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For Grades 5-8 , week of Dec. 12, 2016

1. Politics on Broadway

Broadway is famous as the home of live theater in New York City, but when Vice President-elect Mike Pence made a visit, he found it a lot livelier than expected. Pence went to see the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” and when the cast made its curtain call at the end, it had a message for him. Breaking with tradition, the cast made a political appeal for diversity, urging Pence and President-elect Donald Trump to “uphold our American values … [by] work[ing] on behalf of all of us.” Many people objected to the gesture, including Stevie Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s band and Trump himself, who demanded the cast apologize for “harassing” Pence. The vice president-elect, however, was unfazed by the protest. “That's what freedom sounds like,” he said. In the 2016 election, more and more entertainment people were willing to speak out on politics. And many continue to do so. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about entertainers expressing their political views. Use what you read to write an editorial or political column giving your opinion about entertainers speaking out politically, and what they contribute to debate about issues.

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.

2. Cybercrime Affects Millions

Cybercrime affected 689 million people last year — more than twice the entire population of the United States, according to an antivirus software manufacturer. Yet computer users are “complacent,” officials of Norton by Symantec say, even sharing their passwords with others. In addition, many use public Wi-Fi service because it is convenient at restaurants, airports, hotels, libraries and other places, the survey found. To avoid being hacked, always be cautious about what you check online via WiFi, the survey advises. Newspapers and Facebook are OK, but “you probably don’t want to log onto your bank account.” Cybercrime and cybersecurity are growing concerns for people who use computers, the Internet and social media. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories detailing new developments in cybercrime and cybersecurity. Use what you read to create a print or TV ad, calling attention to the issues, and what people should know about them.

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. ‘Trouble in Toyland’

This is the season for toy shopping, but consumers should be aware of safety issues for a number of items. Some hazardous toys that were recalled over the last year are still being sold online, despite being given a thumbs down by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, according to the WashPIRG Public Interest Research Group. Among the recalled items are a remote-control flying toy with a charging cord that can overheat and “riding toys with parts that pose a choking hazard.” The group advises parents to “read the labels, follow age limits, check for recalls [and] above all, use common sense.” Parents, the PIRG group notes, are “the last line of defense against toy-related injury.” Toy safety is an important issue during the holiday season, when parents spend millions of dollars on toys for their children. In the newspaper or online, find and study ads for three toys that younger students might like. Think like a consumer reporter and write a paragraph for each, detailing safety questions parents should ask about the toy.

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.

4. Refugee Children

Nearly 50 million children have migrated across borders or been forcibly displaced by war and other conflicts, the United Nations reports. Children make up half of all refugees, even though they account for only about a third of the world’s population, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund known as UNICEF. In a report titled “Uprooted,” UNICEF said the number of child refugees has more than doubled in the last 10 years. Two countries account for nearly half of all child refugees — Syria in the Middle East and Afghanistan in South Central Asia. When refugees leave areas torn by war or other conflicts, it creates challenges for areas they move to. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how various countries are dealing with refugees seeking to move into them. Use what you read to write a short editorial, giving your view on the best ways nations can help without being overwhelmed.

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.

5. Jesus’s Tomb Opened

For centuries, no one has looked inside the tomb said to be where Jesus’s body lay after he was crucified. Now a crew of specialists has opened the simple structure in Jerusalem’s Old City in the Middle East to collect samples and take photos before reinforcing it and again closing it — perhaps for centuries to come. The process took about 60 hours, with about 50 priests, monks, scientists and workers peering inside. It’s all part of a complex renovation of the shrine built around the tomb in what is known today as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, perhaps the world’s holiest site for Christians. Archaeologists study historic sites to learn about the past and how people lived in earlier times. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an archaeological study of an ancient place. Write a summary of what archaeologists have found, and why it is important, in the form of a personal letter to a friend or relative.

Common Core State Standards: 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.