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For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 27, 2023

1. Historic First Lady

The nation’s First Lady is the wife of the President, but in recent years the women in the role have become so much more. Once merely the host for events at the White House in Washington, DC, First Ladies today are both political partners and leaders on important social issues. One of the most influential was Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter, who was elected in 1976 as the 39th President of the United States. Mrs. Carter, who died this month at the age of 96, is credited with pioneering the modern role of a First Lady, advising her husband on policy issues and creating an office within the White House to work on issues important to her. She worked especially hard to improve mental health services and programs for Americans, but was also active in foreign affairs and U.S. relations with other nations. After Jimmy Carter was defeated for re-election in 1980, Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter worked for decades to advance humanitarian causes in the United States and around the world. Rosalynn Carter (pronounced ROSE-a-lin) was the second longest-lived first lady, trailing only Bess Truman, the widow of President Harry S. Truman, who was 97 when she died in 1982. Today’s First Lady is Jill Biden, who is an educator, college professor and holder of an advanced Ph.D degree. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about Jill Biden’s interests and activities. Use what you read to write a short newspaper profile of her, highlighting the things you find most interesting or unusual.

2. Holiday Movies

The December holiday season is a time when families get together, exchange gifts and celebrate family traditions. It’s also a time when families go to the movies. So much so that movie companies release some of their biggest films in December to take advantage of the fact that schools are closed and families are on vacation. This year is no exception, with some eagerly awaited movies coming to theaters. Among those that kids and their families may want to see most are “Wonka,” based on “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” the superhero story “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the sci-fi epic “Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire,” an animated “Migration” story that follows the travels of a family of ducks, and a musical version of “The Color Purple” produced by Oprah Winfrey. What movies do you like to see? As a class, discuss movies you have seen and enjoyed and what movies you want to see during the December holiday season. Study ads and stories of coming attractions and write an analysis of which you think will be the most popular.

3. Long-Lost Art

Great works of art can sometimes be lost to the art world — and when they are rediscovered it is major news. That was the case in the European nation of France four years ago, when a long-lost religious painting was found hanging in the kitchen of an elderly woman who had no idea it was valuable. Experts determined that the 10-inch-by-8-inch painting was a 700-year-old masterpiece by an Italian artist named Cimabue and was worth millions. The work, titled “Christ Mocked,” proved the experts right when it sold at an art auction for nearly $27-million. The French government, however, didn’t want the painting to leave France and blocked the auction sale by declaring the painting a “national treasure.” In the four years since then, the government has raised the millions of dollars needed to buy the painting for the government. Last month, it delivered the work to France’s world-famous Louvre Museum, where it will join another Cimabue work on display. Only 15 works by Cimabue are known to exist. Great artworks often make news when they are displayed in exhibits or shows at museums. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about an art exhibition that is getting a lot of attention this winter. Use what you read to create a series of ads for the show that would tell why it is important and worth attending.

4. Saving Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are complex ocean ecosystems that are formed when tiny animals known as corals bond together in the water. They do this by connecting the hard “exoskeletons” on the outside of their bodies to create reef structures under the water. Coral reefs are extremely important to oceans, because they support nearly 25 percent of all marine species, including 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral and thousands of other plants and animals. In the last 50 years, however, the health of coral reefs has been threatened by pollution, commercial fishing, human activities and rising ocean temperatures due to global warming. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Florida Keys, which are home to North America's only coral barrier reef. Local, state and national agencies are working to restore Florida’s reefs, and they are getting help from an ocean diver. Mike Goldberg, who lives in the Keys, has founded a non-profit organization to rebuild reefs piece by piece, CNN News reports. His I.Care organization is seeking to enlist recreational divers to transplant corals grown in nurseries to rebuild wild reefs. So far his organization has transplanted more than 10,000 corals and involved or educated more than 2,000 people. Coral reefs “are what brings the ecosystem together,” Goldberg says. “… There’s small fish, not bigger than a grain of rice, all the way up to your large predatory fish, tiger sharks. … Without that live coral as their home, that disappears.” People get involved in many different ways to help the environment. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about one effort. Use what you read to write a short paper telling what is being done to help the environment, the individuals or groups that are doing it and why that is important.

5. Sports, Sports, Sports

December is a great time to be a sports fan in America. NBA basketball and NHL hockey are gearing up, the top teams in college football are battling for the national championship and the NFL is heading into the key part of the schedule that will determine who makes the pro football playoffs. There are some great stories as the NFL heads into the final stretch of the regular season. The Philadelphia Eagles, who appeared in last year’s Super Bowl, won nine of their first 10 games and the surprising Detroit Lions won eight. The Kansas City Chiefs, who defeated the Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl, feature one of the league’s top quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and have a tight end, Travis Kelce, who is dating singing superstar Taylor Swift. On top of that, the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars are having their best seasons in years, and the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns are all making a playoff push. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about teams seeking to make the NFL playoffs. Use what you read to write a sports column predicting which teams you think will make it, and which will be highest ranked. Share and discuss as a class.