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For Grades 5-8 , week of July 11, 2016

1. Surprise Wedding Guest

Guests at a New Jersey wedding reception received a surprise bonus this summer — a performance by singing superstar Taylor Swift. She presented a version of her song “Blank Space” at the reception in Long Beach Township, and guests at the event got to sing along. How did it happen? Not long before the reception, the star had received a letter from the bridegroom’s sister, saying that the groom and their ailing mother had danced to “Blank Space” when the newlyweds got married in their mother’s hospital room. The groom’s mother was very sick and couldn’t leave the hospital and she died soon afterward. The story touched Swift emotionally, and she replied to the groom’s sister to plan the surprise visit. The groom, who is a big Swift fan, was blown away by the gesture — as was everyone else in the room. Celebrities often do nice things for people or groups who are less fortunate than they are. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a celebrity who has done something nice for others. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme detailing what this gesture meant to those helped and how it could inspire others.

Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

2. Shots & Disease

Parents who skip childhood vaccinations for their children are contributing to outbreaks of measles and whooping cough (pertussis), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Parents choose not to have their children vaccinated for a variety of reasons, but as a result they not only jeopardize their own children’s health, but the health of other children, the CDC says. By way of example, the CDC notes that measles were declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, but 1,416 measles cases have been reported since then, most of them among people with no history of measles vaccination. Among more than 10,000 pertussis patients, most were unvaccinated or only partly vaccinated, the CDC says. Vaccinations are an important children’s health topic, and have generated much debate. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another health issue important to children or teens. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a public service TV ad to educate families about the issue. Write a script for your ad, including visuals you would use. If you could have a celebrity spokesman for the issue, whom would you choose, and why? Discuss choices and ads with family or friends.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

3. Media Must Serve Party

In the United States and other democratic nations, people believe the media’s mission is to inform the public. In the Asian nation of China, however, President Xi Jinping has declared the media exist to serve the ruling Communist Party, and must pledge loyalty to him as president and leader of the party. Quickly, the media fell in line. Front-page headlines across China trumpeted Xi’s visit to the headquarters of the three main Communist Party and state news organizations, with photos of fawning journalists huddled around him. Social media accounts critical of business and government leaders were shut down. And one media official even wrote Xi an adoring poem. In the United States, the media can report news as they see fit because freedom of the press is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories that are examples of a free press reporting or commenting on the news. Use what you read to write a short editorial giving your views on what Americans would lose if the media were not able to freely report and comment on events and leaders.

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. U.S. Curbing Ivory Trade

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has imposed a near-total ban on the commercial trade of African elephant ivory. The purpose is to curb the slaughter of elephants for their ivory tusks and restrict the African ivory trade in almost all forms in this country. Elephants are an endangered species, but an estimated 96 of them are killed daily on the continent of Africa. Under current guidelines, ivory can be sold if it was brought into the U.S. before elephants were listed as endangered or if an animal died of natural causes. The new rules ban sales of ivory that is already here with few exceptions. Among the exceptions are antique ivory items that can be documented and verified as lawfully imported and items (such as musical instruments) that use fewer than 200 grams of ivory. The U.S. ban on ivory sales is an example of a government taking steps to protect an endangered species. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read about another government effort to protect a species of wildlife. Use what you read to write a short analysis of the effort, examining its strengths and weaknesses.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; 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.

5. WWII Bomb in Bath

World War II ended more than 70 years ago, but deadly artifacts keep turning up. In Bath, England, earlier this summer, hundreds of residents had to evacuate their homes after contractors found a 500-pound bomb under a school playground. Authorities believed the bomb dated from World War II when Bath was bombed by German Luftwaffe planes. They set up a 1,000-foot perimeter around the former Royal High Junior School, closed roads in the area, and placed 275 tons of sand around the seven-decade-old bomb before taking it to a remote location for a “controlled explosion.” Other bombs have been unearthed, usually at construction sites, still containing explosives that can prove lethal. Historic events still can have impact today, either through the discovery of artifacts like old bombs or through changes that have had long term effects. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a historic event whose impact is still making news. Use what you read to draw an editorial cartoon or comic strip, giving your opinion on the impact of the event.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.