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For Grades 9-12 , week of Oct. 03, 2016

1. Vice President Debate

On Tuesday, October 4, the Democratic and Republican candidates for vice president will square off in a vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. This will be the only time in the 2016 election that Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence will debate the issues on the same stage. A key job of a vice presidential candidate is to support his party’s candidate for president and to help the presidential candidate win the election. Watch the vice presidential debate or read about it in the newspaper or online. Use what you watch and read to write a political analysis discussing which candidate you think helped his presidential candidate more, and why.

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. Environment a ‘Work of Mercy’

In the Catholic faith, people are guided on how they should act to help others by seven corporal “works of mercy.” Now Pope Francis has added an eighth — care of the environment. The environmental “work of mercy” joins others set forth in the teachings of Jesus that include caring for the sick and hungry, sheltering the homeless, visiting prisoners, burying the dead and helping the poor. “When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings,” the Pope declared in a message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in September. He noted that climate change, which is causing extreme weather events, also “is contributing to the heartrending refugee crisis” and is affecting “the world’s poor [and] most vulnerable. …” As leader of the world’s Catholics, Pope Francis has spoken out in new ways about many issues. In the newspaper or online, closely read stories about one issue on which the Pope has taken a stand. Use what you read to write an open letter to Pope Francis, giving your opinion on his views and whether you think he should have spoken out.

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. Million Smart Phones Recalled

U.S. safety regulators have officially recalled Samsung Electronic’s Galaxy Note 7 smart phone, two weeks after the company halted sales based on reports that it is susceptible to catching fire and exploding. Samsung is recalling about 1 million of the phones because of a battery flaw that can lead to dangerous overheating, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Go get a replacement or a refund,” the commission’s chairman suggests, “because the product presents … a serious fire hazard.” The safety of consumer products is often in the news because it is important to so many people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a product safety issue. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a public service TV ad to educate people about the issue. Write an outline for your ad, including images you would use. Then write out the message for your ad, scene by scene.

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.

4. North Korea Bans Sarcasm

Sarcasm is the source of a lot of humor in the United States. But in the Asian nation of North Korea, that kind of humor can get you in trouble. North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, has banned sarcasm, and people attending meetings organized by government officials are being warned that ironic statements “will not be forgiven.” On top of that, indirect criticisms of the regime that are hidden in humor will be considered “hostile actions.” One of the most popular outlawed phrases is “This is all America’s fault” — a wisecrack referring to the Korean regime’s tendency to blame the United States for its own failings. Professional comedians often use sarcastic humor to comment on the news. As a class, discuss examples of ways sarcasm can be used in humor. Then find and closely read a news story that interests you in the newspaper or online. Use what you read to write a paragraph sarcastically discussing the news in the style of a comedian. Share with the class.

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.

5. A Comeback for ‘Beavis’

“Beavis & Butt-head” once was one of the most popular shows on MTV. And now it is coming back, along with other older shows that aired on MTV and its sister network VH1. “Beavis & Butt-head” will air on a new channel called MTV Classic, which will feature shows from the archives of MTV and VH1. Both MTV and VH1 are owned by the Viacom company, which is about halfway through a five-year effort to digitize an estimated 2 million files in its archives. Viacom’s ratings at MTV and its other cable networks have been declining because 18-to-24-year olds have been abandoning traditional television. As a class, discuss TV shows you liked when you were younger that you would like to see available on TV today. Research details about your shows in newspaper archives or the Internet. Then use what you read to write a “pitch” letter to a cable TV network, urging it to create a channel to showcase your shows, and why.

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.