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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 01, 2016

1. Social Media Disturb Sleep

People are losing sleep because of social media, a new study claims. TechCrunch reports that young adults and teens who spend a lot of their time on Facebook and Twitter are more likely to lose sleep than others. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine speculate that the cause of the sleep disturbance is that social media are stimulating and rewarding, and difficult to get out of your mind once you stop. Social media have changed the way students and their families communicate, gather information and entertain themselves. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about social media use among students or families. Use what your read and personal experience to write an essay or personal column for the newspaper about how you use social media and what you get out of it. Share essays and discuss experiences as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

2. Principal Killed Saving Kids

The principal of an Indiana elementary school died saving the lives of her students. Susan Jordan was helping load kids onto buses at the end of the day when one of the buses suddenly accelerated and jumped the curb. The bus hit the principal while she was pushing children out of the way. Two children, both 10, were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Calling her an “amazing educator,” the Lawrence Township school board praised her “unmatched … passion for children.” Every day people become heroes by responding to challenges or events. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone who has done something heroic. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper, describing what the person did and how it could inspire others.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Contaminated Water

Contamination has left people in Flint, Michigan, unable to use tap water for drinking, cooking and bathing. National Guard troops have been distributing bottled water, filters and testing kits in the city of 100,000. Michigan’s governor has asked the federal government to declare a disaster, as reports of lead poisoning pick up. State and federal agencies and environmental organizations are investigating, and environmental and community groups have criticized Governor Rick Snyder for the way he has handled the situation. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories about the Flint water crisis. Then use what you read to write an editorial giving your opinion on how the situation has been handled and what should be the next steps.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. Shipwreck Discovery

For nearly two years, searchers have been looking for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — which disappeared in March 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China. They haven’t found the doomed airliner, but they have discovered a couple of shipwrecks. The latest was found at the bottom of the Indian Ocean by boats dragging high-tech detection devices. The 200-year-old wreck appears to have been a ship from the early 19th century and made of steel or iron. In May searchers found wreckage of another ship from the 1800s, but they still haven’t determined where the airliner went down. The only sign of the plane, which vanished with 239 people on board, has been a small amount of debris that washed up on France’s Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. Shipwrecks are fascinating to archaeologists because they often are well preserved by water. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read another story about a discovery by archaeologists on land or at sea. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or movie based on the discovery. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene in the form of a movie screenplay.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

5. Kindness Goes Viral

An Apple Store employee is receiving worldwide praise for helping a 9-year-old boy who has autism and Down syndrome. Social media have been circulating pictures of Andrew Wall sitting on the floor helping the boy with an iPad that a nonprofit group had bought him to help him communicate and learn. The boy had accidentally run into a glass wall and fallen in the Nashville, Tennessee store, when Wall sat down with the boy to calm him. The boy’s mother expressed gratitude to Wall who “hung out with us [on the floor] in the midst of our pain.” Acts of kindness often make news. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about someone doing something kind for another person. Write the word “KINDNESS” down the side of a sheet of paper. Then think of the story you read. Use each letter of the word “KINDNESS” to start a complete sentence about the effects of the kindness in the story. With the first sentence, state how the kindness helped the person who received it. With the second, write how the kindness helped the person giving it. Alternate this way for all the letters of the word.

Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

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