, week of
June 29, 2015
1. Spotlight on Police
One witness described it as “a teenage party that got out of hand,” but ever since then the whole world has been watching social media videos of a white policeman pinning a black teenage girl to the ground and pulling a gun on others in McKinney, Texas. The officer resigned from the local police force after protesters demanded he be fired. In the video of the poolside fracas in the predominantly-white Dallas suburb, the bikini-clad 15-year-old repeatedly cries, “Call my mama!” and the officer — using profanity — yells “On your face!” at the girl. Community activists accused the officer of racism, but others defended him. Residents have said there was unruly behavior before the police officer arrived. Police actions involving African Americans have been in a national spotlight, after several resulted in deaths from police use of force or weapons. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories or commentaries about the debate sparked by these encounters. Use what you read to write a commentary of your own detailing how communities can prevent deadly encounters in the future.
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. Did Killer Want to Be Talked Out of It?
The gunman responsible for the massacre inside a Colorado theater in 2012 says he called a mental health hotline minutes earlier, hoping someone would talk him out of it. The call, he said, was disconnected and could not be answered. Twelve moviegoers were killed, and 70 wounded in the shooting carried out by James Holmes, who was 24 at the time. Holmes’ statements were part of videotaped conversations with a psychiatrist who was conducting a court-ordered evaluation of his mental condition. Jury members were shown the videotapes at his trial. In the Holmes trial, jurors had to decide whether he was mentally responsible for his acts. With the newspaper or Internet, read reports of testimony in the Holmes case. Then imagine you were a juror. Based on what you read of his mental state, do you think he should be sentenced to prison or death for the killings, or be committed indefinitely to a mental hospital. Discuss as a class.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
3. Zoom Contact Lens
A new telescopic contact lens has been developed that allows a wearer to zoom in and out with the wink of an eye. In order to allow the wearer to switch between normal and magnified vision, the lens has to be paired with “smart” glasses that recognize conscious winks and ignore blinks. Glasses already on the market for people with age-related vision degeneration have mounted telescopes, but are bulky and interfere with social interaction. The new lenses would eliminate these problems. The new zoom contact lenses are an example of an invention that improves people’s lives. In the newspaper, find an ad for another product that has improved people’s lives. Do additional research online and then create a series of comic strips for the newspaper showing how the product works and ways it is an improvement over past products.
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.
4. Saudi Blogger Flogged
In the Middle East nation of Saudi Arabia, a blogger was publicly flogged and is serving a 10-year prison term on charges of breaking the country’s technology laws and insulting Muslim religious figures. The country’s Supreme Court has upheld the verdict, which has been condemned internationally. Originally, Raif Badawi was sentenced to 600 lashes in a public flogging and seven years in prison, but a criminal court — rejecting his appeal — stiffened the punishment to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison, a $266,000 fine and a 10-year ban on traveling abroad. Countries throughout the Middle East have harsh laws to deal with perceived insults to authority and to the Muslim religion. In the newspaper and online, find and read stories about such laws. Use what you read to create a multi-media presentation for the class to explain what these laws do, how that affects life in the Mideast and how these laws differ from those in the United States. Discuss as a class.
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; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
5. Standing on the Job
Prolonged sitting can be bad for your health, recent studies agree, so researchers have suggested that standing workstations or walking stations be installed in business offices. And that may be a plus for the business owners, too. “A workspace that encourages people to stand up” can boost productivity and creativity, according to a researcher from Washington University in St. Louis. At meetings, for example, the researcher noted that standing alters “how people are interacting and relating to other” in a positive way. Standing up while working is just one way to improve health, fitness and productivity, experts say. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about other activities that can improve health and fitness. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme about one such activity. Finish by drawing an illustration to go with your poem.
Common Core State Standards: Demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.
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