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For Grades 5-8 , week of Nov. 21, 2022

1. Historic Run

In the history of the United States, Democrat Nancy Pelosi has been the most powerful woman ever in American politics. In 35 years in Congress, she has served twice as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — the top position in that body — and was the first woman ever to be elected to the job. As Speaker, she was second in line to the presidency, and she was both an advisor and an adversary to the presidents who held office. She was the leader of House Democrats both as Speaker and as Minority Leader when Republicans held the majority. Now, at age 82, she has decided to end her historic run as leader of the Democrats. She has announced she will give up her leadership position and let a younger generation take over. That generation will make history of its own, with the Democrats poised to elect Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York City as Minority Leader. Jeffries, who is 52, would be the first African American to lead the Democrats — or any party — in Congress. Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team have decided to step aside and let a younger generation lead the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about older leaders stepping aside for younger ones. Use what you read to write a commentary about the benefits and challenges of having this kind of generational change. Share and discuss ideas as a class.

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

2. Ukrainian Triumph

The war in the European nation of Ukraine rages on, and it is not going well for the invading Russian forces. Russian troops this month were forced to pull out of the city of Kherson which they had held from the early days of the war. The morale of Ukrainian troops is high, and the morale of Russians is low, with thousands of men hiding to avoid being drafted into the Russian army. Ukrainian soldiers were hailed as heroes when they rolled into Kherson, as was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he triumphantly visited the city after the Russian retreat. He said the city’s liberation marked “the beginning of the end of the war,” and pledged to drive Russia entirely out of his country, the Washington Post newspaper reported. Kherson was the sole regional capital that Russian forces had captured since the start of their invasion on February 24. The fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces remains fierce in their ongoing war. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the latest developments in the war. Use what you read to write an editorial outlining steps that need to be taken for the fighting to end.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

3. Dolly Love

Singer Dolly Parton is one of the most beloved entertainers in the world, and she has responded to that love by giving back — to children, to her community and to those in need. Her Imagination Library has distributed 200-million free books to children so they could learn to read; she has helped families rebuild homes burned by wildfires; and she even gave $1-million to scientists so they could develop the Moderna vaccine to fight the coronavirus. Now someone is giving back to Dolly Parton so she can do more good deeds. Jeff Bezos, founder of the Amazon shopping network, has awarded the 76-year-old Parton $100-million to be used for whatever charities she chooses. The huge gift is part of the Courage and Civility Award established by Bezos and his longtime partner Lauren Sanchez. In announcing the award, Bezos called Parton “a woman who gives with her heart and leads with love and compassion in every aspect of her work.” Parton responded that “I try to put my money where my heart is, [and] I will do my best to do good things with this money.” Dolly Parton will face big choices about what to do with the $100-million she is receiving from Jeff Bezos. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about problems she could help solve with the money, or causes she could support. Write an open letter to Parton, outlining one problem you would like to see her address, and why. Share and discuss as a class.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Scrabbling Language

Language is always changing and evolving, with new words coming into use and old words fading into history. Online and print dictionaries are updated every year, and even word games change with the times. Consider the game Scrabble, which has been entertaining students and families for nearly 85 years. The Merriam-Webster dictionary company has just released the latest Official Scrabble Players Dictionary for the Hasbro game, and it has lots of fun and familiar words for players to use. Among the 500 new words added to the dictionary are terms like “bae” (best friend or sweetheart), “vax” (to vaccinate), “hangry” (irritable due to hunger), “embiggen” (to enlarge or expand), and “unfollow” (to stop following someone on social media). One of the most versatile new terms is “verbing” which means to turn a noun into a verb (as with friending, angsting, spitballing or adulting). And there’s one familiar to anyone who texts or uses email: amirite (am I right?). Verbing takes nouns and turns them into verbs that show action or personality. In the newspaper or online, find and make a list of nouns and proper nouns from names and places that you could turn into verbs by verbing. Write definitions for each new word you create. Share with the class. Who had the most creative verbing verbs?

Common Core State Standards: Identifying multiple language conventions and using them; recognizing nouns, verbs and modifiers; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

5. Loyal Dobby

In the Harry Potter books and movies, Dobby was a house elf who became a lifelong friend and supporter of the young wizard. Harry earned Dobby’s loyalty by using a sock to trick Dobby’s evil master into setting the house elf free. Dobby later repaid Harry for his kindness by freeing Harry from a dungeon in the last book of the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” In the movie version of the book, Dobby dies on a beach after freeing Harry and his fellow wizards Hermione and Ron from the dungeon. Now officials of the beach where the scene was filmed are telling fans to stop leaving socks as a tribute to the hero elf. The beach is in Pembrokeshire on the coast of the European nation of Wales, and it is a protected conservation area. Since Part 1 of the “Deathly Hallows” movie came out, Potter fans have been paying tribute to Dobby on the beach at a makeshift memorial. Now, officials say, the memorial has gotten out of hand and is threatening the beach environment, the Washington Post reports. Citing the environmental threats, the National Trust that oversees the beach has asked visitors to stop leaving socks and other trinkets and “to only take photos when visiting the memorial to help protect the wider landscape.” The official Harry Potter fan hub Wizarding World agreed, begging fans to leave “no trace” when commemorating the house elf. In the Harry Potter books and movies, Dobby showed great loyalty to Harry and his friends. In the newspaper or online find and closely read stories about other people who have showed loyalty to others in different ways. Use what you read to write a personal column about the ways people show loyalty and why it is important for building trust in relationships. Include ways you or someone you know has shown loyalty to others or benefited from loyalty.

Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.