For Grades 5-8 , week of Mar. 30, 2015

1. Football Star Retires — at 24

One of the top rookies in the National Football League last season is retiring from the sport at age 24 because of his concern for his safety. He’s San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, the youngest and most prominent of several NFL players who have cited the sport’s physical risks as their reason for quitting. Borland, who formerly played for the University of Wisconsin, explicitly mentioned the risk of head injuries. Evidence from research has mounted in recent years linking repeated blows to the head from football to long-term cognitive disability. The league, which initially refused to acknowledge the risk, says it is taking steps to make the game safer because “player safety will continue to be our top priority.” In the newspaper or online, read more about Borland’s decision, the NFL’s reaction and the risk of head injuries in football. Use what you read to write a paragraph or short paper summarizing the latest research, steps the NFL is taking on head injuries and what other steps could be taken in the future. Discuss as a class.

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.

2. Mac & Cheese Recalled

Kraft Foods has recalled 242,000 cases of its original flavor Macaroni & Cheese because some of the boxes contain small pieces of metal. Kraft says it is aware of at least eight episodes of consumers finding metal in boxes, but has not been informed of any injuries. The boxes — sold throughout the Western Hemisphere of North and South America — are marked with the code “C2” and have “best when used by …” dates ranging from September 18 through October 1. The recall items include 7.25-ounce boxes sold individually and boxes sold in packs of three, four and five. Food companies and the government inspect foods to make sure they are safe for people to eat. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about food inspections or a food recall. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining ways the government or the producer of the food could make a food even safer in the future.

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

3. Held for ‘Picking Quarrels’

“Picking fights and provoking trouble” is a crime in the Asian nation of China, and five young women recently were detained on suspicion of the offense. They were activists organizing a protest in several cities calling for an end to sexual harassment on public transportation. Chinese authorities have been using this charge more and more in an apparent effort to quell activism and public discussion of social and political issues. In China, freedom of speech is not protected as it is in the United States under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Free speech can take many forms — from protests, to writing, to books, art or movies. Scan the newspaper and Internet and find five examples of people exercising freedom of speech in some way. Design a poster showcasing the five examples. Write a complete sentence or paragraph explaining how free speech is involved in each example.

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; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. March Madness Odds

More than 100 million Americans are participating in March Madness betting pools, even though the odds of hitting the perfect bracket in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are one in 128 billion. That’s for those with some knowledge; for everybody else, the odds are even worse. In The Journal of Gambling Studies, experts say the odds of picking the victors in each of the more than 60 games are much worse even than the odds of winning the lottery. They estimate there are 9.2 quintillion ways to fill out the brackets. The NCAA tournament is hugely popular in the month of March. And it is loaded with opportunities to practice math skills. Study the statistics in the box scores for NCAA games in the newspapers or online. Use what you find to make up four problems using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. For added challenge, make up a problem for algebra, if you are taking that course.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; representing and solving problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

5. White Rhino Near Extinction

The Northern White Rhino is on the verge of extinction, and its doom seems even more probable now that Suni, “probably the last male capable of breeding,” has died in the African nation of Kenya. Only six of the rare creatures are left. Most have been hunted by poachers in east and central Africa for their horns, which are highly sought after for traditional medicines in the Asian nation of China. “According to some scenarios, there will be no rhinos left in the wild in Africa in 10 years or so,” predicts a spokesperson for the zoo where Suni was born in 1980. The animal’s death was attributed to natural causes. Protecting endangered species is a concern all over the world. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about an effort to protect wildlife or an environmental habitat. Based on what you read, brainstorm an idea for a short documentary film calling attention to the effort. Write an outline for the film and a script for the opening scene. Include notes for what images your film would include.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

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