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For Grades 5-8 , week of Feb. 20, 2012

1. The Immigration Debate

What do you do when children are born in the United States, but their parents are in the country illegally? In the state of Alabama, leaders have decided to deny them food stamps. Several people have called the Southern Poverty Law Center to report that they have been denied government food stamps because they couldn’t prove they were legal citizens — even though the stamps were for their children who are citizens, according to a Yahoo News article. A new immigration law in the state makes it a felony for a government employee to engage in business transactions with illegal immigrants. Two lawsuits already have been filed against Alabama over the new law, and parts of the law have been blocked until a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules whether they are constitutional. Find an article in your newspaper about immigration and various laws that have been passed to deal with illegal or legal immigrants. Or find examples online. As a class, debate the merits of these laws and state or national immigration policies.

Core/National Standards: Effectively engaging in a range of collaborative discussions; analyzing immigration policies after 1965 and the push-pull factors that prompted a new wave of immigration.

2. Celebrating African Americans!

Malcolm X, one of the nation’s great black leaders of the 1960s, was assassinated on February 21, 1965. February is now observed as Black History Month, a time when the nation celebrates the accomplishments of African Americans like Malcolm X, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and contemporary leaders like President Barack Obama. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925. He was the son of a Baptist preacher, who also advocated for the rights of African Americans. His father was murdered by white supremacists in 1931 for his civil rights activities. Malcolm rebelled and became involved in criminal activities and was sent to jail in 1946 at the age of 21. It was there that he converted to the Muslim faith and became a member of the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim group. Unlike Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm advocated for achieving equal rights by any method necessary. Find a newspaper about an African American leader in your community. Use the article and online research to create a poster showcasing the life of that person.

Core/National Standard: Evaluating the agendas, strategies and effectiveness of various African Americans in the quest for civil rights and equal opportunities; using visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

3. Presidential Science

President Obama got his geek on recently when he hosted the second White House Science Fair, an exhibit of more than 30 student projects, according to an Associated Press article. He was so into some of the experiments, in fact, that he had to try them out — to the chagrin of his staff. One project he especially liked was an eighth-grader’s award-winning, high-speed marshmallow air cannon. The inventor of the cannon was 14-year-old Joey Hudy of Phoenix, Arizona, who got to explain the apparatus to the President before Obama took over and shot marshmallows at the curtains in the formal State Dining Room at the White House. The president also told the young scientists about helping his daughter Sasha with a science project that involved dropping protected eggs from the White House Truman balcony. Sasha won first place by using Cheerios in a plastic bottle to cushion the egg. Find a science article in the newspaper and create a science experiment around what is discussed in the article. Explain your experiment to the class, and what it is supposed to achieve.

Core/National Standard: Designing and conducting scientific investigations by formulating questions, designing investigations, executing investigations and interpreting the data.

4. Chasing the Dream

Daniel Rodriguez spent most of his high school years on the football field or the basketball court. He spent the next four years on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. On October 3, 2009, he was caught in heavy gunfire and his friend was killed, but Rodriguez and his fellow soldiers defended their compound in Afghanistan from about 300 Taliban fighters. He caught shrapnel in his legs and neck and took a bullet fragment through his shoulder in the battle, and received a Bronze Star for valor. Now he wants to put all that behind him and play college football at a Division I level. He is taking classes at a local community college and had a professional video made of him playing football to get the attention of big universities. Find a newspaper article about someone pursuing a dream. Write a detailed summary, and create illustrations to accompany your summary.

Core/National Standards: Using precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details and sensory language to capture the action and convey events; adding visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

5. I’m Gonna Change Things

Listen to song lyrics some time and notice the grammar. For example, Christina Milian sings, “Imma speak the truth. I ain’t gon’ lie.” Sara Bareilles sang a song called “Gonna Get Over You” with the lyrics “how’m I gonna get over you?” Slang is slung around constantly nowadays, as is the shorthand used when texting or sending instant messages on Facebook. Sometimes people will use it when being interviewed for a story. In teams, find a newspaper article in which a person being quoted uses slang or incorrect grammar. Print out the article and then with your partners and the teacher change the slang to correct English grammar. Discuss the impact that would have on the article, and why writers quote people as they speak, even if their speech is not grammatically correct.

Core/National Standards: Recognizing variations from standard English in writing and speaking and using strategies to improve expressions in conventional language