from a weight-related health issue, to lose weight,” according to an ABC News story. Taking obese children from families has become a controversial practice in the past few years. Search your newspaper for controversial stories. Debate one topic as a class.

Core/National Standards: Building on others’ talk in conversations by linking students’ own comments to the remarks of others