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

1. Child Refugees

More than 3-million people have now fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the continent of Europe. And half of those people — more than 1.5-million — are children. That means one child has become a refugee almost every second since the invasion began, a spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said last week. Most of the children are traveling with their mothers, since men in Ukraine have been asked or required to stay and defend their homeland in fighting against the Russian invaders. Most of the children are carrying only what they can pack in small suitcases or backpacks. Usually that means clothing or perhaps small toys. Many have had to leave pets behind. Around the world, individuals and relief organizations are rallying to help the children who are refugees from the war in Ukraine. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about some of these organizations. Use what you read to write an editorial recommending one or two organizations to support, and why.

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. That Didn’t Last Long

Among pro football players, quarterback Tom Brady has earned wide praise as being the Greatest of All Time. He certainly didn’t diminish that reputation last season, when he led the league with 5,316 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes, while taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFC South championship and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. When the Bucs lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, Brady shocked the sports world by announcing he was retiring as a player after 22 years in the National Football League. That didn’t last long. Less than six weeks after declaring he was walking away from the game, the 44-year-old Brady announced he didn’t want to stop playing just yet. He said he would return to the Bucs as their starting quarterback to take care of some “unfinished business.” By that, fans assumed, he wants to get back to the Super Bowl and win a record eighth championship. He already owns the Super Bowl record with seven titles, plus Super Bowl records for touchdown passes (18), passing yards (2,838), pass attempts (392), and completions (256). Tom Brady’s decision to play another year has had impact throughout the NFL, and not just for the Buccaneers. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about how Brady’s decision will affect other teams and players. Use what you read to write a sports column analyzing these “ripple effects” of Brady’s decision to play another season.

Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

3. New Dress Code

All over the world, dress codes regulate what students can wear to school. None have been more strict than those in effect for public schools in the Asian city of Tokyo, Japan. There, controversial rules required that students’ hair could be no color but black and even underwear had to be a designated dark color. Now Tokyo school officials are doing away with those strict rules, which parents and others had complained were outdated, CNN News reports. They also are dropping rules banning “two block" hairstyles, which are long on top and short at the back and sides — a style popular in Japan and other countries. Under the old rules, students sometimes had to dye their hair black, even if it was dark brown, and had to change their underwear if school officials ruled it was the wrong color and could be seen through outer apparel. The new rules will take effect at the start of Tokyo’s new school year April 1. Dress codes are often in the news at schools in the United States and around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about a controversy or debate caused by a dress code. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor offering your view on whether the dress code should be kept or discontinued. Use evidence from your reading to support your arguments.

Common Core State Standards: 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.

4. Spring Pools

Spring officially has arrived in the United States. The first day of spring, occurred on Sunday, March 20, putting the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere on a path to summer. Every year in springtime, some amazing things happen in nature. One of the most amazing is the way frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians use temporary “spring pools” to lay eggs and breed. Spring pools are also called “vernal pools” because “vernal” is another word for “spring” in the ancient language of Latin. Spring pools are formed in low areas when snow melts. Frogs and other creatures use them for laying their eggs because there are no fish there that could eat the eggs or babies. Many nature groups now offer tours of spring pools, which often feature young frogs and toads singing as “spring peepers.” Groups also are working to protect areas where spring pools occur. Spring pools may only last several weeks or a month before drying up, but they play a key role in the ecosystem. As a class, talk about changes that occur in nature when spring comes. Then pretend you are a creature affected by spring changes in nature. Write a short poem describing the changes and how they affect your life.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; demonstrating understanding of figurative language; applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

5. Time Change

Has America said goodbye to springing forward? The yearly ritual, in which people turn their clocks “forward” by one hour in the spring to Daylight Saving Time could soon be a thing of the past. The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent across the United States all year round. If the U.S. House also approves and the bill is signed by President Biden, it would mean that the nation would no longer “spring forward” in spring and “fall back” in autumn by turning the clocks “back” one hour to Standard Time. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent, but not all people like the idea. Though it would provide more daylight in the evening hours, critics say it would leave children getting up and going to school in the dark for more than two and a half months in some places. They say a better approach would be to stick to Standard Time all year round because that would provide more daylight in the mornings. The change to permanent Daylight Saving Time would take effect in November next year if approved House and President. Most people agree that the nation should stop changing its clocks twice a year. But should the nation choose Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time as the permanent time? In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories and commentaries about this debate. Use what you read to write a commentary of your own — picking either Daylight Saving Time or Standard Time and giving reasons for your choice.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what written and visual texts say and to making logical inferences from them; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.