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For Grades 9-12 , week of June 13, 2016

1. Teens Addicted to Smart Phones

About half of American teenagers report feeling heavily dependent — if not addicted to — their mobile devices, a new study reports. Overusing their smart phones may not qualify as addiction, psychiatrists say, but the line between overuse and addiction is gray, and the evidence is troubling. Telltale signs, according to Common Sense Media, include withdrawal, anxiety, irritability or discomfort when the phone is not within reach, neglect of other activities, changes in sleep patterns, behavioral issues and becoming upset because the phone gets in the way of competing activities. Comic strips and cartoons are often a good way to deal with serious issues, because they use humor to discuss topics and get people’s attention. Use the newspaper and Internet to closely read stories about teenagers’ use and dependence on smart phones or mobile devices. Use what you read to create a series of comic strips addressing the use or overuse of mobile devices. Give your strip a title that will get attention.

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.

2. Guns in Backpacks Illegal

In the state of California, it is illegal to carry a loaded gun in your backpack, the state’s Supreme Court has ruled. Carrying a loaded firearm in public is against the law in California, and the court ruled that there’s no distinction between carrying a gun in clothing and carrying one in backpacks, fanny packs or any other container strapped to the body. The ruling comes as many states have been adopting measures expanding open-carry laws allowing residents to carry weapons in public. Gun violence has sparked debate in many states and communities. But there is disagreement on what steps should be taken to address it — if any. Efforts to curb gun ownership have drawn opposition from gun owners, the National Rifle Association and other groups. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about debate over what communities or government should do to curb gun violence. Use what you read to write a short editorial for the newspaper giving your opinion on what steps, if any, should be taken. Support your opinions with facts from the stories you read.

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.

3. Slowing Down Fast Food

Fast-food dining is designed to be fast, not slow. But Taco Bell is experimenting with changes designed to bring customers into its restaurants for a more leisurely dinner. Taco Bell does its best business at lunch, and it has successfully expanded its breakfast business. Attracting dinner diners has remained elusive, however, so Taco Bell is making changes to make dining in its restaurants more appealing. Among the changes will be redecorating restaurants with exposed wooden beams, trendy light fixtures and modern seating to create a more upscale feel. Restaurants and other businesses are always looking for ways to attract more customers. In the newspaper or online, find examples in the ads and stories. Pick one you think could be successful over the next year and write a paragraph detailing why. Support your arguments with details from the ads, stories or additional research.

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. Media Freedom ‘Declining’

Media freedom around the world has suffered a “deep and disturbing decline” due to pressure from governments and businesses, according to an international media watchdog group. Media outlets are facing greater pressure and opposition because many business and government leaders have developed “paranoia” about journalism, Reporters Without Borders states in its annual report. This paranoia has led to a “climate of fear” among journalists and a “growing aversion” to leading debates on issues and presenting a diverse “pluralism” of views. As a result, people seeking news and opinions about events and policies face an “increase in propaganda and media content that is made to order or sponsored by vested interests.” The Reporters Without Borders group monitors the independence and safety of journalists in 180 countries. In the United States, freedom of the press is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Other nations, however, do not protect press and media freedom. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about restrictions placed on the media in other countries. Use what you read to prepare a multi media presentation for the class, detailing the effects of press restrictions on citizens’ ability to get information to form opinions and know what is going on in their nation or community.

Common Core State Standards: Integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it;.

5. Iranians to Forgo Hajj

The Hajj is one of the most holy obligations in the Muslim world — a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca that is obligatory for all Muslims who can afford to go. In the Middle East this year, Muslims in the nation of Iran will forgo the Hajj, however. The reason? Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia and Iran’s relations with the Saudis are more strained than ever. Iranian officials met with Saudi leaders this spring in an effort to get agreements on issuing visas, transportation and the safety of the pilgrims, but say the Saudis “did not accept our proposals.” The Saudis, meanwhile, say the Iranians made unacceptable demands. As a result, Iran will not allow its citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, which takes place September 9-14. The Hajj is one of the world’s great cultural traditions. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about another cultural tradition in a country outside the United States. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a short film or video, explaining this tradition and showcasing what makes it special. Write an outline for your film, including what images you would use. Then write the first scene in the form of a 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; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.