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for Grades 5-8

May 25, 2015
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For Grades 5-8 , week of May 25, 2015

1. Keep Cool, Police

New York City’s 35,000 police officers are taking a three-day course aimed at discouraging verbal abuse and excessive physical force. In the wake of recent incidents locally and elsewhere, the retraining stresses one message: Keep cool. “The emphasis,” a police official explained, is to “talk down before the takedown,” which means “talking people into compliance, de-escalating the situation.” Officers “have to have a thick skin,” one commented, even in the face of provocation. The New York police and others have been criticized for their treatment of suspects, particularly African American men. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about steps police departments are taking to ensure fair and non-violent treatment of people. Use what you read to write a paragraph summarizing some steps being taken, and how effective you think they will be.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; closely reading what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Climate Change & Security

Not only is climate change imperiling the world’s ecological balance— it poses a threat to national security. The U.S. Department of Defense has reported that climate change is increasing the risk of terrorism, infectious diseases, global poverty, food shortages and extreme weather, all of which could lead to increased demand for military disaster responses. The Defense Department is integrating plans for dealing with climate change risks across all its operations, so the military can adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms, widespread droughts and the political unrest these conditions could cause. Climate change and global warming are affecting people’s lives all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about climate change or warming affecting people. Use what you read to draw a series of comic strips illustrating how people are being affected.

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

3. Robot Takes On Poker Pros

In poker, humans can still outwit robots — but not significantly. In an experiment that lasted more than two weeks and 80,000 poker hands, a team of top poker pros out-earned an artificial intelligence robot named Claudico, but by so slim an edge, it was not considered statistically significant. Though technically it was a tie, the computer scientist who directed Claudico’s development for Carnegie-Mellon University noted that “beating humans isn’t really our goal.” Had Claudico lost badly, “it would have been no shame,” he said. “What we want to do is create an artificial intelligence that can help humans negotiate or make decisions where they can’t know all the facts.” The robot Claudico is an example of technology being used in new ways to perform tasks previously performed by people. In the newspaper or online, read about a technology product that is doing things in a new way. Use what you read to write a paragraph predicting what will be next improvement in the product in the “next generation” of its development.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; closely reading what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

4. Dress Sold for $137,000

A dress worn by star actress Vivien Leigh in the famous 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” has been sold for $137,000. It was sold by Heritage Auctions, along with other memorabilia from the movie. James Tumblin bought the dress designed for the character Scarlett O’Hara for $20 in the early 1960s, when he worked in Universal Studios’ hair and makeup department. Since then, he has collected more than 300,000 items related to the movie. “Gone With the Wind” won 10 Academy Award Oscars in 1940, including Best Actress for Leigh’s portrayal of the heroine O’Hara and Best Picture. Fans of movies are sometimes willing to pay great amounts for items connected to the films. In the newspaper, find an ad, story or listing for a movie you liked. Or find a story about a favorite film online. Imagine you had unlimited money and could buy something from the film. Write a personal opinion column for the newspaper, describing what you would buy, its significance in the movie and why you would want it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; closely reading what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

5. Army Citizenship Program

The U.S. Army is expanding a program offering a fast track to citizenship for immigrants with special skills, particularly in languages and medicine. The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Program is expected to increase such enlistments from the current limit of 1,500 to 3,000 this fiscal year and to 5,000 the next. An Army spokesman called the program “extremely successful in filling our ranks with highly qualified soldiers who fill critical shortages.” The U.S. military needs soldiers who possess a wide range of technical or special skills. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a military member with special skills. Use what you read to write a paragraph or letter to the editor, detailing why these skills are important to military operations.

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.