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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 15, 2011

1. NFL News

A few weeks ago, the nation's top college football players waited and hoped for their names to be called during the NFL draft. This year's 255 drafted players are now in limbo, however, because the team owners and the players union are struggling to come up with a new contract. No contract may mean no football this season. Search the newspaper for stories on the NFL contract dispute. Use what you find to write a letter to your closest NFL team or local newspaper stating your opinion of the contract negotiations or the 2011 draft.

Learning Standards: Choosing the form of writing that best suits the intended purpose; acquiring information from multiple sources.

2. Police Stories

This week is National Police Week, a time when people take a look at the people who work in law enforcement. Find a story in today's newspaper that involves police work. Write a quick 5Ws summary of the story, explaining Who, What, When, Where and Why. Then write a short essay describing how this police event reflects life in your city or community -- or is unusual for your community. Stretch your thinking to include how this event connects to other issues such as politics, neighborhoods, race or ethnic groups.

Learning Standards: Writing fluently for multiple purposes; posing social science questions.

3. Brown v. Board

Imagine if the color of your skin determined where you could eat, get a drink of water, play games or even go to school. African American children growing up in the 1950s knew exactly how that felt. Schools - especially in the southern parts of the United States - were segregated. White children went to school with other white children, and black children went to school with other black children. The schools were supposed to be "separate, but equal," but that wasn't always the case. Many of the children at the black schools didn't have the books or supplies they needed to learn. That changed when a historic Kansas case went before the United States Supreme Court in May 1954. In the case known as "Brown vs. the Board of Education," the nation's highest court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. Search the newspaper for articles on discrimination in the U.S. or another country. Or find an example online. Write a fictional story as if you were the one experiencing discrimination and explain your feelings.

Learning Standards: Writing fictional narratives; exploring and reflecting on universal themes and substantive issues from written, visual and electronic texts.

4. bin Laden

Terrorist leader Osama bin Laden successfully hid in the Asian country of Pakistan for about five years until a team of 20 U.S. Navy Seals tracked him down and killed him in an attack on his fort-like mansion. Bin Laden was leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist group, and planned the attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. in September 2001. Many people living in Pakistan are unhappy that Americans came into their country without permission to get bin Laden. Search the newspaper for articles about bin Laden and Pakistan. Discuss as a class if the United States should have talked with the Pakistani government before going in. Write a summary of the views of the class in the style of a newspaper story.

Learning Standards: Engaging peers in constructive conversations about topics of interest or importance; emphasizing salient points to assist a listener in following the main ideas.

5. Biking Is Fun -- and Healthy!

Pedal on, friends. May is American Bike Month. With the price of gasoline pushing $4.50 a gallon in some parts of the United States, it's beginning to make even more sense for many people to ride a bike. Experts say using bicycles can save 238 million gallons of gas each year, and just a four-mile round trip bicycle ride can keep 15 pounds of pollutants from getting into the air. Find an newspaper article about gasoline prices. Use what you find to write a short editorial for the newspaper urging people to ride bicycles instead of driving a car.

Learning Standard: Acquiring information from multiple sources and then organizing and analyzing it; using the persuasive power of text to achieve change in a community.