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for Grades 9-12

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For Grades 9-12 , week of Dec. 19, 2011

1. Candles

Candles are being lit this week by the millions of Jewish people who are celebrating Hanukkah. The candles are a reminder of an ancient victory over oppressors. Sometimes groups that want to make a point, or oppose something, hold a rally called a "candlelight vigil." In this form or protest, they light candles at night, and gather at a site that is important to the issue. They may stand quietly, or chant, or sing. Look through the news today or for several days. Find a group that is protesting or speaking out about something. Would a candlelight vigil be more effective, or less, than what the group is doing? Write a paragraph presenting your view.

Core/National Standard: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately.

2. Election Fraud?

Twenty years ago, the nation known as the Soviet Union dissolved and the once powerful communist country was broken up into 12 countries. Russia is the largest, and as elements of democracy and capitalism have come to Russia, it has struggled politically and financially. Last week, the country’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, called for an investigation into allegations of fraud in the country’s parliamentary election, just a day after tens of thousands of protestors demanded the election be annulled and rerun, according to a Reuters news article. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who first rose to power in 1999, won the election. In addition to a rerun of the election, the protestors want the Central Election Commission chief to step down, the registration of opposition parties allowed and the release of political prisoners. In the newspaper or online, find an article about politics in Russia. Discuss the demands of the protestors and compare it to the positions taken by the government.

Core/National Standard: Initiating and participating effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. Can I Make It?

People all across America have felt the effects of the nation’s economic downturn. Some of those hardest hit are the people working at minimum wage jobs. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. However, states can issue their own minimum wages and they vary drastically. Georgia and Wyoming are some of the lowest paying states, with a minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. Other states like California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont pay $8 or more for minimum wage. One city in the country is making a big leap in its minimum wage next year. According to an Associated Press article, employers in San Francisco, California, are going to have to pay $10 per hour for minimum wage. Search your newspaper for minimum wage jobs in your area. Figure out how much you would earn in one 40-hour week. If you could keep all of that, how much of it would be needed to rent a one-bedroom apartment in your area? How much to purchase food for dinner each night? Use newspaper ads to find the answers.

Core/National Standards: Reasoning abstractly and quantitatively; using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to solve problems.

4. Pepper Spray Mama

Elizabeth Macias became infamous on Black Friday when she sprayed pepper spray in the faces of other shoppers. According to the “Good Morning America” TV show, the 32-year-old mother from the Los Angeles, California, area won’t face felony charges from the local county. She is also considering suing Walmart for a lack of security during the post-Thanksgiving shopping crush. She said in the article that she sprayed people who were attacking her two teenage children over X-Box video game consoles. Her attorney told the Los Angeles CBS news affiliate that at one point her son was on the ground being punched by a man. The case has been turned over to the Los Angeles City Attorney. Search your newspaper for unusual court cases in your area. Discuss the merits of one case as a class.

Core/National Standard: Propelling conversations by posing and responding to questions

5. A Precious Gift

Someone dropped a rock in a red Salvation Army holiday collection kettle. But it wasn’t any ordinary rock. It was a 3/4-carat diamond worth $2,000. The diamond was wrapped in a small piece of paper and placed in a kettle outside a Walmart store in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. At first, the Salvation Army employee who found the piece of paper thought it was trash — until he unwrapped it. The diamond will be set in a ring and auctioned off to raise money for needy families. In the past, other people have put gold coins, gold bars and wads of cash in the holiday kettles. Find a newspaper article on what the Salvation Army or other groups are doing in your community to help others. Draw a comic strip showing one activity.

Core/National Standard: Using drawings or other visual displays when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts and feelings.