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For Grades K-4 , week of Oct. 20, 2014

1. No More Plastic Bags

California has become the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores in an effort to reduce pollution in streets and waterways. Plastic bags will be phased out at checkout counters starting next summer, and grocers will be allowed to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for paper bags. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats. Many cities and counties already have laws banning plastic bags, but other communities have defeated them. A group representing makers of plastic bags says it will seek a statewide vote to repeal the California law. When items like plastic bags are not disposed of properly, they cause pollution in streets, parks and waterways. As a class, discuss other things that can cause pollution. Find photos of items that can pollute in ads or the news pages of the newspaper. Clip or print out the photos and use them to make a poster encouraging people not to pollute. Give your poster an eye-catching headline.

Common Core State Standards: Engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.

2. Elk Get Thirsty, Too

To reduce waste, the Grand Canyon National Park has banned plastic water bottles and installed special water stations for visitors. But this has created an unexpected complication. Elk have learned how to lift the spring-loaded levers with their noses, and are helping themselves to the water. Determined not to be outsmarted by the antlered beasts, officials are working on ways to elk-proof the stations, conserve water and protect visitors from possible aggressive behavior from the elk. They are experimenting with putting a cage around the spouts at one station, and will also change the way the water is turned on. Elk are one of the largest members of the deer family and one of the largest land mammals in North America. Wildlife interact with people in many ways. In the newspaper, find a wild animal in a photo, story or ad. Write a complete sentence describing how this animal interacts with people in a positive way. Then write a complete sentence describing how this animal might interact with people in a less than positive way.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. New Life for Phone Booths

In the European nation of Great Britain, a new use has been found for the red telephone booths found in London and other cities. With the growing use of cell phones, the booths are no longer as necessary as they were when people relied on public phones. So two recent graduates of the London School of Economics have launched a company that is converting many into electric charging stations called “Solarboxes.” The first of these Solarboxes was opened recently and five more will be operating soon. They can charge up to 100 devices a day with power from a 33-inch solar panel on the roof. And they’ll be free, because the costs will be covered by advertising displayed on a screen inside. People are always coming up with new ways to use technology. In the newspaper, find a story or ad involving a new technology device. Read the material closely and write a summary of what the device does and how that is better than the way things were done in the past.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

4. OK for Family Films

The watchdog group Common Sense Media is launching a seal-of-approval program to spotlight movies that are “family-friendly” and appropriate for children of all ages. The first Common Sense seal — a green, black and white circular logo — will go to Disney’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Common Sense, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California, seeks to give parents and others clear signals as to what is in a film, and perhaps encourage more family movies. What makes a good movie for kids your age? Search the movie ads in the newspaper for a movie you like or would like to see. Or think about a movie you have liked in the past. Write a paragraph describing what things in the movie appeal to you most. Share and discuss with the 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.

5. Prayer Penalty an Error

Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after scoring a touchdown in his team’s 41-14 victory over the New England Patriots, but the National Football League has declared the penalty was a mistake. After intercepting a pass and returning it 39 yards, Abdullah slid on his knees in the end zone and bowed forward in prayer, his head touching the turf. NFL rules ban “excessive celebrations … by an individual player,” but a league spokesman said later this does not apply to “go[ing] to the ground for religious reasons.” The penalty had no effect on the game’s outcome. Sports contests have many rules. In the newspaper, find a story or photo involving a sport you like. Think about the rules of the sport. Then write a short editorial giving your opinion on one rule you think is important and one rule you would get rid of or change.

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