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For Grades 9-12 , week of Feb. 11, 2019

1. Poverty in America

Poverty can affect people in every community, but many do not benefit from government programs set up to provide assistance. According to a new report, 25 percent of people living in poverty in the United States receive no help from food stamps, nutrition programs or other “safety net” services that are available. That means 13 million people with household incomes below $25,100 a year for a family of four aren’t receiving benefits that could help them, according to the Urban Institute, a national organization that studies government programs and policies. “There are a lot of people in this country who are not attached to our major systems of support, and they are in desperate need,” a spokesman for the Urban Institute told the Washington Post newspaper. Many public and private programs exist to help people living in poverty. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these programs. Use what you read to write a short editorial describing one successful program and telling how it could be a model for others.

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. Biking for Freedom

In the United States, no one thinks twice about riding a bicycle. But in the Asian nation of Pakistan, bike riding is frowned on as highly inappropriate behavior for girls. Social customs and Islamic religious beliefs hold that girls should not engage in such activity in public, because it could lead “to moral corruption,” embarrassment and shame for their families. In the capital city of Karachi, however, a group of women is challenging local beliefs by regularly taking to their bikes despite the opposition. Leaders of the group say they are standing up for women’s rights by riding and hope they will inspire others. “This is empowerment,” one rider told NPR news. “We feel good. We feel free.” Another said that when riding a bike “I am my own person.” Women in many parts of the world do not have the freedoms women have in the United States. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the freedom of women in another country. Use what you read to prepare a short oral report about the rights and freedoms of women in this country, what freedoms the women would like and what steps they are taking to achieve them.

Common Core State Standards: Citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

3. Seal Takeover

The recent shutdown of the federal government brought unwelcome changes to many parts of the country. In northern California, it led to a takeover of a public beach – by seals! While government workers were off the job due to the shutdown, a colony of elephant seals knocked down a fence at Drakes Beach near the city of San Francisco and made it their home. About 60 seals took over the beach while the workers were away, and they have even added to their number. Elephant seals come ashore once a year to give birth, and 35 to 40 seal pups have been born since the colony arrived at Drakes Beach. That could mean the seals will be around for another month or two, officials say, as the pups nurse with their mothers. The government shutdown affected the nation in many ways. And there are fears that another shutdown could take place February 15, if the U.S. Congress does not take action on immigration and border security. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about why the nation may be facing another shutdown. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor giving your views on how a shutdown could affect your community or state.

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

4. What a Milestone

In the state of Iowa, Clay Warner wasn’t a top player for the North Polk High School basketball team. The 18-year-old senior came to every practice and suited up for every game, but he knew it was a long shot that he would ever get in to play. That’s because he’s legally blind and has trouble seeing the rim. He finally got his chance on the team’s senior night this month. With his team down 15 points in the fourth quarter, Warner was inserted into the lineup — and he made the most of his opportunity. Getting the ball in the corner, Warner didn’t hesitate, taking one dribble and putting up a shot. “AND IT’S GOOD!" the home team announcer screamed, and the fans went crazy. “It was one of those times when you have chills running up and down your spine,” coach Nick Wilkins told the Washington Post later. “It’s something the team will remember forever.” People often have memorable experiences or successes in life. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about someone having an experience like this. Use what you read to write a poem, rap or rhyme telling what it would be like to have an experience or success like this, and what the person will remember about it 10 years from now. Create a drawing to go with your poem, if you like.

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.

5. Snakes! Crocodiles!

This has been an incredible summer for the Southern Pacific nation of Australia. Temperatures have reached record levels across much of the nation, and now areas have been hit with extreme rain and flooding. As a result, officials are warning residents that they could find crocodiles, snakes and other wildlife species in “unexpected places” as the floodwaters recede. “Cannot stress enough to stay out of the water,” one resident posted on Facebook, under a picture of a crocodile in her father’s driveway. Because Australia is located in the Earth’s Southern Hemisphere below the equator, it is summer there when it is winter in the United States. Severe weather is making news in Australia, the United States and in nations around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a severe weather event and the effects it has had. Use what you read to prepare a two-minute report for TV news. Write the text for your report and choose images you would show. Read your report aloud so that it does not go over two minutes. Deliver it to the class.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.