For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 22, 2016

1. Slaves ‘Well-Fed’?

In her speech at the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama noted that the nation had made great changes in its history, and as an example stated “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” That prompted Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly to “fact-check” the remark. And while he found that slaves did indeed participate in construction of the White House where the Obama family lives, he said they were “well-fed and had decent lodging.” That prompted a firestorm of criticism for the Fox host, who has long been critical of the Obamas. For the record, slave labor bolstered the White House workforce, which also included whites and free blacks, but slaves were paid less and their earnings were claimed by their masters. Racial attitudes and racial tensions between minority and white citizens have gotten a lot attention this year — and not just in the presidential race. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about racial attitudes or tensions that are causing discussion or debate among Americans. Use what you read to write an open letter to the community, offering your views on how attitudes could be improved or tensions reduced on racial relations.

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. Musical About 9-11

A theater musical with 9-11 as its theme is on its way to Broadway in New York City. “Come From Away” is based on the unexpected arrival of 38 planes carrying 6,579 people, in Gander, Newfoundland, on September 11, 2001. They were forced to land there because of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. The Canadian musical — with an ensemble cast of 12 — explores the response of Gander residents and the relationships that developed with the deeply unsettled passengers. Due in New York in February, the musical won critical praise last year at the La Jolla Playhouse in California and at the Seattle Repertory Theater in Washington State. It is scheduled for runs later this year at theaters in Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Ontario in Canada. Theater, movies, music and art all can help people better understand issues by looking at them from an artistic perspective. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an issue you think is important. Use what you read to create an artwork examining or expressing emotions about the issue. Your work can be written, visual or an idea for a movie or play. Share with family, friends or classmates.

Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; demonstrating understanding of figurative language; writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic.

3. Polls, Polls and More Polls

Opinion polls have been a big story in this year’s presidential election. Polls are scientific surveys that attempt to determine what people think or whom they support. But polls are like a Snapchat photo — they only capture what people think the moment they are taken. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about poll results for this year’s presidential race. Write a paragraph summarizing what the polls are showing, and how significant experts think the results are. Then create a graph to track the results of this poll and polls in the future. How do changes in the results reflect events that are happening or statements made by candidates? Share results of your graph with your class and discuss just before the election November 8.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; organizing data using concrete objects, pictures, tallies, tables, charts, diagrams and graphs; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

4. Site for Obama Library

Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, has been chosen to be the home for President Obama’s presidential library after he leaves office. The historic park is on the shores of Lake Michigan, only a short walk from the University of Chicago, where Obama taught constitutional law before entering public life. It is also near where the Obamas still maintain a house in the Midwest city. The university, which recommended the site, has said the library and center will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, bringing jobs and millions of dollars to the community. The South Side of Chicago is struggling with high unemployment, gang violence and other community problems. The President used to be a community organizer in the neighborhood, and First Lady Michelle Obama grew up there. When a new attraction, business or facility is built, it can have great impact on the economic health of its neighborhood. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about a new facility being built. Use what you read to write a short editorial outlining ways the facility could help its neighborhood — or ways you hope it will.

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.

5. Kids’ Concussion Rates Soar

Concussion rates are rising sharply among U.S. children and teens, researchers report. A study of health insurance claims for almost 9 million Americans found that concussion diagnoses more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. Researchers are uncertain whether the increase reflects a true rise in the number of injuries or in the number of diagnoses — or both. Although researchers still affirm the benefits of sports and exercise, they advise precautions — such as wearing helmets while biking, skating, skateboarding or playing sports. They also urge families and coaches to educate themselves more fully about the symptoms of concussions and what should be done. Concussions have become a public health concern for parents, schools and communities. In the newspaper or online, find and read a story about another health or safety concern that is important to families. Use what you read, to brainstorm a short TV ad to educate the public about this issue. Write an outline for your ad, and the opening 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.

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